Why do some students make it to graduation, while others flounder or disappear after a few months? Meeting educational goals is a bit like meeting health objectives, isn't it?
My health club has a special every January when they waive the club initiation fee and allow new members to join for just the monthly dues.
Unfortunately, as most health clubs will tell you, attendance often wanes in a few months. By March, few of these new members remain active.
Who succeeds and who fails?However, some do stay engaged; they work out regularly and meet their health goals. The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is self-discipline and good habits. The ones who go the distance are the ones that commit to the steady, regular and dedicated work it takes to succeed.
A similar reality can happen with college. For a myriad of reasons, adults everywhere are deciding to go back to college. Military spouses are especially encouraged to further their education, and many programs, grants and scholarships are offered.
The thrill of an accomplished goal and the image of one’s cap and gown donned for graduation day with diploma in hand are powerful motivators. Registering for school and starting classes are easily accomplished; the challenging part of an education is the hours of dedication needed to complete each course.
Students who succeed in school are willing to say no to other things so they can say yes to their goals. Being successful in college is not solely the purview of those who made straight A’s in high school or earned top scores on the SAT. What is needed to go the distance with an education are self-discipline and good habits.
Adopt a few best practices.Earning a degree as a military spouse may not be easy, but it can be done. If you want to fulfill your dreams of earning a degree, consider adopting a few of the following best practices when you begin college. If you can make them habits, you can help set yourself up for success.
Attend class.If you’re on a campus, show up for every class, and show up on time. If you’re earning a degree online, log in frequently. Learning the material and completing assignments takes more than one or two weekly logins. Plan on being in the class regularly – every other day if you can do it. Successful students are present in class.
Ask questions.Communication between people, whether written or verbal, is imperfect. As hard as we try to understand something, at times we need clarification. Successful students ask questions when they don’t understand a concept or instruction; they maintain communication with the professor.
Develop an interest in every class.Develop an interest in the subject you are taking, even if it’s not something in your major. You may not be fascinated to learn about commas and dangling participles in your English class, but consider how learning that information will help you in future classes. Interest begets motivation. Strive to be interested in each course.
Complete assignments in a timely manner and to the best of your ability.Just like at a health club, if you don’t push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you won’t strengthen your academic skills. Building mental or physical muscle demands you exert yourself. Submit assignments on time; make each an example of your best effort.
Be engaged.If you’re in a physical classroom, participate in the discussions, take notes on lectures and pay attention. Question what you hear. If you’re in an online classroom, read and consider the lessons and supplemental readings provided, give the discussion forums serious effort, and take advantage of all learning opportunities. You’ll learn more if you are engaged.
Pursuing an education is a worthy endeavor. Earning a degree can advance you in ways you may not even imagine. When you decide to return to school, or if you find yourself there now, be determined to go the distance. Honor your goals by establishing good habits, exercising self-discipline, and doing everything you can to guarantee success.
Kim Bessolo, a former military spouse of 20 years, has taught first year students at APUS since 2004. She holds a Master’s in Education, a graduate certificate in online teaching, and participates in university initiatives related to her field whenever possible. (Her secret desire is to write more. She’s working on that.)