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For distance learners: 7 ways to reduce test anxiety

College exams can be stressful, especially if you’re a freshman distance learner. Take open-book exams, for example. The first time I ever had an open-book test was in college. I thought, “Great! I’ll have all the answers available to me, so it shouldn’t be too hard.” Boy, was I wrong.

In fact, I came to dread open-book exams because the questions seemed a lot tougher and more extensive than multiple-choice tests. 

That’s not to say multiple-choice exams don’t have their own stressors. In my experience multiple choice exams tend to have four potential answers: Two that are clearly wrong and two that could be correct. Choosing one of these two options can create a lot of stress.

You may be one of many distance learners who tend to have test anxiety. And there’s nothing wrong with having that. Recognizing that the anxiety is there is nothing to be ashamed about. But there are ways to reduce your anxiety, as I’ll discuss in this post. 

Let’s jump in!

1. Take a deep breath

You may want to practice breathing exercises such as 4-7-8 breathing. With this exercise, you exhale through your mouth before inhaling through your nose for a count of four. You then hold your breath and count to seven. Finally, you exhale out your mouth for a count of eight. 

When you’re sitting at home in front of your computer, and you’re about to take a test, I recommend practicing this exercise. Personally, I’ve found breathing exercises like this one help me calm down when I’m feeling anxious. 

2. Change negative thoughts

If you tell yourself that you’re not smart and you won’t be able to do well on a test, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Consider changing these negative thoughts into something positive. 

Remind yourself that you were smart enough to become a distance learning college student, so you’re smart enough to do well on this test. Beating yourself up before a big exam won’t help you do better. Be kind to yourself.

3. Watch what you eat and drink

Foods like salmon, tuna, blueberries, and dark chocolate can help boost blood flow, delivering healthy nutrients to your brain. This can help you think better, so you can have more confidence come exam time. You may also want to explore other brain-boosting foods, such as spinach and oranges.  

As far as drinking is concerned, you should limit your caffeine intake as this can make you feel more stressed than you actually are. As a distance learner, you likely have a coffee machine nearby. Try to resist the temptation to make an extra cup of coffee.

You’ll also want to keep hydrated, which helps your brain function in tip-top condition. Keeping a water bottle near your home workstation can be a good reminder to drink water throughout the day.

4. Get on your feet

Exercise can relieve stress by pumping your body full of endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters your brain produces. 

Aim for at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. If you’re having trouble doing this, start off by exercising less and slowly increasing your frequency.

As a distance learner, you may not be walking as much as the average on-campus student who must constantly go to different buildings throughout the day. That’s why, as a distance learner, it’s especially important for you to keep exercise in mind.

You could treat this like any other class project. Create a plan, find a partner to exercise with you, and stick with it. 

5. Go outside

Another way to get some exercise is by reconnecting with Mother Nature and getting outside! Not having to traverse a college campus means you’ll have to be intentional with your outdoor time. 

Vitamin D has been shown to reduce stress, so it’s a great excuse to take a walk and soak up some sun before that big exam.  

6. Take breaks throughout your day

Ideally, you’ll begin studying for an exam a week or more before it. This will give you more freedom to take breaks from your studies. Doing so helps your mind take a break from any stress you may be experiencing.

This can be as simple as cooking a meal or reading a comic book.

As a distance learner, you’re constantly looking at your computer. Because of this, I recommend taking a break from screens altogether.

Taking a mental break from your studies — especially before bedtime — will help you relax and sleep better. 

7. Get enough sleep the night before your test

Adequate sleep reduces stress and helps restore your mind, so you can concentrate and solve problems. I recommend reading something light before bedtime. So, put down your textbook and pick up a novel or a nonfiction book that helps take your mind off of your upcoming test. 
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults typically need at least seven to nine hours of sleep. Being a distance learner can be really beneficial when it comes to sleep. After all, you won’t have to deal with a noisy dorm that can keep you awake.

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Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

You don’t need a traditional college campus to find a spouse

“We met in college.” 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard married couples say that. 

And while it’s true that many people meet their future spouse on a college campus, not everyone does. 

In fact, college campuses are far from the only places to meet a mate. As a distance learner, you may be unaware of all the options you have for meeting that special someone. 

In this post, I’ll talk about five ways distance learners can meet new friends of the opposite sex. 

