Student Success

Student Success

How Online Courses Can Help You Achieve the Biggest College ROI

College is exciting, challenging, and fun, but it’s also a big investment – possibly one of the biggest you’ll make in your lifetime.

Though the cost may be rising, there’s good news – there’s a positive return on investment for higher education. Overall, college graduates earn more than those with high school diplomas.

Of course, you have to make smart financial decisions to get the best college ROI, and online courses are one way to help save on college and invest your money and time wisely.

Save on Campus Fees

One of the biggest added expenses students face when enrolled in a traditional on-campus program is room and board. Housing and a meal plan during four years of study can add up.

With an online program, you can live at home and prepare your own meals, leading to huge potential savings. You’re already paying for the roof over your head and your food, so you’re not adding to your expenses while attending college.

There are additional savings that come from remote learning as well. Your second greatest asset – time – is conserved with online courses.

If you would otherwise be commuting to school, you can end up spending a lot on fuel and car maintenance costs. Indirectly, the commute also adds to the time you devote to college, which may mean reduced work hours (and earning potential) while you’re finishing your degree.

The same is true of other on-campus responsibilities, such as scheduled classes at set times that may conflict with your schedule, meeting with other students or your professor outside of class or visiting the library. Online, this is all available instantaneously. Classes can be self-paced, allowing you to complete them at the time and speed that works best for you.

Finish Your Degree Faster

If you reduce the time you need to spend to earn a degree, you can reduce your overall costs and improve your college ROI. For example, motivated high school students often take Advanced Placement (AP) courses to earn college credit alongside their required curriculum.

There are similar options for college students. College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) tests help you receive college credit for the information you already know, all at a fraction of the cost of a full course. The exams cover core courses like American government, psychology, history, American literature, biology, calculus, and economics.

In addition, some institutions offer the option to take multiple courses each term or semester to earn your degree faster. For example, Sophia Learning has a subscription option to take as many as two courses at once, completely online and at your own pace.

Earn Transfer Credits

If you have your heart set on a specific college or university, you can still reduce your overall tuition with transfer credits. Across institutions, general education or core courses are generally equivalent – meaning you can take them at a low-cost institution and transfer them to your preferred college or university.

When you graduate, your degree will still reflect the institution and your degree program – as well as any prestige that comes along with it. For example, a well-respected STEM program at a top university may matter when you’re in advanced courses, but your general education courses are similar whether you’re at an Ivy League university or not.

Within the valuable subscription, Sophia Learning offers a range of general education courses in a variety of areas, including language, math, science, communication, computer science, business, and humanities. And with over 40 partner schools and over 1,000 colleges and universities that review Sophia courses for credit, you can knock out your basic college courses at a lower cost.

Be sure to speak to your advisor or an admissions counselor about your preferred university’s transfer credit policy, however.

Gain Career Preparedness

Online courses can maximize your college ROI both directly, through time and cost savings, and indirectly, through career skills you gain. While online learning offers fewer opportunities for networking, it teaches you valuable skills to assimilate into a remote or hybrid role.

Following the pandemic, remote and hybrid workforces are the “new normal.” Employers are more comfortable with remote employees, flexible schedules, and all the benefits that come with it. Still, there are unique challenges to remote work, and some people struggle to stay on track without in-office support and supervision – a skill you will gain as you learn to work independently earning your degree.

Remote work isn’t ideal for everyone, but taking online courses will help you develop the skills to stay motivated and productive in a work-from-home role.

Get Help Paying for College

You may be excited about going to college but less excited about the potential debt. Fortunately, you can save money with grant and scholarship money. When you apply for financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®), you will receive financial aid options at each school you’re applying to.

There are several grants that you may be eligible for, including the Federal Pell grant, as well as institutional scholarships – which also apply to online learning. Don’t hesitate to look for grant and scholarship opportunities outside of your institution as well. Many organizations offer scholarships for specific programs or groups.

Taking out some loans may be inevitable, but you don’t have to be crippled by debt. If you do need to take out loans, pay any interest while still in school. It can be tempting to hold off during your grace period, but some loans are accruing interest during that time. If you make partial payments on the interest while you’re still in school, you can save a lot of money over the life of the loan, owe less when you graduate, and boost your college ROI.

Boost Your College ROI with Gen Ed Credits from Sophia Learning

Pursuing a degree is a big investment with a potentially great payoff. If you’re ready to take the next step, start a free trial at Sophia Learning to knock out your gen eds!

