When I began my remote college journey, I could feel the weight of other people’s expectations. It felt like every skeptical half-smile was actually someone wondering why I chose an outside-the-box college option and if my education would be up to par when I finished.
To be honest, there were times when I wondered the same things. It can be scary to do things differently than the status quo!
But now I am 7 years on the other side of earning my college degree. Looking back, I can see the obvious ways I grew because I did college remotely. The education was definitely not “less than”, and it even provided the extracurricular lessons that still serve me well today.
Here are the top 5 non-academic things I learned during my remote college experience:
1. Learning is not limited to sitting in a room listening to an expert.
This was one of the most empowering truths I learned as a remote college student. I almost never had a professor readily available for questions, so I became accustomed to figuring things out myself. This skill is so extremely important because our society is full of instant information that you must learn how to use. How do you turn information from books or internet searches into practical solutions for day-to-day problems?
Don’t be afraid to practice seeking out answers yourself before asking an expert. Doing so will give you both the confidence to learn incredible amounts on your own and help you develop the intuition to know when it is important to seek out an expert. This skill still pays dividends over and over in my post-college life.
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2. The art of self-management is vital.
Doing college remotely is one of the best environments to practice self discipline through creating deadlines, schedules, and work/life balance. Most young people are accustomed to having someone else spell out their deadlines, but the reality is life often requires you to do it yourself.
Use this time to discover the work/life and hustle/rest balance that works for you. Learn how to set your own schedule and deadlines. Then hold yourself accountable to them. And yes, I’m also talking to you, my fellow schedule haters. I, too, feel like hour-to-hour schedules are claustrophobic. But you can still create schedules that don’t suffocate you! The ability to prioritize and accomplish things without someone else scheduling them for you or nagging you is vital to becoming a successful adult.
Unbound bonus: If you’re studying at home with family around or balancing the needs of others in your schedule with your own, you’re getting the opportunity to learn how to be flexible when bigger priorities get dropped in your lap. Learning to create an actionable schedule is huge, but learning how to adapt that schedule when (not if) things go awry is a skill you need. (As a toddler mom, I practice this daily.)
3. Work to discover and embrace your strengths.
Remote college gives you the opportunity to customize your college experience to fit your personal strengths. Don’t be afraid to lean into your strengths by creating a study schedule and environment that fits you best. For example, you might study best in the morning alone or with background noise at night. Perhaps you study best with two full days a week instead of 5 half days. When it makes sense, don’t hesitate to build a learning environment that caters to your strengths.
4. Don’t let someone else’s definition of you confine you to a box.
You are not in a box. You may have strengths or weaknesses, but even those are changeable. It is so easy to use our weaknesses to let ourselves off the hook and keep us from putting effort into something that doesn’t come easily. Even if someone tells you (or you tell yourself) you’re bad at math, don’t let it keep you from rocking your Accounting class. Even if you are an introvert, don’t let it keep you from making a new friend. If you’re ADHD, you can power through a study afternoon if you want to. Your weaknesses (or others’ perceptions of your weaknesses) don’t have to define—or confine—you.
5. Adult community requires effort, but it’s so worth it.
When you’re a kid or still in school, friendships tend to come more easily because systems are in place to help keep them alive. You can meet your friends for classes, youth group, etc, with little time spent planning on your part. Doing college remotely helped me realize that I needed to be intentional with my friendships. Community takes my effort and sacrifice, and it wasn’t going to just materialize. Community is vital to life, so don’t be afraid to make the sacrifices, get out of your comfort zone, and reach out to surround yourself with a supportive community. It’s so worth the effort.
I hope my experience will encourage you on your remote college journey and inspire you to leverage this time more effectively. You don’t have an inferior college experience just because you chose to do college differently. In fact, I would argue that approaching college in this way is far more effective in preparing you for adulthood outside of school. Be confident, friend!
Use your strengths. Learn how to teach yourself. Immerse yourself in community. College should help you prepare yourself for more than just a job, and you have the opportunity to make that happen!
Kasey Friske is a former Student Life Project Leader for Unbound. Kasey is a 2012 Unbound alumna with a BA in Communications. She married her favorite Unbound student, Rich, in 2014 and they now have a spunky 2 year old daughter and live and work on the family farm in beautiful Northern Michigan. When she isn’t trying new recipes for her farmer or chasing her toddler, she loves to spend her time brainstorming new ideas to solve problems and make life better.