I say “friends” because the best spouses tend to start off as best friends. The romance blossoms from that friendship. So, the goal here should be focused on making new friends. You can stop a relationship before it starts if you’re only viewing someone as a potential spouse. 

Let’s check out some ways you can kickstart your social life, which may (hopefully) lead to new friends and a spouse.

1. Get involved in a church

I don’t recommend joining a church for the sole purpose of finding a spouse. You should like the teaching and mission of the church before you commit to it. 

But if you want to make friends from your church, you may want to consider serving or joining a co-ed small group. Doing so will introduce you to people, one of whom may end up being your life partner.

2. Volunteer

Like joining a church, meeting people shouldn’t be the only reason you’re volunteering. So, pick a nonprofit organization you really admire and volunteer on a regular basis. 

Other people who volunteer there will likely share at least some of your beliefs and values, so it can be a great way to meet new people of the opposite sex.

3. Using one or more dating apps

As a distance learner, you’re likely pretty technically savvy. Fortunately, there are a ton of dating apps out there. Three that I used were Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel, and eHarmony

I like these three because there is only so much you can do on them before you start seeing the same people pop up. This is different from Match and OKCupid, both of which you could easily waste hours and hours on searching for someone to date. 

4. Get people together

If you’re practicing distance learning in an area where you have lived for years, you may already have friends. But do you know their friends?

Meeting the friends of your existing friend group is a great way to expand your social network.

Host a party or game night. Invite a group of people to a restaurant or a park. The point is to get around people you haven’t met, so encourage your friends to bring some of their friends whom you may not know. 

A lot of people find their spouses by meeting their friends’ friends, so this might be a good strategy to take.

I have several friends who met their spouses this way. They didn’t all start off attracted to one another, but as their friendship with one another grew, they developed that romantic connection. 

5. Join a Meetup group for folks with similar interests

If you enjoy playing board games, there’s probably a Meetup group for that in your area. Love to play soccer? There’s likely a group near you for that, too. Most of these groups are co-ed, so trying out one or two may be a good idea.

6. Exercise

As a distance learner, you should exercise regularly to help you think better and live a healthier life. If staying active is important to you, you’re probably looking for someone who is active, too. Joining a CrossFit gym or enrolling in an exercise class at the local YMCA are both places where you can meet someone like this. 

If gyms aren’t your thing, you may want to consider another form of exercise: dancing. It’s likely there’s a place for swing dancing or salsa dancing near you. A lot of times, these dancing events occur regularly, so you’re likely to make new friends if you stick with it.

Wrapping up

When I was a senior on a college campus, I remember thinking, “This is my last year to find a wife.” I’m so glad I was wrong. It took a few years and a great deal of perseverance, but eventually, I found my wife through a dating app (Coffee Meets Bagel). 

As a college student, I wouldn’t have expected to meet her that way, but I’ve learned that there are multiple ways to meet the love of your life. And as you can see, none of the ways I provided require a college campus, which is good news for distance learners looking for love.

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Apprenticeship Career Colleges COVID-19 Family General Interest Online learning

For distance learners: 6 superfoods (and 1 liquid) that will kickstart your brain

As a distance learner, your life is likely busy. Classes, homework, and life in general can make it difficult to eat healthy. It can be tempting to just grab fast food instead of asserting the effort to make a home-cooked meal. 

While many folks discovered the joy of cooking healthier food during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, others may still feel uneasy about cooking.

In this blog post, we’ll share a handful of healthy foods to help kickstart (and sustain) your learning. Fortunately, many of the brain-boosting foods we’ll discuss can be eaten right on their own. So even if you don’t have time to cook between meals (especially when facing a big exam), there are some superfoods you can eat while on-the-go.

Let’s dive in!

Dark chocolate

When you go to your online class, make sure a handful of dark chocolates are nearby. The dark chocolate’s cocoa is loaded with flavonoids that help increase the blood flow to your brain and improve brain function. In fact, cocoa has the highest flavonoid content by weight out of any other food. 

With this jump to your brain, you’ll likely be better at solving problems, paying attention, and remembering facts that will be on the next test. And when test-time comes, you may want to eat a few beforehand to help you perform at the top of your game.

Nuts

Nuts such as almonds are packed with vitamins and protein that can help you concentrate when studying for that big exam. In addition, walnuts can improve your memory due to the antioxidants that fight against cognitive decline. 