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How to Know If Self-Paced Online College Is Right for You

If you’re considering online courses to boost your resume, finish your degree, or switch careers, there are a few different setups and options to make the most of the experience.

Some courses are structured with specific information to be covered each week on a set schedule, while others allow you to learn at your own speed – self-paced learning. Many schools offer self-paced online college-level courses for credit, so you can get ahead while working toward your degree on your own time.

Attending college at your own pace is a great way to balance the responsibilities of life with your education, but it may not be ideal for everyone. Find out what to expect from a self-paced learning environment.

What Is Self-Paced Learning?

Online courses are more flexible than traditional courses in general, but self-paced online courses give you even more control over your learning experience. There are minimal deadlines and schedules that limit your learning experience, so you can move quickly through material that comes easily.

Most courses, traditional or otherwise, are built on layered learning – you have to have a good understanding of the material to build upon it as you move through the course. If you struggle with a topic or concept, you can take the time you need to ensure you truly grasp it before moving into the next section.

Essentially, you can leverage your individual learning strengths and abilities to get the best experience possible.

If you check these boxes, you can benefit from self-paced online college.

You Have Strong Time Management Skills

Staying organized and managing your time effectively are crucial to your success with self-paced online courses for college credit. Though you won’t be held to strict deadlines on a weekly basis, if you’re prone to procrastination, you may not finish your course in a reasonable time frame.

One of the struggles of attending self-paced college is that other things will always pop up – work obligations, family events, disruptions with children – and pull your attention. It can be easy to push off your course work each day if you don’t manage your time effectively.

You’re Self-Motivated

Motivation is necessary for any educational experience, but particularly with a learn-at-your-own-pace college. It’s your responsibility to stay on track with your assignments, readings, quizzes, exams, and other aspects of attending classes. You won’t have a professor staying on you to get your work done.

You Understand Your Learning Style

Not everyone learns the same way. Self-paced college lets students harness their own individual learning strengths to learn and retain information. Instead of the instructor or professor leading the experience, you can take the time to learn independently.

While you may need to ask for help or clarification sometimes, the bulk of your learning is done on your own.

You Have a Lot to Balance

One of the greatest advantages of the best self-paced online colleges is that they offer flexibility. You can learn at your own convenience and work through the lectures and material when it’s the best for you, not a set time that you have to meet for an in-person lecture.

For example, you may be most productive in the early morning hours before your workday. Or perhaps you prefer to focus on schoolwork in the afternoon while your partner is at work and the kids are at school. For some, productivity comes late at night while everyone else is asleep (you’re not likely to find in-person lectures at midnight!).

You’re Comfortable with Technology

No matter what, self-paced college online requires a certain level of comfort with technology. Different schools offer different learning platforms to access your assignments and texts, so you’ll need to learn to navigate them. You’ll also need comfort with technology to complete your work, such as Microsoft Office, Excel, and PowerPoint or Google Docs and Sheets.

This goes without saying, but you will need a strong internet connection for online courses. If you have issues with your internet service, you may have to contact IT support to get reconnected and complete your work.

You Have a Distraction-Free Environment

When the world had to abruptly shift to remote work, many people discovered unexpected distractions in their home lives. Kids at home, dogs barking, or people knocking on your door can be a big disruption to your focus while you’re trying to work – or learn.

Attending college at your own pace can be especially challenging if you don’t have a space you can turn into an at-home classroom with no distractions. It’s best to have a quiet room with a door where you can set up a desk, computer, and school supplies. If that’s not possible, you can set up a space in a quieter area of your home and ask everyone to respect your study time.

You Enjoy Writing

With in-person lectures, your participation involves discussions in class and interacting with other students. You can have a similar experience with accredited self-paced online colleges, but it all takes place in discussions, forums, or chats. If you’re not a strong writer, interacting this way can be difficult.

In addition, most of your assignments will be written assignments. Even quizzes or exams may include short-answer questions, rather than multiple choice or true or false questions. That said, writing skills are essential for the modern workplace, especially with remote work, and it’s good to build these skills while you’re getting your education.

You Enjoy Networking

Networking is not limited to traditional schooling. You can gain valuable networking opportunities with online learning, which can help you make connections to further your career. But like anything else, you only get out of it what you put in.

Many schools encourage networking by hosting virtual events or seminars. If you’re comfortable interacting online and can communicate effectively, you can make the most of these opportunities.

Ready to Get Started?

Is self-paced learning the right choice for you? Sophia Learning offers a free trial to see if self-paced online college-level courses are right for you. Start your trial today!


