How to Do “Back to School” as an Online (Grown-Up) Student

You might be a grown-up (or maybe you’re about to become one), but if you’re like me, the start of September gives you all the warm fuzzy feelings of going back to school.

By: Rachel Ashley & Jake Hreha

You might be a grown-up (or maybe you’re about to become one), but if you’re like me, the start of September gives you all the warm fuzzy feelings of going back to school.

It reminds me of some of the best things: freshly sharpened pencils, new binders, and blank pages ready to be filled with new ideas and knowledge. As a kid, every new year felt like a blank slate—an opportunity to become a better version of myself, to let every class form me into the person I wanted to become.

Even when you are pursuing a college degree the start of a new school year is exciting. Whether you are just starting your bachelor's degree or are in an advanced degree program there is a new, fresh feeling about the start of each school year. As college students it looks a bit different than it did in elementary school. For an online student or online classes the supplies you need and preparation you do can look a lot different.

Online education is a major shift from the pencils and paper you needed as a young student. For many students the only supply you need is a computer. Even though most things are online, learning can be more fun when you incorporate other supplies into your online program. Online learners can enjoy the use of new pencils and notecards to take notes or create a set of study cards.

Undergrad and graduate students have unique feelings and thoughts about the start of a new school year. There might be excitement mixed with a bit of fear of the unknown. What no student gets thrilled about are tuition costs, financial aid, and all the other financial forms and activities students must complete. Prospective students looking to start online programs can still look forward to the fun and exciting parts of a new year.

Going Back to School for Online Students

Online classes might not feel so nostalgic, especially when you take them one at a time, and you often don’t get a break delineating one year from the next. It’s often up to you to remember what year of school you’re in and to count down to graduation. You’re also working on a laptop, and you may not need school supplies or a tour of the school building. The point is: it feels different.

But it doesn’t have to.

At IWU, we like to celebrate every milestone, including the ones we make up ourselves. We think that no matter where you are in your program—even if you’re just thinking about it—you can go “back to school” with the kids. So grab your backpack (or laptop bag) and big pink erasers. Here are a few ways to mark your education journey and recognize how far you’ve come alongside all the kids this fall.

  1. Treat yourself to some school supplies. Do you remember the smell of sharpened pencils? The satisfaction of a brand-new box of crayons? If you have hard copy textbooks, pick up some colored flags to mark important pages. Whatever you choose, use it to make your study space and study habits a little more fun.
  2. Take a photo at your front door or in front of the education center where you attend class. And then do it again next year! Post it on social media (you can tag us, too, so we can celebrate with you @IWUglobal) and let your friends acknowledge the journey alongside you.
  3. That nice shirt you keep seeing in online ads? Maybe you should buy it. And save it for the first day of your next class, when you finally put that shirt on. There’s something special about an outfit saved for a specific occasion and what it means to finally reach that day.
  4. Reorganize your workspace. What better way to signal to your brain that it’s a new year with a fresh start than giving yourself some fresh visual cues? You don’t need to spend any money to make your favorite study spot a little cozier or better organized.
  5. Make a new tradition. Do something to celebrate the milestone of a new school year, because this commitment to continue your education is important and worthy of recognition. Celebrate on your own or make it a friends and family affair.

How will you prepare for online learning?

When your next class starts, channel your inner child and get excited about a new year of learning and growing. And don’t forget to let your people (and your school) rally around you to celebrate!

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Rachel Ashley

Assistant Director of Communication, IWU National and Global

Rachel Ashley is an IWU graduate (’11) who is passionate about helping people see how education can change their lives. Rachel has over seven years of experience working in higher education. She holds an undergraduate degree in English and writing and a master’s degree in communication.

Jake Hreha

SEO Copywriter, IWU

Jake Hreha is a graduate of Ball State University, where he majored in advertising with a concentration in media presentation and design. He is passionate about design, and in his free time he enjoys cycling, traveling, and reading.

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