10 Big Mistakes That Online Students Make

Attending online school can be a great decision for many professionals looking to gain a leg-up in the job hunt. While online school can be a more flexible option, however, it's easy to fall into certain traps that in the end can make online education more time-consuming or difficult than a traditional program. Keep these common mistakes in mind, to ensure that you make online school work for you.

  • Not Piping Up: There are plenty of ways to communicate in online school-video conferencing, instant messaging, forums, email, and blogs are some of the most common. With the screen separating the student from their professors and peers, however, some students forego interaction and become uncharacteristically quiet. Make sure that you're taking advantage of all your communication venues-it'll help your grades, and you'll be more likely to enjoy your program.
  • Overlooking Accreditation: Institutional accreditation is absolutely crucial for any degree program. Earning a degree from an unaccredited school is unlikely to advance your career, and could even get you in trouble with the law. Research any school's accreditation at the Department of Education before enrolling.
  • Not Investigating All Financial Aid Options: Federal aid is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to financial aid. State aid, smaller government programs, school-based aid, and private scholarships are other sources of money for school. Look into all funding opportunities to decrease the financial burden and stress of your degree program.
  • Procrastinating: Many online programs are asynchronous, meaning that students can log on at anytime to complete assignments and other requirements. This freedom can be a huge temptation to procrastinate. Make sure you've got your time management skills sharply honed for online school, if you want to do your best.
  • Not Researching Online Course Styles: Not all online programs are organized in the same way. Some mimic traditional college, and are based on semester or quarter schedules. In other programs, students only take one accelerated class at a time. You'll also be able to choose from synchronous or asynchronous classes.
  • Not Budgeting Enough Time: In most cases, each college class you'll take will demand at least 10 hours of out of class work, for every hour of lecture. Just because you're going to college online, that doesn't mean you won't have to carve out this large amount of time for school into your life.
  • Forgetting About Financial Aid Disbursements: Your school's financial aid department is in charge of doling out your financial aid money; this usually happens on a semester or quarter basis, depending on your program. However, all schools are dealing with many students, and they occasionally make mistakes. Remember, nobody cares more about your money than you do.
  • Plagiarizing: The temptation of the copy and paste function can be high, when you've procrastinated on a project or are working to get something in at the last minute. Don't be a fool though-all online schools use plagiarism checking programs, and you will get caught. Also be aware of self plagiarism and proper citation methods.
  • Forgetting About Programmatic Accreditation: While institutional accreditation is always important for any online college, programmatic accreditation may also be important for your degree, depending on your profession. Programmatic accreditation is accreditation that applies to specific degrees or programs within a college; it's usually important for highly regulated industries, such as healthcare, but can also be important for other degrees, such as business. Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics page for your profession, to see if programmatic accreditation applies to your degree.
  • Not Investigating Student Services: While stellar academics are important for all degrees, student services are additional programs that can offer extra support during and after your degree. A school with good student services will offer tutoring, tutorials and study tips, an online library, resume building help, and job search assistance.