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Top 10 Time Management Tips for College Students

With a part- or full-time work week, family obligations, and other responsibilities, it can seem challenging to find the time to complete schoolwork. Time is a precious resource that should be maximized, especially for college students.

Whether you struggle with time management or you want to maximize your time, here are our top 10 time management tips for college students.

1. Keep a Calendar of Deadlines

Most courses, online or in-person, have deadlines for assignments that you have to follow to earn a high grade. It can be overwhelming, but not if you’re following the best practices for managing time for students.

Keeping a calendar gives you a visual of all your upcoming work, so you can schedule study time and time to complete assignments with clear priorities. Otherwise, you could end up with rapidly approaching deadlines and panic when you realize assignments are due without enough time to spend on them.

2. Set Goals

One of the most important steps in managing your time is knowing what you’re spending your time on. When you set goals, you can identify your wasted time and stay on an efficient track to completing everything.

There are many apps that you can download to track your time and see where your time could be better spent. For example, taking a quick look at your Facebook or TikTok feed may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over the course of the day. Once you know this, you can be more disciplined about your free time.

3. Use the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. Using a timer, you break up your workload into 25-minute stretches of focused, uninterrupted work with five-minute breaks in between. You can take a longer break after four consecutive work intervals.

This method is effective because staring down a long to-do list of equally important tasks can quickly become overwhelming. If you’re not sure where to start, or you feel like you’ll be drowning as soon as you start, you won’t be as productive. Working in small chunks of time will help you stay motivated and combat your apprehension.

4. Use Checklists

Checklists are a helpful tool for how to improve time management skills as a college student. When you have a lot of work to complete, it can feel like you’re spinning your wheels without accomplishing anything. Having a checklist gives you a sense of accomplishment as you check items off your list.

5. Use Your Breaks Strategically

One of the most important tips on time management for students is using your break time strategically to get more accomplished in a day. While you should take some breaks to relax your mind and recharge, the breaks that you work into your schedule can be used as extra time to complete other quick items on your to-do list.

For example, use a 15-minute break to put a load of laundry in the washing machine or run a quick errand. When you use your breaks strategically like this, you’ll find that you get more things done over the course of the week and you’ll have more leisure time.

6. Leverage Technology Tools

With millions of apps at your fingertips, your smartphone or tablet can become more of a time waster than an asset. But with the right apps and self-discipline, you can use apps to manage your time effectively.

There are apps for scheduling, calendars, time management, and productivity with digital to-do lists, timers, and notifications. If you can’t stay off your social media apps, download an app to block these notifications and restrict access to social apps until you take your scheduled break.

Don’t stop at your smartphone, however. Your computer offers different account options, so make one for your personal use, one for work, and one for school. This keeps all your important apps and documents separated, so you only have access to what you need to complete your work – no more temptation to surf social media feeds while you’re working on assignments!

7. Limit Distractions

The best time management for college students comes from self-awareness. When you can clearly and objectively identify your habits and distractions, you’re better equipped to combat them.

For example, you may find that you procrastinate by getting involved in household work when you should be studying, or you may put on the television for “background noise” and start watching. In these cases, maintaining a quiet, separate study place or blocking out time for chores or watching television can make a big difference in limiting distractions and keeping you focused.

8. Reward Yourself

Nothing feels quite as good as accomplishing everything on your to-do list. As you start working toward better time management, take time to reward yourself for small wins. Always keep your rewards in line with your goals, such as taking an hour to read or watch television after you’ve completed your tasks for the day. This also gives you something to look forward to without the stress of thinking you should be doing work.

9. Stay Healthy

Keeping yourself healthy plays a role in time management and productivity. It may not seem obvious, but one of the time management tips for students is working regular exercise into your schedule. You should also plan to eat well and get a good night’s rest, both of which contribute to your energy levels and minimize stress. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

10. Ask for Help

When you’re overwhelmed, it can be tempting to go it alone. But you have resources to help. If you are struggling to understand a concept, reach out to your professor with questions or concerns. You’ll waste more time trying to figure it out on your own – under stress – than if you get the information you need from the start.

Remember, time management tips for students only go so far is you’re burned out and physically and emotionally drained. If you’re truly overwhelmed, reach out to your advisor to discuss your options. You may need a reduced credit load for a time or student support resources like tutoring. Your advisor is there to help you succeed.

Put These Tips to Use

How to manage time as a student can be a struggle, especially if you’re balancing other responsibilities. These tips can help you make the best use of your time to stay productive and focused, but don’t hesitate to ask for help. At Sophia Learning, we have a dedicated group of learning coaches that can help you with your time management. Start a free trial today!

