If you have a job, you obviously already have a routine in which you schedule things that are not work-related outside of your work schedule. If you plan on adding college classes to this schedule, you must know when and how you will be attending class. You will want to spare yourself at least one to two hours per day per class, if you attend class (that is in addition to the actually class itself in most cases). You will have reading to do, might have questions to answer, or a paper to write. If you don’t have that much time to spare, you can grab extra moments during times that you may use frivolously now. Take your lunch-hour, for instance. While you are eating, you may also read that chapter that is required for that week, if you have a break, take your textbook with you. Ten or twenty minutes stolen from your workday will add up, and you will thank yourself later. If you work in the morning, schedule an hour each night just for schoolwork, and schoolwork alone. Don’t do the dishes, don’t do that small pile of laundry, do your homework. If you start such a routine early on in the semester, you will be more likely to make it a habit later on. If there is something less important that you do each evening (watch a favorite show, dinner with friends, etc), find alternatives. Lunch with your friends on the weekend, and DVR that must-see television show, you can always watch it later.
~Get an early jump
Before you actually start a class, you will purchase books that are needed. If there is a way, and you are really in a bind, contact the Professor before classes start and ask for a syllabus, or an outline, or any extra little information that will help you to do some assignments ahead of time. If you read a chapter in a textbook and you are rushed, you are less likely to retain the information. If you go through the textbooks ahead of time (and perhaps read certain paragraphs that look important) or define key terms, or otherwise acquaint yourself with the subject before classes begin. That way, you will not be shocked about something or behind in the class because you will have studied ahead of time, so when it is time to read chapter six, you will already have an idea about what that chapter is about. Note, however that some Professors may not have a ‘set’ schedule for the class, but they will tell you of any extra assignments that will be due during the semester (such as a twenty minute video presentation about Astronomy), allowing you extra time to prepare. If you must, get up an hour earlier, or stay awake a bit later to finish your reading. It is key to get better grades at the beginning of the semester so that you are not fraught with worry over not so good grades toward the middle or end of semester (in other words, rack up as many points as possible right away just in case you get behind or find yourself struggling), so you will stress less. Less stress allows you to get better grades, because you can concentrate better.
~Know what you are getting into
Online classes, though very convenient (especially for gas money, parking and driving time), however, they are far different than traditional classes. You professors will all expect something totally different than one another, and you can easily confuse your classes by inadvertently clicking on the wrong link. Also, online classes warn that there are far more hours per week or day than traditional classes. You will have more reading to do, you will have online assignments, you will have online tests (and sometimes additional tests or assignments) to do during those classes, and there are sometimes time limits. Some tests will allow for only a certain period of time (sometimes fifteen questions within a twenty-five minute time frame, for example), and you must have the right browser (which will most-likely be listed in your online course directions or other information), or else you could get locked out of a test, in which case you would have to notify your instructor so that they may re-set it for you. Also, in most only classes, you will have a ‘discussion board’, in which all of the students answer a question (or a set of them) from the instructor each week, and you must read your classmates responses, and most times respond to them, and they will respond to you. This takes a great deal of time, so you must prepare yourself for that. A traditional class is less intrusive. Mainly you do the bulk of the work in class, have discussions there, and get tested, and speak with the instructor which is much easier to do in person. If you enjoy an online atmosphere, it’s a wonderful option, but it is not easier. A traditional class gives you more of that ‘College Feel’, and lets you see your classmates face to face. Online classes, however are great if you do have a job, because you are basically learning on your own time and at your own speed.
~Don’t bite off more than you can chew
Sure that Introduction to Humanities class looks interesting, and you would much rather take Speech 101 now and get it out of the way, and you’re great at math, so that Algebra class will be a breeze. And, how difficult can Introduction to Biology really be? Why not take all of them at once? Because you may not be able to handle them all at once, that’s why. Just because you think you’ll be good at it doesn’t mean you will be. You might not get along with the teacher, or you might hate the subject altogether, which will indefinitely make it more difficult for you, or frustrate you. You think Introduction to Philosophy sounds fun? It absolute is not fun. If you’re a whiz at math that is great (while some of us label it our nemesis), but if your Instructor assigns you seventy math questions that are due in your next time in class (or two days later), that is going to steal a bulk of your time. If you can take two-three classes per semester and perhaps two classes that are half-term (you would take one in the first half of semester, and one in the second half), that will allow you to take more classes in a small amount of time, without disrupting your schedule too much.
In all honesty, if you are working full-time (40 plus hours a week), you may not want to take more than three classes at a time, because the work may not be worth it. You could pass, sure, but hadn’t you get a B instead of a C in a class because you allowed yourself more time? If you schedule more than three classes, make sure one (or two) of the classes are a bit easier for you to take. Make one of them your favorite subject (if you are a writer, perhaps Creative Writing would be an easy class), or take a class that you know has less work than another would (perhaps less reading, but more ‘fun’ activities. Basically if you have a full time job. Be careful which classes you choose and pay for, because when you are six weeks in to the course and decide to drop it because it’s too difficult, you won’t get your money back. If you are taking online classes and you are going to be going online a lot, and sometimes at work, explain that to your boss and ask if you can bring in your laptop only during work, or get an iPad (or something similar) so that you can get on-line during your break if anything crucial comes up in class. Choose your time wisely, because when you are in a crunch all you are going to want is time…and sleep!