March 1, 2024

Enrolling in College Takes Determination and Planning

Author: David Hubler
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Start a degree program at American Public University.

By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Learning Tips

You’ve been out of school for several years, perhaps serving in the military, and now you’ve decided to resume your education by earning a college degree. Great idea.

But how do you return to the world of education and what do you want to study? These two questions require careful thought even before you enroll in your first class.

Because many returning students are a bit older than the late-teenage, first-year college student, an asynchronous environment may be a better fit. At an online university, like American Public University:

1) Many students are working adults, servicemembers or veterans like you.

2) Learning is flexible enough to accommodate a full schedule of work, study and home life.

Deciding on Your College Major

As to what your major should be, you may know precisely what you want to study or, conversely, have no clue at all at this stage. The sky’s the limit.

Either way, no one will force you to make a decision at this early stage or hold you to it for your entire academic career. But initial planning is never a bad idea.

As APU academic advisors Allyson Donohue and Stephanie Kennedy suggested in this blog several years ago, “Many students focus on goal planning and track their progress throughout their online program, and this includes creating and achieving short-term and long-term goals.”

Advisors suggest that you:

  • Analyze your strengths. Goals that are made while focusing on your strengths will be easier and more enjoyable to obtain. For example, adding a certificate to your program in a subject area you enjoy will help complete your elective credits in lieu of taking random classes from a variety of unrelated degree subjects.
  • Set small and realistic goals. Setting small goals along the way to achieving your ultimate goal will help you stay focused and motivated.
  • Monitor your progress. Create a helpful spreadsheet, check your grades within your online classroom and keep track of your grade point average (GPA). These are just some of the ways you can monitor your progress in your classes and program. Use the tools you find most useful when tracking your progress!
  • Take time to reflect throughout your academic experience. This is an important step, both before and after you set goals for yourself. Self-reflection will help you to create attainable goals, work efficiently toward those goals and evaluate your success after reaching them. Make time throughout your program to reflect on your past successes and challenges, and determine how to best move forward.
  • Seek help when needed. Use all the resources available to you, including your instructors and academic advisors. Contact your instructor if you have any concerns about your progress or are seeking feedback. Your advisor can assist with goal planning, policy and procedure questions, and course selection. Other resources include ClearPath, the APUS Library and tutoring services.

One of the main differences between first-year students and third-year students is the latter’s ability to manage time efficiently. You don’t have to decide on your major on Day One.

But by honing your management skills and tracking your participation in your online classes, you can help ensure your academic success. Before you know it, you’ll be walking across the stage to receive your diploma.

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