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How to Avoid College Debt: Our 10 Big Tips

Student loans are a great option for people who want a degree but otherwise can’t afford college. Taking out student loans means being saddled with a lot of debt upon graduation, however.

Whether you’re a new student or you’re far along in your college career, there are ways you can get ahead of college costs, or limit your borrowing, to start off in a strong position after graduation.

Find out how to avoid college debt and finish school without the burden of high student loans.

1. Embrace Hybrid or Alternative Learning

Online learning has created a unique option to avoid excessive debt and gain flexibility in your learning journey. Hybrid learning combines the affordability of an online education with in-person classes for a traditional college experience.

Though the per-credit cost may be close, the flexibility of a hybrid program can reduce the indirect costs that can rack up in college, such as paying for tolls or parking, gas for the commute, or enrolling children in childcare to attend classes. It also offers more flexibility to continue working a full-time schedule and earn income.

2. Earn Transfer Credits

Some higher education institutions are known for having exceptional programs in specific fields, such as the sciences or legal studies. If you want to benefit from these programs – and the school’s reputation – without paying the high cost, transfer credits are a go-to option.

State or community colleges often offer courses at a lower cost, so you can get some general education courses out of the way. Another option is an online college like Sophia Learning, which offers gen ed courses that you can complete at your own pace.

In most cases, you can still transfer the credits to your chosen school to finish your degree. It’s important to speak with your advisor in advance to ensure your transfer credits will be accepted, however.

3. Pay Out of Pocket

This may not be an option for everyone but paying for some – or all – of your college costs out of pocket can help you avoid student loan debt. Even if you can’t pay for all of your courses, paying for the occasional course will help you avoid high interest.

In addition, trying to pay on your own will motivate you to look for opportunities to reduce the costs, such as hybrid learning or transfer credits, rather than taking on more debt.

4. Test Out of Courses

Some colleges offer the option to “test out” of courses as one of the ways to decrease student loan debt. Depending on the school’s policy, you may be able to test out of gen ed courses and some intermediate courses, such as college-level sciences or math, and gain college credit.

Typically, this is done with the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP). The test covers all the information you would learn in the course, so you can demonstrate your knowledge of the material. There is a cost for the exams, but they’re usually much lower than the cost of the course.

5. Work-Related Debt Forgiveness

If you’re wondering how to avoid debt in college, it’s worth considering options for debt forgiveness after college. Though these usually apply to federal student loans, certain professions are eligible for debt forgiveness in exchange for a certain number of years of service.

These programs are available for in-demand professions, such as nursing and medical technicians, teachers, speech pathologists, firefighters, law enforcement, social workers, librarians, and military servicemembers. There are strict requirements for forgiveness, however, so be sure to explore your options.

6. Work On-Campus

Some institutions offer on-campus work as a way to reduce your college costs. These work-study programs vary by the college or university, but some examples include taking a role as a Resident Advisor in your dorm for discounts on housing, working at the school dining to cover food costs, or taking an administrative job at one of the campus offices.

7. Work Part-Time

If your school doesn’t offer a suitable on-campus job, then you may be able to take a part-time job to help with your college costs. Working part time will help you earn extra income for tuition, or to manage your living expenses, while you’re completing your degree.

Some students avoid working while in college because they fear they’ll fall behind with less study time, but the opposite is usually true. Students who work part time are higher academic achievers than students who only focus on school. That said, you will need strong time-management skills to keep up with your obligations.

8. Consider Repayment Plans

Some colleges and universities offer options for repayment as a solution for how to avoid student debt. Instead of taking out a loan or paying upfront, your tuition is spread over time in a repayment plan that’s interest free. If you’re trying to pay on your own, this helps you continue with your education without needing to take time off to save money.

9. Scholarships

Scholarships are available in a variety of places. Your financial aid office at your school can give you information about scholarships through the school itself, but you may find scholarships through your job or local community. Sometimes, local businesses like doctor’s offices or law firms offer scholarships for local students looking to enter their fields.

You could also find scholarships specific to majors or degree programs and backgrounds, such as the military, graduate students, or women. Here are some places to look:

  • Your school’s financial aid office

  • A high school counselor

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool

  • Federal scholarship programs

  • State grant agencies

  • The library’s reference section

  • Local civic groups, community organizations, and foundations

  • Ethnicity-based organizations

  • Professional associations relevant to your field of interest

  • Your employer

Do the work! It takes time and effort, but if you can get some scholarships, you can significantly reduce your college debt.

