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The Truth About Being an ASU Online Student


I was accepted into Arizona State University’s nutrition communication bachelor’s degree program the summer of 2013. A program that is completely online.

I was (and still am) working full-time for a startup dietary supplement company in the Los Angeles area that takes up A LOT of my time, so being a “traditional” on-campus student was out of the question. As a transfer student from a community college, I had taken a class or two online and had a relatively positive experience with both. But it was never an entire semester, let alone a complete degree program. “It can’t be that hard,” I thought to myself. “I’ve done this before.” Boy, was I wrong.

I’ve learned a lot about pursuing an online degree from an accredited institution. Here are my learning points from being an online student for the last 3 years…

It’s going to be hard, but MOTIVATION is everything.

If I have learned nothing else, it’s that your motivation determines your success. This is true in your career, your education and your life.

Staying motivated to handle a full semester of school work when I get home from my full-time career is hard. I’m never going to “be in the mood” to write a synopsis on a current event or study for an anatomy exam. I’d rather cozy up in my amazing bed and watch reruns of Friends than be on a tutoring call to understand mathematical limits for my math class. But these things have to get done. I have to motivate myself. Taking that motivation and planning my time wisely is the only way to succeed. I have to plan out my study time, when assignments are due and how long they will take to complete, when my exams open and close (we have a strict window), and tutoring sessions as well. This is the same for a traditional student, except I have to do it from home. I don’t have the “extra push” from being on campus or in the classroom for lectures or conversations with the professor. I have to get the ball rolling on my own. THIS is hard.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t lose motivation throughout my time as an ASU online student. I’ve lost sight of my goals, had to drop an entire semester with a compassionate withdrawal when I had to focus on family health issues, and had to retake a class or two because I simply couldn’t grasp the necessary balance needed to maintain a passing grade. But, after everything, I did it. I finally made it to my senior year at ASU and that makes it all worth it.

Communication is KEY.

A HUGE lesson I learned the hard way was to communicate (immediately) when I needed help. As an online student, it’s hard to speak up when there’s a complication with planning, subject understanding or timing of due dates. ASU has wonderful resources at our disposal that I wasn’t fully aware of until it was a little too late. With an awesome tutoring center that can help with all sorts of subjects, the success counselors who “check in” whenever you need it, and (some) professors who truly are willing to work with you, students still get a support system to help guide you towards graduation. That is, if you communicate.

Early on in my program with ASU, my mother’s illness became unbearable. I was unable to focus. Work, school, daily life – everything was blurry. My grades took a turn for the worse. An entire semester of grades so low that I was put on academic probation. Embarrassed, heart-broken, and disappointed, I had no idea what to do, who to talk to or how to keep going. I dropped out. Then a “transitional” counselor called. When ASU online students don’t register for a semester or are on academic probation, they are assigned a special kind of counselor to check in and make sure everything is okay. They prepare you to register again or transition to the next chapter of your life. Since online students are not able to drop in to talk to someone, we can become isolated and discouraged. After talking over my entire situation with this counselor, she pointed out a few things that could be done to help my grades. So I filed for a compassionate withdrawal from that semester. To be honest, if she hadn’t had called, I probably wouldn’t have registered for the next semester.

More recently, I learned communication with professors can really save the day. In my spare time, I compete in beauty pageants. What started out as a bucket list item I wanted to check off the list, turned into an amazing hobby that connected me with my community, other driven women, and, ultimately, myself. As if I don’t have enough to do, I added competing regularly to my busy life. Last fall, I had a huge exam the day before a State level competition. With months and months of preparation, I was not about to risk failing the test OR dropping out of the pageant. As soon as I saw the date on the syllabus, I knew I was going to have a problem. Instead of waiting for the problem to arise, I emailed the professor and explained my situation. I was able to take my exam a week early to avoid any complications. I passed the exam and had one less thing to worry about come pageant day.

I would do it again.

When I graduate next spring, I will be walking with the rest of the graduates of the College of Health Solutions at ASU. My degree will say Arizona State University. I will have a bachelor’s of science degree in nutrition communication. I will be a graduate.

Getting my bachelor’s degree – and soon my MBA – is a goal that I wanted to reach. I never had the luxury of being a full-time student, even in high school. I have been working since I was 15. This doesn’t mean that my life is harder than anyone else’s. It also doesn’t mean that I was dealt worse cards than my peers. All it means is that the flexibility of pursuing my education online, as an ASU student, made it possible for me to excel in the career path of my choosing without having to take a leave of absence.

Working full-time has made me a better student and being a student has made me better at my job. Getting your degree online isn’t for everyone. It’s hard, time-consuming, and requires a great deal of discipline. However, it allows those of us who can’t walk onto campus everyday a way to better ourselves and reach goals that not too long ago seemed unreachable.

I’m Morgan and I’m proud to be an Arizona State University Sun Devil. I may not live in Arizona. I may not see any of my peers face to face (minus Skype meetings) until I graduate. But I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the help of the online degree program at ASU. I’m happy that I applied to this program almost 3 years ago, for I’ve learned way more than what was in my classes. And to tell you the truth, I’d do it again… but maybe this time with Grad School

A senior at ASU, she is studying Nutrition Communication online. She works for a dietary supplements company, loves dark chocolate, french bulldogs, and competes in beauty pageants. You can find her on twitter & instagram @missmorganerin. 
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