Keys to Success in a Distance Degree Program

February 15, 2010

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I'm too tired to study when I get home from work. I want to spend time with my family this weekend and have some fun. It seems like I’m going to be working on this degree forever.

These are comments that I hear on a regular basis from students I teach and advise. While earning my Ph.D. at a distance, I learned several useful techniques that helped me keep things in perspective and stay on top of everything that I had going on. Here are four factors that will influence your success:

Control
Control means taking on a reasonable workload, so that you can successfully balance your course load, family and career. Don’t give in to the temptation to procrastinate on an assignment and then do it at the last minute with the least amount of effort possible. Stay up after you put the kids to bed and finish that paper because tomorrow has its very own to-do list. Set up a study schedule and stick to it, so that you are making progress in your courses on a regular basis. Use self-discipline to complete your assignments and group activities in a timely manner, in order to successfully complete the course. Lastly, take responsibility for your decisions and follow through with your commitments. Students that are able to take control of their lives are much more likely to succeed in their educational endeavor.

Motivation
Another major factor influencing your progress is motivation. If you ever feel your motivation declining, take a step back and recall the main reason you entered the program. Thinking about the benefits the degree will give you in your career can give you the motivation you need. Students with a degree earned at a distance are prized by employers who will recognize your competence and the strength of your character developed by the challenges of earning such a degree.

Support
To successfully complete a degree at a distance, you’ll need the support of at least one person. You need someone to believe in what you are doing. While moral support is important, there are other kinds of support that are also invaluable, including child care, financial support and help with chores. The broader the network of support among friends, family and even coworkers and employers, the easier it is for motivated students to finish their coursework.

Self-assessment
If you can reasonably assess your own strengths and weaknesses, you will fare well in a distance education environment. Self-assessment leads to appropriate action. Time and effort are precious commodities to adults with multiple responsibilities and can be best used by students who understand themselves and can manage their time well.

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Tips for Distance Learning Students

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