Last year, I participated in an online Q&A session with a few of my fellow peers to answer incoming Penn State World Campus students’ questions. I took the opportunity to provide my feedback as to what has worked for me and hear if I can improve in some areas.
My first semester at Penn State was intimidating, and I remember there was a huge learning curve as I only ever knew in-person college. My background consists of five years of trade school at a technical college; one following semester taking introductory courses in math, science, economics, and English; and a military education that stretches back to the ’90s. No matter what your background is, if I can be successful, anyone can. I was happy to share my background and answer questions, some of which I’ve detailed here.
How do you prepare to ensure that you get started off right at the beginning of each semester?
Read the syllabus in advance, so you know what to expect from the course for the upcoming semester. Reading the syllabus in advance allows you to familiarize yourself with that specific course content and navigate Canvas. Knowing what books you need can be critical to order in advance. Waiting till day one might jeopardize your chances of getting your books on time. One of my peers on the panel, Amanda Nelson, brought up a good point of seeing if the books are available from the Penn State library. She also mentioned the importance of blocking off time from your schedule and not to exceed that block.
How do you balance it all? Work, life, school?
Some of my peers try to find a way to balance the load across the week. Initially, my fellow student Corey would put off the work until the weekend but found that he was stressed all the time. He transitioned to a system that allowed him to be done by the weekends. Amanda and I agreed that finding time in the week to destress was critical. Doing homework during all of your free time can be detrimental. Finding the right workout regimen, diet, and sleep cycle are crucial in ensuring you are running at peak performance when the time comes to get homework done.
How do you get to know your peers in an online environment?
You can get to know your peers by joining clubs, organizations, and leadership opportunities such as the Student Leadership Conference. Speaking up at the beginning of the semester during introductions and following up weekly with your peers can spark a common interest. For myself, I always recommend the Student Leadership Conference, as that is where I networked with a lot of my peers and met some memorable people.
I will never forget the day I received my acceptance letter to Penn State. I still have it framed, awaiting the day I replace it with a degree. We are all in this together, and there is so much we can learn from each other. Never be afraid to reach out to a professor or peer if you are struggling.