Online schools ask for a minimum commitment of 15-20 hours a week for success. I entirely believe in that. Students that struggle to do the minimum each semester/term are probably barely reaching 10 hours a week. Students that do rapturously well….completing BAs in 15, 17, 18 months and MAs in 18 months (still considered very impressive) have 2 things strongly in their favor coming in the door:
1. They arrive with competency. Many students think they do have competency…but alas, how many of us really can explain the minority rights/majority rule concept–with references and in APA Style– off the top of our heads?
2. They spend WAY more than 15 hours a week on this. Those 15-18 month BA students are spending a minimum of 30-40 hours a week on college. Yup, it is their ‘job’– usually, they don’t have an another job.
So if one does NOT arrive with competency and one does NOT have 40 hours a week, what is the true secret of success? Put in the time and you will find that you will accelerate. But where does the time come from?
I want to share my own experience as one (of thousands) that worked full time, had a family, and went to online school full time. University of Phoenix (UOP) has a different format than other colleges…but the time commitment of 15 hours a week…is the same.
At UOP online, master’s degree courses were 6 weeks long. Each week started on Thursday and thus all weekly assignments (3 minimum posts to message boards, 1 individual paper, 1 team paper) were all due on Wednesday. [Hence the server crashes on Wednesdays brings UOP to its knees.] So there is no ability to procrastinate and wait until the end of term; I was required to meet weekly goals. Here was the schedule that ended up working for me. I achieved my Master’s Degree in 17 months this way:
|Day||Time Commitment||Time total|
|Thursday||7-10 p.m.||3 hours|
|Saturday||6 – 11 a.m.||5 hours|
|Sunday||4-5 p.m.||1 hour|
|Monday||7-10 p.m.||3 hours|
|Wednesday||7-10 p.m.||3 hours|
|15 hours per week|
My favorite parts of this plan are where it met the needs of me and my family:
1. Fridays– I had Fridayitis BIG TIME. I would not even turn on my home computer on Fridays. I went out to movies, had dinner, had a few drinks…basically ANYTHING but college. What’s college?
2. Saturday ‘trick’– I’d get up at the same time as normal for work…and sneak over to my home computer and work uninterrupted for 5 hours before hubby (NOT a morning person) started wandering around the house at 11 a.m. Brilliant! 5 hours of uninterrupted work and my family never missed me! No sleeping in for 17 months of Saturdays in trade for a Master’s Degree. Hmm….WORTH IT to me!
3. Rest of weekend off with family– yes, yes, yes. HBT = human being time
4. One hour Sunday to organize– more time for me if the Dolphins were playing! This was because I’d be at the home computer and have to only yell an occasional YAY or DARN depending the noises coming out the living room.
5. Tuesday night = NOVA on PBS. I love NOVA — it is my science ‘fix’ each week.
So I’m not suggesting my way is the right way. But I’m suggesting that finding 15 hours a week can be done. I had to strategic decisions of when to NOT be available for my family– and they had to play along. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights I was in my home office (spare bedroom) with the following rule:
- If the door is closed, no one disturbs me unless active fire is burning.
- If the door is cracked open, you may disturb me but it better be for a darn good reason.
I hope you have guidelines for your family, I hope they know you are in college, I hope they support you like they promised when you enrolled. For Christmas this year, it might be good to sit down with your family and revisit those commitments.