I’ve found that nuts help me stay full longer than other snack foods like potato chips or cookies, which is good for learning.

Having a belly that isn’t rumbling can allow you to focus on your homework and help you work for longer stretches at a time. 

Dark leafy green vegetables

A 2018 report in the journal Neurology states that eating a serving of green leafy vegetables a day can help prevent cognitive decline. If you’re not an older person, the brain benefits are still there. The nutrients found in these veggies, such Vitamins A, C, and K, can help boost your brain functions. 

The following are some examples of this superfood:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Collard greens
  • Turnip greens

You could go all-in and make a spinach, kale, chard, collard, and turnip casserole or shake. It might not taste great, but your brain will appreciate it.

Wild salmon

This fatty fish is a fantastic source of Omega-2 oil DHA, which can improve your memory and focus. It also includes Vitamins A and D, both of which can help boost brain function. 

If you have a long night of studying ahead of you, you may want to cook up some salmon to kickstart your brain. The protein should help you stay full enough for the length of the test, which means you’ll be less distracted.

Berries

The antioxidants in berries help protect the cells in your brain. Berries can also assist in improving your thinking and motor skills. They also can prevent inflammation in the brain.

It may be a good idea to keep berries in your fridge. They are a healthy alternative to other sweet or sour snacks you could choose. 

Here are a few common berries you can likely find in your local grocery store:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cranberries
  • Blackberries

Citrus Fruits

The polyphenols in citrus fruits have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties that can help keep your brain safe from harm. These polyphenols also help your brain function better. 

Some common citrus fruits include:

  • Oranges
  • Tangerines
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Key limes

Consider adding an orange or grapefruit to your meal. Doing so could provide some solid cognitive benefits.

Water

Dehydration isn’t great for mental fatigue, and it contributes to the premature aging of your brain. A lack of water can also affect your memory, making it more difficult to retain information.

I’ve discovered that if I don’t drink enough, I’ll get headaches. And since pain and learning don’t mix well, it’s best to drink plenty of water. 

So how much water should you be drinking each day? While the research on this varies, men should stick with three liters (13 cups) and women should drink a little over two liters (9 cups).

If you don’t have a refillable water bottle, I recommend getting one. Just like you need water before or after exercising, you need water when you learn and problem-solve. 

Wrapping up

There are plenty of foods you can eat to keep your brain in tip-top condition. Don’t forget to stay hydrated and remember to be conscious of what you eat, since doing so can help you in school. Your brain is what’s going to get you that degree, so take care of it by eating right.

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Career Colleges Finances Online learning

6 reasons the traditional college experience may not be all it’s cracked up to be

FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. If you’re considering distance education, you may be concerned about missing out on the traditional, four-year college experience. Some say college is the best time you’ll ever have in life — that this is as good as it gets.

I would wholeheartedly disagree with those people.

Personally, I did the traditional college experience, and it was a mixed bag. Overall, it wasn’t a bad time in my life, but it certainly wasn’t the best. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen the negative effects traditional college has had on some of my friends.

Allow me to explain.

1. College may be fun, but debt is not

A lot of folks go into serious debt by going to college. Debt that takes years to pay off. The kind of debt that prevents them from moving out of their apartment into a house or replacing a car. 

In fact, in 2021 the total college debt in our country adds up to approximately $1.7 trillion dollars. And that creates a lot of stress, which is no fun. 

In contrast, distance learning tends to be much less expensive. This makes sense because you’re not paying for food, lodging, and on-campus amenities. Typically, you’ll pay around $400 per credit when doing distance learning, as opposed to around $600 per credit when learning on campus.

Distance learning also allows you greater flexibility to work and pay your way through school. For instance, you could go to community college for your first two years, which can save you a lot of money. Many community colleges have strong distance education programs. You could then transfer, either in-person or via distance learning, to a university.

2. You’ll be growing up (but so will others)

I think that these days, most people who enter college aren’t adults in the sense of being mature, respectful human beings who know how to be self-sufficient, functional members of society. As a result, most of the 18-to-20-year-old “adults” I knew in college had a lot to learn about adulthood. This is unsurprising, given that the rational part of our brains isn’t fully developed until we’re around 25.

I admit, I had a lot of growing up to do in college. I was selfish, high-strung, and temperamental. But the people around me had their share of flaws, too. Like me, many of them had a lot of growing up to do. 