10. Speak with Your Advisor for How to Avoid Student Debt

Your advisor is your greatest asset, not just for your college experience, but for earning a degree in a cost-effective way. Your advisor can help you find available funding sources or scholarships, as well as tips and tricks like earning transfer credits.

Reduce or Eliminate Your Student Debt

No one wants to graduate saddled with a lot of student debt and high interest rates. Sophia Learning is just $99 a month for a subscription to take as many courses as you want, even two at a time, and earn transfer credits. Take a look at our website or start your free trial today!

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How to Go Back to School as an Adult Learner in 2023

While some may think of “college students” as 18 to 25-year olds, adults over the age of 25 represent about 40% of the enrollment in US higher education – nearly 8 million learners. Part of the reason is that college is more accessible than it once was, especially for adult learners balancing life’s responsibilities with school.

Whether you have some credits under your belt or you’re going to college for the first time, going to college as an adult offers plenty of opportunities, as well as some challenges. Find out how to go back to school as an adult to get the most value out of the online college journey.

Why Go Back to School as an Adult?

The decision to return to college is unique for everyone, but here are some reasons many consider going back to school as an adult:

Making a Career Change

Technology has advanced rapidly in the past few decades. For some, that means work opportunities have shifted as technology tools reduced the need for a workforce. For others, their current career has no growth opportunities – or simply doesn’t satisfy any longer.

Some adults reach maturity and realize the time is right for them to pursue a dream they’ve shelved to start a family and stick with a steady career. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to make a change.

More Maturity

College may not be for everyone right out of high school. If you tried college the first time and chose not to stay, it could’ve been more about maturity than whether college was “right for you.” You may not have appreciated the importance of education at the time, but now that you have more life experience, you can handle – or even enjoy – your learning journey.

Filling Skills Gaps

Even the best education can become outdated after several decades out of school. The workforce is flooded with fresh college graduates who are eager to start their career – and they come with the most current information and skills for their field.

College for working adults allows you to elevate your skill set and stay current on your industry’s best practices, ensuring you’re relevant and irreplaceable as the new generation enters the workforce.

Finishing a Degree

Even with the best of intentions, life can get in the way of pursuing your degree. Children, sick family members, financial concerns, or unexpected life changes can easily derail a college career.

If you want to finish what you started, you can go back to school online and get your degree. It’ll be hard work, but you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment.

Challenges Adults Face Going Back to School

Going back to school is an exciting – but intimidating – experience. It’s very different to go back to school online vs. starting out as a traditional student. Here are some common challenges adult learners face, as well as the solutions.

Working Around a Busy Schedule

As an adult learner, you probably have to manage your classes with work, caring for family, or other responsibilities. Many adult learners attend school part time and have to work their schoolwork into their busy schedules.

Fortunately, online learning platforms for adults offer a lot of flexibility compared to on-campus programs. You can complete coursework on your own schedule, whether that’s first thing in the morning, during a quiet afternoon, or in the late hours when everyone else is sleeping. Part of this flexibility is saving time without having a commute to and from a campus.

Financial Concerns

The rising costs of college is challenging for everyone but especially adult learners. Like many, you may have a mortgage, debt, or family to support, so taking on the burden of student loans or tuition payments seems daunting.

Financial concerns don’t have to hold you back, though. You can save money with college transfer credits, choosing an affordable program, and applying for financial aid with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) When you apply, you’ll find out if you can get help through grants or loans.

But that’s not all. Scholarships and grants are available for college for working adults. It takes some time and work, but you can save a lot with these aid options.

You can also save by taking your general education credits online at an affordable institution like Sophia Learning, then transferring them to your chosen college or university. Be sure to check with your school’s advisor about the credit transfer policy, however.

Fear of Not Being Right for College

Adult learners may feel anxiety about returning to school. It could be that they fear failing their program, thinking that they’ve been out of practice for too long, worrying about keeping up with technology, or feeling out of place among young students.

These fears are understandable and relatable, but they don’t need to be an obstacle. Most adult learners feel this way, yet they persist on to earn their degree. There are numerous programs designed specifically for adult learners that cater to their unique learning needs, giving you a group of peers with similar perspectives and challenges.

If you’re still not sure, try taking a few classes on a trial basis to see if college is right for you. This is an opportunity to get back in the groove and consider your decision before committing to a full degree program.

Lack of Resources

The best advice for adults going back to college is to find – and use – your resources. Institutions that cater to adult learners offer resources to overcome common challenges to earning a degree.

