Saint Joseph's University

6 Ways to Prepare for Your First Semester

You can feel excited or terrified--or a little of both--upon taking the final steps to embark on earning a graduate degree. Starting an online school experience is very different from moving into a dorm or entering a classroom, and all of these experiences can be overwhelming in their own way. Listed below are some tips to ease your transition into online graduate school student life so you can succeed scholastically and stress-free!

1. Visualize Your School Work Space

Having a place to leave your books, research, and school-related items helps to keep your focus on the requirements of the class. The old adage ‘out of sight out of mind’ really is true. Plan where you will read and write, whether it is in your home, at lunch at work, or in a local coffee café.

2. Computer Access

Decide what computer or laptop you will be using for schoolwork. Is your computer in good shape with a working camera? Do you share this computer with other family members who might all be vying for it at the same time? Online graduate school courses require a computer with a camera to join lectures, participate in work groups, post class work, research, read, and much more.

3. Required Reading

Review the syllabus as soon as you can. Order books immediately and/or download documents needed for the class. Start your reading early as you get used to being a student once again. Magic markers still work wonders for highlighting important passages!

4. Calendar Merge

Once you can access the syllabus online for your first class, read it thoroughly. Place all the key dates on whatever calendar method you use for your life whether electronic- or paper-based. Review how the deadlines for the class occur as compared with deadlines for work/business trips, family commitments, and other life events.

5. Corporate Tuition Reimbursement

If you are utilizing your employer’s corporate tuition reimbursement program, review both the requirements for your employer and the school. Often, your employer will require you to get approval before you take a course. Employers also have rules for submitting grades and paperwork after the class for reimbursement. Make sure you are aware so you can take advantage of this benefit.

6. Review APA Guidelines

It’s never too early to brush up on APA writing guidelines for research papers. When you’re a St. Joe’s MODL graduate student, all research papers must be submitted following APA guidelines. One recommended resource is an online source: It is an online formatting and style guide for students and a recommended reference for SJU students. Before your first class starts, take some time to peruse this web site to give yourself APA confidence and knowledge.

To make the most of your graduate school experience, be prepared and participate—listen, learn, and share with your classmates. Work hard and have some fun in the MODL program!

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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