While students enrolled in brick-and-mortar institutions are hitting their mid-semester stretch, you could be anywhere in your term. But wherever you are in your education at WGU, we want to give you the tools necessary for success. Here are four tips that you can implement right now to reach your goal of graduation and enjoy continued success in your professional life.
1. Close your eyes and take a deep breath
Whether you’re enrolling in college for the first time or returning to school after a hiatus, higher education can be pretty overwhelming at times. You have assignments to turn in, tests to take, and knowledge to gain—all while balancing family and work demands. During those frazzled moments, take the opportunity to find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. You may have to wait until the kids are asleep or during a break at work. Once you’re alone, try visualizing yourself with a diploma in your hand. Now work your way backwards. Which courses do you still need to take? How long is it going to take to complete that coursework? How should you structure your personal life in order to get it all done? When you have a plan, it’s easier to push through tough assignments, because you feel both confident and conscious of what needs to happen.
2. Record your goals
Once you've decided on a plan, it’s absolutely essential to record it in a tangible way, whether that’s writing in a notebook, typing up a Google Doc, or even creating a video and posting it on YouTube. The medium that you choose should be easily accessible, so that you’re not deterred from revisiting your goals in the future. You might even consider using a goal-setting app, like StickK or Don’t Break the Chain!
StickK levies a self-imposed fine if you don’t meet your goals. Your hard-earned money will be sent to a friend, charity, or an organization you don’t like. For a gentler approach, Don’t Break the Chain! presents you with a simple, visual chain of red X’s on an online calendar. The motivation is to, as the name suggests, refrain from breaking the chain.
Just be sure to choose a method that works for your schedule, your technological comfort level, and your personality.
3. Block out regular “school appointments” on your schedule
Procrastination is the biggest threat to distance learners, so you’ll need to kick this temptation to the curb. One powerful ally in your fight against procrastination is the implementation of good habits, like attending regular school appointments. Block out time in your schedule to sit down and work for a predetermined amount of time, and treat this time like a much-needed appointment that can’t be moved.
Every student is different, so pick the context and time of day (or week) that works best for you.
4. Build a support group
Once you’ve set goals and recorded them, don’t be afraid to let others know about your plans. If your friends and family know what your plans are—and how serious you are about them—they’re less likely to be a distraction. They may even be the ones to give you a little extra push when you feel burned out or unmotivated.
Don’t forget that WGU has some excellent built-in support groups, like your personally assigned mentor, the online student communities, and your fellow students and alumni in social communities like Facebook. A lot of distance learners assume that they’ll have to tackle every problem on their own, which couldn't be further from the truth. In WGU’s online communities, each subject and assessment has a separate community where you can chat and contact other students. The sky’s the limit with these groups—use them to arrange study groups, to solicit advice, or even just seek words of encouragement. Your student mentor serves as your main point of contact with the university; they’ll be there to help you craft a personalized degree plan, to direct you to the learning resources that you need, and to check your progress as you get closer to that degree.
Your education is the one commodity that can never be taken away from you, so give it the time and attention that it deserves. By following these four simple tips, you’re well on your way to lifelong success.
Eliza Wright writes full-time for Lucidchart, an online diagramming program that is completely free for teachers and students. Check out Lucidchart's mind mapping software to help make 2013 your most organized year yet!