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Earning a Degree Online? Top Seven Success Strategies for New Online Students

Beat the first-day jitters and learn how to reap the benefits of online education.

Becoming a first-time online student is exciting. Earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree online can certainly provide numerous opportunities for graduates compared to those who choose not to pursue higher education. Accredited online colleges and universities are prepared to meet the needs of their students, including those who are returning to postsecondary education after balancing their personal life and career for a number of years.


Online education provides a different learning experience than attending college classes on a campus. Whether you’ve been away from the classroom for a while or this is your first online education experience, here are seven success strategies for new online students—because first days don’t have to be nerve-wracking.

  1. Check your technology requirements and connect to your classroom. Online classrooms are often open three to four days prior to the term start, so connect early to get comfortable with the new learning environment. To do this, you’ll need to make sure you review your online university’s tech requirements, which definitely includes reliable internet access as well as other programs to ensure you can write papers and experience the rich media.
  2. Acquaint yourself with the class structure. Each online course has its own structure and each faculty member has their own expectations. Explore, read announcements, and make sure you can access necessary online class components. Some online universities offer tutorials to help new students navigate the classroom, and faculty members may also post tips.
  3. Buy any required materials early. You don’t want to fall behind on your assignments, so check your syllabus to see if your online course requires a textbook or other materials and buy them before class starts. Some online universities don’t require a textbook for the first term course, but future classes likely will.
  4. Introduce yourself. Online students are encouraged to take the initiative and introduce themselves to their faculty members and classmates. Add a photo to your student profile and get acquainted with your peers. Developing relationships early can reap benefits later, including finding a study partner with whom you can discuss questions and materials. Plus, sometimes it’s nice just to chat with someone who knows exactly what you’re going through.
  5. Learn to manage your time. Start by recording important assignments in your calendar. Faculty members may not provide regular reminders, so add assignments, tests, essays, and projects to your personal calendar once you receive your syllabus. Establish a regular study time and schedule it in your calendar. You have to find time to learn as you balance life, career, family, and school.
  6. Plan to participate. There is no back row in an online classroom. It’s important to engage with your classmates and faculty because when you participate, you think more about the material and how everything connects. Put your thoughts together, jump in, and get involved.
  7. Be honest with yourself. Honest reflection is important through your entire educational journey. Earning a degree online requires discipline, especially as you work to balance your responsibilities. Continually evaluate your level of readiness by assessing your time, motivation, support, and ability to be self-sufficient. Determine if you need to make adjustments to be more successful, and work with your student support team to help you achieve your educational goals.

Above all else, as a new student who has decided to pursue an advanced degree, you should be proud of yourself. Oftentimes education is the first step to a new and exciting future.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,