Saint Joseph's University

How to Know if You Are Ready for Online Graduate School

Pursuing a graduate level degree online can be a very different experience for most students when compared to their undergraduate studies. Rather than reminisce about your all night study sessions in the college library, there are more accurate ways to determine how you will do as an online graduate student. Honestly evaluating your own situation through the timeframe for completing your degree is essential if you want to know how ready you are for going back to school at this time in your life. Here are four important areas to review during your research as you consider enrolling in an online graduate program.

On Campus Versus Online

Perhaps the biggest difference students report is the change in environment between traditional classrooms versus online learning for obtaining a degree. Typically, college education tends to describe a four-year period of on campus, full-time learning. Peers are also studying and everyone seems to have common priorities for school. While graduate degrees may also be earned in a classroom within a campus environment, a growing majority are earned part-time, at night, and/or online.

If you are considering online education for the first time, envision the commitment and self-motivation required to complete the coursework while not being in a traditional academic environment. You might have to write a paper in the family den or read on a lunch break from work.

Work and Family Balance

Prior to enrolling in any graduate level work whether on-site or on-line, you should consider your work and family life. College students as a general rule tend to be commitment-free and able to concentrate on their studies. Graduate students, especially those who return to school after entering the working world, often have more commitments to partners, children, pets, and aging parents. Do you have to time to dedicate at least 10 to 20 hours to reading, posting, researching, writing, and participating in group projects?

Look at the timeframe of the school program and consider how much you travel for work. For employees who travel routinely for their jobs, this can make class participation, keeping up with the reading, and submitting quality papers on time problematic. This is where communicating with your professors will be key to helping you succeed.

Even more important, is your supervisor’s commitment to your obtaining this degree. There are classes, group project meetings, and more that may conflict with work. Having that support makes going back to school easier.

Corporate Experience

While some students move from college directly into graduate school, many students enter the workforce and choose graduate school later in their careers. Not only does this enable students to take advantage of corporate reimbursements, it also gives the students time and experience to hone in on their career aspirations.

Real-life examples of challenging situations at work are often required for study, sharing, and research during the Organizational Development and Leadership program. Being a robust contributor to the MODL program discussions will greatly support your successful completion of the program.

Time Management

There is no doubt that time management is essential in graduate school especially for the online courses, which are often shorter than a traditional semester class. There is structure to the program in the form of due dates and submission deadlines for weekly assignments, readings, discussion posts, etc., but you will be responsible for logging into your course on a regular basis, completing requirements in a timely manner, communicating with your professors and peers, all while balancing other commitments. Think about your time management skills and ensure that you are aware of the resources available to support achieving a graduate degree.

Graduate school is an enormous commitment and one that can open many doors both personally and professionally. Through your own examining of what type of environment, lifestyle, commitment from work, and ability to self-manage, you can predict your own success with this very exciting next chapter in your life!

About the Author

Elizabeth Upham

Elizabeth Upham is a graduate student completing the MODL program at Saint Joseph’s. She is employed as a Patient Satisfaction manager at a medical center in Morris County, New Jersey.

She is a certified Volunteer Administrator, a published newspaper and magazine writer, and speaks nationally on topics pertaining to volunteer management and the patient experience.

Grad Year: 2017
Program: MS in Organizational Development and Leadership

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