This post was written by Tina Nugent, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

When I was first notified that I would be a recipient of the ACE Scholarship for the fall 2016, I was beyond excited. I went back to school in January 2015 to finish up my Bachelor’s degree in hopes to move along to get a Master’s degree. Going back was scary and new. I had never taken an online class before. I do work remote and am very accustomed to working independently, but the first day of school is something entirely new! I was not sure of the systems, Blackboard and teacher expectations. I have picked up some tips along the way that have helped me succeed along the way and I’d like to share them. It’s what works for me and I encourage everyone to find what works for them.

Take the time to read through the Syllabus! Every teacher has different expectations and requirements. Some Professors require a DB post to be by a certain day of the week to receive maximum credit. This is such an easy way to earn the most points. Try to make that your deadline to receive the highest scores. Make note of how many reply posts are required for each class. This is another way you can achieve maximum points. If a Professor requires at least two replies to classmates, aim to complete those with substance. I can tell most Professors are looking for an interactive discussion and would rather two substantial posts rather than five replies with a couple of sentences.

I have taken anywhere from two to four classes a semester. Organization is key! At the start of each week, I make a running list in my notebook. I write down what is due each week for every class. I make note of how many replies are needed for each DB post. I also write down if I should be starting to spend time on group projects or reports. Even if a project is not due for a month; I make sure to spend some time on it each week. Sometimes that may just be 15 minutes, but I can tell you even just writing a rough outline helps. Anytime you can spend on homework is helpful. This list for each week helps me remember what needs to be completed. And I get satisfaction every time I get to cross something off for the week!

Don’t wait until the last minute! I know we have all been there. Myself included. Sometimes life is just busy and it happens. I work full time and have three children under the age of seven. I am fortunate to have a husband who will take the kids out on a Saturday morning so I can have time for homework. If I have a test to take over a weekend, he’ll take them out so I can have some quiet. Find what works for you! I work best when I have am not interrupted and can really focus on school work. If you have other responsibilities in life, which I am sure you all do, make the time for school work. Plan a night or some part of the weekend that is dedicated to school. If I know I have a busy weekend ahead, I try and get as much done as possible earlier in the week. Plan ahead!

I also encourage you to come to any CUNY SPS events that you can. I had never been to the actual school until I attended ACE Scholarship events. It was so nice to meet other students and share best practices. These are the only people who truly understand what you are going through and sometimes you just need to sit and talk about it. I can say how nice it has been to meet classmates and faculty in person. It’s been enlightening to share stories and experiences. Although this is an online learning environment, there are so many resources available to you to help you succeed. Don’t be afraid to seek them out!

Tina Nugent is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Business degree program on May 31, 2017.

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