Preparing for college: How to Succeed as an Adult Learner in an Online Environment

adult learner

There’s no shortage of going back to school tips for adult learners. Some lists focus on the practical – make sure you track on application deadlines and paperwork. Others hone in on life management – make sure you take time to take care of yourself.

Most of those lists could be pared to three essentials: preparation, planning, and persistence. Understanding these concepts and applying them to your studies can have a very positive impact on your academic career.


Take a critical look at yourself and honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. If you struggled with term papers in high school, there’s a possibility those abilities have been stagnant since you were last in a classroom.

Fortunately, it’s easy today to fill gaps in basic skills. Resources such as the Ashford Writing Center help students find immediate help on issues including common grammar and style problems. Chat sessions and paper review with writing consultants are also available.

Dedicate some time to solidify any weaknesses in technical skills from basic computer literacy to keyboarding, these capabilities are essentials for online college students.


The right study atmosphere is incomplete without a schedule that includes time set aside for classwork. Whether you prefer a smartphone app or a little spiral planner, organizing your time is one of the biggest single challenges in an academic environment. Set reminders and stick with them!

In addition, make sure your hardware can handle the rigors of online learning. Run your computer through its paces and make sure it, and your online connection, is capable of streaming content, and have a backup plan should your equipment fail. Where will you work if your ISP conks out during finals week? Identify nearby coffee shops, libraries, and other places with free Wi-Fi so you don’t waste time recovering lost files if disaster strikes.

Make sure your physical space is configured for learning. Comfortable seating and adequate lighting are essentials. recommends a review of your work area to ensure proper ergonomics. A completely new setup might not be practical, but something as simple as a comfortable office chair can do wonders for your stamina and performance. Your back and wrists will thank you later.


Despite all the planning in the world, sometimes life gets in the way. A family crisis might disrupt studies or a financial emergency or tight deadline might require taking on more hours at work than you’d prefer.

Ashford University realizes the sense of isolation that can surround some online students, which is why we take great care to make sure our students feel connected. Our online university community has many of the same student organizations you’ll find at brick and mortar campuses. We make it easy for you to reach out to your peers, even if you’re a continent apart.

Keep your purpose in mind and be dogged in your determination to succeed. An “eye on the ball” mentality is key to ensure your preparation, planning, and persistence pay off to have a successful college experience.

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Written by Ashford University staff.

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