And when you live in a dorm surrounded by people who are learning how to be grownups, it can create conflict. That conflict can lead to people saying or doing regretful things. It can be a tough time.

3. No, it will likely not be the best time in your life

Here’s a secret: For many people, life gets better after college. You have money, you have grown up, you know your strengths and weaknesses, and you know who you are. Often, folks in college don’t have these perks. Yet. Growing (yourself and your bank account) takes time.

For some folks, college may be the best time in life, but I haven’t met them. Personally, after over a decade of being out of college, I can definitively say that life is much better now.

4. There are ways to socialize without being in a dorm

Sure, a dorm is a great place to meet new people. But it isn’t the only way. Joining a city-league sports team, getting involved in a church, joining a local meetup, or meeting your friends’ friends are all great ways to meet new friends. 

You may also want to consider volunteering with others. There are plenty of great organizations spread throughout the United States that would love to have your help. Not only will you aid other people, but you’re likely to make several new friends. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet your potential spouse doing something like this.

5. No, you don’t have to find your spouse in college

As a senior in college, I remember thinking, “This is my last chance of finding a wife.” 

But that didn’t happen — at least not then. And I’m glad I didn’t find my wife during that time because I wasn’t ready for the responsibility. 

I imagine there are many like me. In fact, the average age of a person getting married for the first time is almost 28 for women and almost 30 for men. Considering that “college-age” is typically considered 18-22, it’s safe to say that there are a lot of people who are meeting their spouse post-college. 

Dating apps like Coffee Meets Bagel, eHarmony, and Bumble, are ways you can meet that special someone. Personally, I met my wife on Coffee Meets Bagel, making that my favorite app of all time.

6. You can waste a lot of time

Many people flounder in college and spend years trying to finish a degree without much direction. According to the US Department of Education, 57.6% of students finish college within six years, while only 33.3% finish within four.

I think this points to how a lot of folks tend to essentially hide in college. They hide because it means they don’t have to face adult responsibilities. They hide because the rules are straightforward in college — get good grades to be successful here. Whereas life outside of college isn’t as simple. And this is likely intimidating to many.

Wrapping up

The traditional college experience can be a lot of fun. It can also be really frustrating and expensive. Don’t worry if the best time in your life will pass you by if you decide to go with distance learning. Chances are the best days you’ll ever have are long after college.

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Career Colleges COVID-19 Dual Enrollment Family Finances General Interest Online learning

8 great benefits of distance learning

Is distance learning right for you?

This is something you may have said (or thought) if you’re considering a college. At The Distance Learner, we obviously think distance learning can be a good idea for a lot of students. 

Why? Here are eight benefits we think you’ll like.

1. It typically costs less

Did you know that distance learning is often less expensive than in-classroom learning? This makes sense, since you’re not paying for the upkeep of classroom buildings or maintenance fees for keeping the college looking spick and span.

So save some money where you can. Life typically only gets more expensive.

2. It requires no driving

Speaking of saving, distance learning cuts back on travel costs. If you have a car, you’ll save money on gas, oil, and general wear-and-tear. If you don’t have a car, you’ll save on your bus fare (or at least not have to worry about getting a ride from someone else).

Also, there’s the whole “no-traffic” thing. So if you’re a big fan of sitting in traffic, distance learning may not be for you!

3. It’s flexible

The benefits of a flexible learning schedule rely on knowing what time(s) of day you think best. So say you’d rather have your mornings off to go for a jog or you’d rather take a break in the afternoon to play a video game. Distance learning gives you the flexibility to do this.

4. It’s great if you have a job

This flexibility is especially useful if you have a job. Whether you’re working part-time or full-time, distance learning lets you do the work when you can. You are not beholden to the class schedules of in-classroom learning. So if you want to get some work experience while you’re in school, distance learning may be the route to take.

5. It allows you to learn at your own pace

If you’re like me, you need only a little bit of time for studying English and history courses, but you need an exorbitant amount of time for studying math courses. With remote learning, you can learn at your own pace. This gives you greater control over your education.

6. It allows you to learn just about anywhere

Want to view lectures at your momma’s house as you wait for a delicious, home-cooked meal? You’ll likely be able to do this, provided she has decent Internet service.