For example, most schools will provide a dedicated academic advisor upon enrollment. Your advisor is your best asset to navigate your college experience and ensure success. If you run into roadblocks, your advisor can help you find academic and technical support to provide the assistance you need.

Many institutions offer additional resources to position you for success, such as career planning services, workshops, outside lectures and seminars, and group study sessions. Outside resources, such as Google searches and online texts, are more available than they once were.

How to Go Back to School as an Adult: Top Tips

Wondering how to get started? Here are some practical tips for the process:

Determine Your Degree Program and Level

Whether you’re making a career change or starting new, you should research your future career and its educational requirements. This is an important consideration for finding the right school and degree program.

For example, if you already have college credits, you can save time or money with transfer credits. If you have a bachelor’s degree and you want to make a career change to a related field, a certificate program may be a better option than a master’s degree.

Choose the Right School

It’s important to find a college that supports your needs as an adult learner. Prestige, program value, affordability, or other factors in your decision won’t matter if the school doesn’t set you up for success as a working adult.

Look for colleges that offer the programs you’re interested in, flexibility in online courses, multiple start times per year, or accelerated programs. For example, some online programs require on-campus testing or video lectures at scheduled times that don’t align with your current schedule. Consider your options and what’s most important to you.

Meet with an Admissions Counselor

Admissions counselors are a valuable resource to prepare for the application process. The counselor can help you evaluate your transfer credits and guide you through the application process, including how to submit transcripts and what documentation you will need.

Speak with an Academic Advisor

After admission, your first step is to connect with your academic advisor to determine course requirements, arrange your class schedule, and discuss any resources you may need. Your advisor has your best interests in mind, so be sure to discuss any concerns or challenges you’re facing.

Prioritize Your Schoolwork

Balancing life and school is not easy, but you can put yourself in a strong position with some preparation.

Before classes start, organize a workspace with your supplies. A calendar with important deadlines will help you organize and manage your coursework and stay ahead of schedule.

Be sure to discuss your plans with your employer and family. If possible, consider taking some days off for the adjustment to adult learning. Most employers are supportive, especially if your learning experience will benefit them.

Maintaining your home and taking care of children or family members can be challenging if you’re adding another commitment, so set a plan to divide household duties. If you’re single, find ways to reduce your responsibilities or prioritize to make time for your new endeavor.

Going Back to School with Online Learning for Adults

It’s never too late to pursue your dream. Going back to school as an adult is more accessible than it once was, giving you an opportunity to finish what your started and achieve your goals.

If you’re considering a return to school as an adult, start your free trial at Sophia Learning or explore our courses!

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How to Be a Successful Online College Student in 2023

Online learning is becoming more popular. Colleges and universities are increasing their online offerings, and 2020 saw record enrollment from online learners. 

From doctoral programs to short courses, online programs offer an array of benefits, including flexibility in where, when, and how students attain their education while balancing the responsibilities of daily life.

But there is a caveat – online learning can be challenging if you’re not prepared. Attending an online course demands focus and motivation like a traditional classroom setting, plus distractions like kids or pets can present barriers to learning.

Here are some tips for how to be a successful online college student and get the most out of your online classes this year.  

Set Up a Quiet Workspace

One of the benefits of a traditional classroom is that it’s a dedicated, distraction-free space for students to learn. You should aim to create that same learning environment at home to complete your work and establish a good routine.

Every student is different. Some may do best with peace and quiet, while others focus better with background noise like a television or music. Take time to see which environment works best for your own focus and productivity to set yourself up for success.

Get Organized

Once you have a workspace, organize all the supplies and resources you need for your course. The last thing you want is to struggle to access your learning platform before the class starts or encounter a glitch with your learning materials. 

Most importantly, make sure you have a strong and reliable internet connection for your course. If necessary, move your workspace closer to your router for a better connection. 

Before the course starts, purchase and access your course materials, including any supplementary tools, and practice navigating the learning platform. Stock your workspace with any materials you may need, such as flashcards and a physical notebook and pen or pencil.

A calendar can be helpful for tracking important deadlines for your course, whether you use a physical calendar or an app on your phone or computer. Check your calendar regularly to prepare for any upcoming deadlines.

Set Time for Coursework

One of the biggest benefits of online courses is the flexibility to learn in the way — and the time — that works best for you. Unlike traditional courses that require you to attend classes at designated times, many online courses are asynchronous so you can balance your schoolwork with other responsibilities, such as children, work, or caring for another family member. 

