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Online University Secrets: Top 5 Mistakes Online College Students Make

Top 10 Mistakes Online College Students Make

With the number of online college students growing exponentially, and even eclipsing traditional students at many universities, the rules for going to college have changed dramatically. Here are some pitfalls to avoid if you are taking an online class:

1. Thinking Online Courses are Easier than Traditional Courses

While you might think that taking a five week online American history class is easier than a semester of attending live lectures and taking notes at a traditional college, realize that you are often squeezing 18 weeks of information into 5 weeks. Add to this that most full time college kids are not managing a full time job, family, or even illness on top of their class schedule and you will realize that choosing online does take a big commitment and lots of work.

2. Not Choosing an Accredited Institution

Anyone can set up online classes. While there are many courses that offer certificates in your field or some, like MOOCs (essentially free online courses) may help you with a specific skill, be sure that the institution you choose is accredited for your degree program if you intend on earning a college degree. If you just want to take a MIT free online course on Robotics for fun or to add to your skill set, that's one thing, but if you want to pursue robotics as a professional, be sure to find an accredited university with the program you need.

3. Throwing Time Management Out the Window

The biggest reason for students failing online courses often revolves around poor time management skills. Assume you will need between 10-20 hours for your online course each week, and schedule it in just like you would schedule your work appointments. Make sure that your family, friends, coworkers, boss, and kids understand that when you are working on your classwork you need to be left alone to study and do your assignments. And if you don't have this kind of time available, then don't sign up for online courses until you do.


4. Letting the Government Pay for Your College

This is a HUGE mistake that both traditional and online students make. With a poor job market and the very real possibility that you will never finish your degree (sorry, have to be realistic), taking in tens of thousands of dollars (or even one hundred thousand dollars) in college debt not only is foolish, but it jeopardizes your future family, hopes for a steady career, job choices, and even your not-yet-born children. 

In most fields, you should try to limit yourself to the amount of debt it would take you 
two years working full time to pay off. 

Too many individuals are paying off their college debt almost into retirement, finding that they cannot purchase a house, choose the career they want, send their kids to college, or even purchase a car because of crushing college debt. 


5. Just Sliding By

Make the most of your education. Don't just aim for the lowest bar or try to cheat your way through. If you slack in college, traditional or online, then your degree is worthless, yes, worthless, because when employers are looking for top candidates you will not have the answers, not know how to present yourself professionally, not know how to do your job. You slack and you end up with a low end job or unemployed, especially in today's terrible economy where even overachievers are stuck in dead end jobs after college. 

So make the most of your education. Take internships, get involved with extracurriculars if possible, stay in touch with your professors and classmates, network in your field, take on work experience that enhances your resume', read every textbook, watch every video assignment, do every piece of homework as if your life depended on it, because it does. Only 1% of the entire human population on earth has a college degree. That's it. So be happy that you get to be one of the privileged few that can better your situation and help your family through education.

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Award-winning composer and media artist Sabrina Peña Young has over fifteen years educational experience, from early childhood to graduate school. She currently teaches humanities courses online and will be speaking at the upcoming TedX Buffalo October 14, 2014 on her animated opera Libertaria: The Virtual Opera, an excited online sci-fi opera about the teen rebel Libertaria escaping from a genetics Factory and teaming up with her addict father to destroy evil reverse-aging geneticists in a post-USA dystopia. 



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