Maybe you prefer going to class out in your yard where your home’s Wi-Fi is still good enough to watch lectures. This is possible through the magic of distance learning. 

7. It can help you get better at time-management skills

Learning how to manage your time is especially important for folks who are used to having someone else dictate their schedule, like their high school or parents. But time-management skills are a necessary part of any professional’s life, and the flexibility and self-paced nature of distance learning can help you hone these skills. 

For instance, employers are increasingly allowing their teams to set their own working hours. Since you have been setting your own schedule via distance learning, you should have no problem with doing this. 

8. It prepares you for remote employment

In the age of COVID-19, more and more businesses are going remote (or at least partially remote). Remote work is a trend that likely won’t go away when the pandemic ends. This is where distance learning plays a key role: It gets you used to the idea of working remotely.  

That means you are:

  • Learning how to be comfortable with working online
  • Learning how to collaborate with classmates
  • Learning how formal email etiquette works

These are all skills that are useful for working in a remote position.

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Career Colleges COVID-19 Online learning

Is a hybrid college right for you?

Today’s average college student looks far different than the typical caricature of a bright-faced 18-year-old setting foot on campus for the first time.

Does that surprise you? It’s a relatively recent phenomenon.

Today, 45 million Americans have some college experience but no degree. What’s more, the population of non-traditional college students is rapidly growing. One report from found that around 73% of students currently enrolled in college have at least one non-traditional characteristic: being independent for financial aid purposes, having one or more dependents, being a single caregiver, not having a traditional high school diploma, delaying postsecondary enrollment, attending school part time,

or being employed full time.

Enter the world of the hybrid college.

A hybrid approach to college combines online learning with face-to-face interaction with a coach and a physical study space to mix and collaborate with other students. It’s a method of post-secondary learning that’s become commonplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even as life returns to a new normal, hybrid colleges are likely here to stay.

Trademarks of a hybrid college

There are several hallmarks of an effective hybrid program:

  • A curriculum that’s tightly focused on credentials with real-world application in the job market.
  • Many on-ramps throughout the year that allow students to leap into a degree program quickly and easily.
  • Employs a combination of online and face-to-face instruction and coaching.

A hybrid example: PelotonU

A great example of a hybrid campus is PelotonU. Based in Austin, Texas, PelotonU takes a multi-faceted approach to helping individuals gain work experience and an accredited, marketable credential. PelotonU was founded in 2013 to create a seamless pipeline that matches students with accredited online learning options, job placements, a community-based local learning environment, and a coach to help them through the process.

The cost component is a big positive factor with PelotonU. Average tuition expenses are in the range of $6,000 per year compared to $11,039 for a public in-state school in Texas. On average, students complete their associate’s degree in 12 months and their bachelor’s degree in 36 months, with an overall graduation rate of 81 percent. Those who persist to complete their bachelor’s degree see an average earning increase of $19,107 per year.

But costs aren’t the only aspect that make PelotonU workable for working adults. New cohorts of students start every month, giving busy adults a nimble way to leap directly into a degree program rather than taking months to apply and start a course of study. Maintaining motivation is a significant factor for these non-traditional students as well, so the program pairs each learner with a coach for weekly meetings built around guidance and inspiration.

Another PelotonU offering that nudges students along are local study spaces where students are free to pursue their studies. PelotonU describes the spaces as more like a coffee shop than a classroom. Equally important is the fact that PelotonU links students with individual mentors, or coaches, who help keep them on the path to graduation.

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The best tech tools to make distance learning in college work better

There has never been a better time to attend college exclusively online than right now. A big reason is because of all the amazing technology available to make the journey easier. And all of that tech has never been cheaper or more accessible.

To help out, in this blog post we’ll explore the best tech tools—both software and hardware—to ensure you’re successful.

1. Google Docs

This one depends on how your college handles assignments, but if you’re looking for an easy way to handle word processing that also happens to be free, you can’t beat Google Docs. This online suite gives you options that closely resemble Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It offers the chance for real-time collaboration between students and teachers.