Consider your most productive times of day and the barriers you may have to learning, such as your work hours or getting the kids off to school. If you’re a morning person, start your day with your assigned reading or video lectures and assignments. If the afternoon is the quietest time of day, block out some time to study or start your assignments. For night owls, burning the midnight oil while everyone is in bed may be the most productive approach.

Stick to Your Schedule

Flexibility with online courses is great, but it can leave you vulnerable to time management issues. Without classes to attend or a professor checking in, it’s easy to push off the work you need to do when life gets busy. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself struggling to get caught up.

On the first day of your course, note the big assignments and mark them on your calendar. If you have any big events in your professional or personal life, such as a major work project or a vacation, note those in your calendar as well. Seeing everything laid out allows you to plan around your obligations and stay on track.

Remember the time you blocked out for learning? Stick to it, no matter what. Set reminders if you need to, but it’s important that you take your study time as seriously as you would with in-person courses.

Engage with the Course

Active participation is a key to success with your classes. In a traditional classroom setting, professors notice students who aren’t engaged and can take steps to encourage participation. That dynamic is more difficult in an online environment.

Take initiative to participate and engage with the course on your own. If a discussion requires only one or two responses, don’t stop at the bare minimum. Foster better learning for everyone by responding to your classmates with insightful observations, thought-provoking questions, and valuable resources.

If your course has optional discussions or assignments, take advantage of them. Read the additional articles or videos and check your professor’s announcements and tips. All of these resources are there to help you succeed, but they don’t work if you don’t use them.

Ask for Help When You Need It

Online programs are designed for independent and self-motivated students, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help. Most online learning platforms have general discussion areas or question-and-answer forums for students to ask questions about the concepts or materials.

Professors also provide contact information for students who may need additional help with their assignments or feedback. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re struggling with the course material or encounter a barrier.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Your course will come with learning objectives, but it’s good to set goals for yourself and check in on your progress to stay accountable. Online learning requires a commitment to the learning experience, so you’re responsible for your own time management, reading, and assignments.

If you struggle to hold yourself accountable, pair up with a classmate or ask a friend or family member to check in on your deadlines. When you have to answer to someone else for work you didn’t complete or late assignments, it’s not as easy to push things off when life gets in the way.

Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

There are numerous benefits to learning online. With self-paced online learning, you don’t have to miss out on time with family or struggle to keep up with work because of an inconvenient course schedule and commute.

Your coursework is important and serious, but don’t forget to have some fun with the experience. There may be times when the work is stressful or tedious but come up with creative ways to make it more engaging. Set timed challenges for yourself, test your knowledge of the concepts by asking yourself questions, and reward yourself when you complete your assignment.

Ready to Start Your Online Learning Experience?

Online learning is certainly convenient but adjusting to the challenges and nuances may take some planning and preparation. Now that you have these online learning tips for success, it’s time to put it to action!

Sophia Learning offers self-paced courses that are available on-demand, from anywhere, so you can knock out your gen ed courses and work toward your degree. See what online learning success looks like – start a free trial today!

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Discounts that can help as you go back to school

It’s back-to-school season for many students. As you focus on your studies, schedule and the supplies you’ll need, it’s helpful to figure out what discounts might be available. From computers and subscriptions to notebooks and writing implements and other essentials, now is a great time to assess where you can save. 

For those interested in trying Sophia Learning gen ed courses, Sophia is offering new monthly subscribers a 25% discount for their first month of membership. Just sign up at and use promo code BTS22. Through Sophia, you can take care of gen eds at your own pace and potentially save time and money.

In addition to saving with Sophia, here are some helpful discounts at a variety of academia-related companies: This is not a statement of endorsement of these products or offers. Offers may have seperate terms and conditions and expiration dates.

  • Apple: Save on a new Mac or iPad with Apple education pricing. Available to current and newly accepted college students and their parents, as well as faculty, staff and homeschool teachers of all grade levels. 
  • Samsung: Shop on and save on mobile devices, wearables, audio, home entertainment and home appliances. 
  • Staples: Take advantage of savings on select school supplies, home office furniture, printers, paper and a variety of other useful items. 
  • Best Buy: Explore discounts on select tablets, headphones, TVs, monitors, laptops, coffee makers and more. 
  • HelloFresh: Get student benefits from 15% off for 52 deliveries plus free shipping on the first box through this food delivery service. 
  • Fjallraven: Receive free shipping on all orders over $75 and save on backpacks and other useful gear.
  • ThriftBooks: Save on a wide selection of used books that can be helpful for many classes, particularly English and literature. 

Join Sophia and use code BTS22 to save on your gen ed courses.

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How Sophia Helped Me Save Time and Money: A Student Success Story

When Purdue University senior Madison Roelike* first heard of Sophia Learning in late 2019, she was intrigued by the idea of taking convenient and affordable college-level courses that could help her work toward her bachelor of science in business administration.

Madison was first drawn in by the concept and the accessible design of Sophia’s website, but she continued to take courses with Sophia long after her free trial period ended because Sophia delivered on its promise of convenient, high-quality learning. 

*Actual Sophia student who agreed to appear in Sophia promotional materials

23 Credits Transferred 

Because Purdue is a university partner with Sophia, all of the Sophia courses Madison took were accepted as transfer credit toward her business major, general education requirements, or electives. According to Madison, this straightforward partnership “has helped me tremendously.” 

During her free trial with Sophia, Madison tried the business course Developing Effective Teams and the communication course The Essentials of Managing Conflict, both of which are recommended by the American Council on Education (“ACE”) to be worth 1 credit.

Then, during quarantine and beyond, she took advantage of many of Sophia’s other courses, focusing particularly on the business courses that would help with her major. Madison completed Introduction to Business, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Project Management, and, most recently, Sophia’s new Principles of Finance course. She has also taken courses for her own personal enjoyment and learning, including Visual Communications and Introduction to Ethics. Each of these was evaluated by ACE to be worth 3 transfer credits.

Total, these nine courses have resulted in 23 credits transferred to Purdue University, which Madison says has “definitely helped save some money,” on her journey toward graduation.

Convenient Online Learning

Madison is no stranger to online learning. She takes her classes with Purdue online and also took advantage of online learning opportunities when she was in high school. But she found that Sophia offered a convenience and accessibility unlike what she has experienced elsewhere. “I wasn’t getting lost in the readings like I sometimes find myself doing [when] reading a textbook,” she says. She enjoyed the more straightforward lessons, which were easy for her to access anywhere she had her phone or laptop. 

“While I would take notes on the lesson plans, I also felt like the questions on the milestones and tests were not [convoluted],” she says, noting how these tests allow students to use critical thinking skills to apply the knowledge they have gained rather than asking them to simply memorize information. This provided an academic challenge while still developing needed skills for future success.

For this reason, Madison feels that Sohia’s courses offer a helpful entry point for students who are new to online learning or have had difficulties with it in the past. The setup, process, accessibility, and value of the courses led to one of her smoothest experiences with online learning. “Overall the knowledge I’ve received has helped a lot,” she says.

Q&A with Madison Roelike

Q: What Did You Like Best About the Courses You Took with Sophia?

A: I like how accessible it is. I feel like with some of the alternative-credit options, it can get really, really expensive, and there are a lot of limits on how much you can take and in what amount of time. But with Sophia, I’ve always loved it just because of the accessibility and [usability]. ... I love the whole experience of it with how you have the lesson plans, [low-key] homework, and then you move on to the milestones—the tests—and then you have a cumulative final-type test at the end. I found myself staying really engaged throughout the whole process, which sometimes doesn’t happen—it can be really hard to stay engaged in online school.

Q: How did Sophia’s Courses Prepare You For Your Career or Helped You in Your Course of Study?

A: The biggest [course for me] was the Project Management course. That one didn’t transfer toward my major—it was more of an elective credit. But I was really surprised by the information in those lesson plans. I have applied [things I learned in that class] to work and my schooling at Purdue. … That one had a lot of information that has helped me in even human resources classes that I’ve taken at Purdue.

Q: What Advice Would You Give to Others Interested in Taking Courses with Sophia?

A: I recommend it 100 percent. Especially if the reason they are taking classes is for alternative credit and your school partners [with Sophia] or is more likely to accept the credit—it’s a great avenue for general credits especially.

I also think that—while this didn’t really apply to me as I had already picked my major—it is a great avenue if you are unsure about what you’re wanting to major in. I love the variety of classes; you have everything from psychology to art history to business, accounting, economics … so many different options. [Sophia] provides a lot of great introductory classes ... it gives a little bit of an insight of what [you could be interested in] without paying the full price of going to college and then switching your major later on—you could be out thousands and thousands. I think the overall variety is amazing.

As Madison prepares for her expected graduation date of May 2022, she is using the critical thinking and outside-the-box strategizing skills she gained through her Sophia coursework to succeed in her part-time work as a mortgage specialist with US Bank. She’s grateful that Sophia has been a part of her journey to graduation—but she does have one regret. “I only wish I could have found it sooner!”

Learn more about Sophia and start your free trial today.

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