2. Tools for managing assignments: Trello or Asana

We know that distance learning students tend to be much better than their peers at self-directed learning. A way to help out with that is keeping on track and on task with a project management app. Here are two to consider:

  • Trello offers an excellent way to visually represent various buckets of assignments and schoolwork and move them from “in progress” to “review” to “complete.” This is the project management app I personally use for my business. With Trello, you can create individual cards that represent assignments and then move them between “stacks” showing progress and momentum. The app also makes it easy to add attachments or make comments. As a parent, you can also access your student’s Trello board to monitor progress.
  • Asana is similar to Trello except that it offers more customization and detail on individual tasks. Another big difference is in the visuals: If your high school student works better with a “check list” type format, then Asana is ideal. If he or she prefers a more visual approach, Trello is the ticket. The bottom line: If you want to go more granular, Asana can be a great tool. But if you want to keep it simple, go with Trello. For most high school students, Trello will be more than sufficient.

3. A time-tracking app

There are so many great time tracking apps out there. One app that combines some fun with helping you stay on track is Forest. When you commit time to a task, you plant a tree and watch it gradually grow. If you get off task, the tree dies. RescueTime is another option. This one is perfect to not only track your time, but to block out distractions (like social media).

4. A laptop

As a tech tool, a laptop is close to indispensable for high school students because they will inevitably use them during the next step in college or other vocational training. A laptop doesn’t have to break the bank, either: Chromebooks can easily be found for under $300 (some of them $200) and offer much of what’s needed to aid a college education.

Why not get a desktop? While they’re cheaper, in the long run a laptop will serve you better and prepare you for life after college. Plus, you always have the option of connecting a laptop to an external LCD and keyboard to mirror a desktop experience. (See point 5 below.)

5. Tablet

This could be an Apple iPad, an Android tablet, or even a Kindle or Nook e-reader for books. A tablet could actually be a decent replacement for a laptop. For example, if you want an Apple device but can’t stomach the $1,000 entry-level price for a MacBook Air, you can combine an iPad with a smart keyboard for around $450.

6. Headphones

They must have a built-in microphone. A bonus is if they are noise cancelling, especially if you have a larger family.

7. External monitor

Having a portable device like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone has its perks, but screen real estate is not one of them! That’s why it can be beneficial to have an external monitor on hand where you can hook up your portable devices to enjoy a bigger screen.

8. High-quality webcam

Whether it’s Zoom, Skype, or one of the many other apps out there, video conferencing has become a way of life in 2020 and 2021. To make the most of it as a remote learner, you need a high-quality webcam. Most laptops come with built-in cameras, but it’s with investing an extra $50 in a higher resolution camera. Here is the model I recently bought off Amazon.

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Career Colleges Finances Online learning

An 8-step distance learning productivity schedule that will help you get the most out of your day

We all want to make the best use of our days. But as a remote learner, that goal can be tricky. It takes a lot of self-motivation and self-discipline to be successful. The great news is that there are a few tips and tricks you can implement to make the journey easier.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, that’s the topic of this blog post. Based on my own experience as a remote learner through college—plus the experience and wisdom of others—I’ve compiled eight steps to help you become a more productive learner. 

Let’s get started!

1. Block out specific hours of the day for learning

As a remote learner, it’s entirely possible to match the productivity of a traditional learner sitting in a classroom. In fact, it’s entirely possible to exceed that level. All it takes is having the right structure in place and the discipline to stick to it.

“Time blocking” is one building block for successful distance learning. Since you’re learning remotely, you’ll have a lot of distractions around you each and every day. That is why you need core study hours during the day.

Begin by thinking through what your typical week looks like as a distance learner: When you need to be in Zoom classroom meetings, what time and day assignments are due, when you need to participate in discussion chats or boards, etc. Then build your core hours around that.

The process could be as simple as blocking out 10am to 3pm as core study time where you will not be interrupted or take care of other tasks. Then divide those chunks up by your various classes.

Many people find this “blocking” approach easier to maintain than keeping a lengthy to-do list. Try it out and see how it works for you!

2. Eat a healthy breakfast

I’m not trying to sound like your mom, but this one really is important. Even if you’re not a morning or breakfast person, getting in a healthy first meal of the day will set you up for success. “Research shows skipping breakfast negatively affects short term memory and foregoes a boost in cognitive performance, precursors to productivity,” writes Scott Mautz at Inc.

If you’re anything like me, you also need a jolt of caffeine to get started. It’s never a good idea to down that cup of coffee or tea on an empty stomach, though. Be sure to get protein, starch, and add in some healthy fruits for good measure—all to maintain level energy throughout your morning.

3. Try intermittent fasting

I just told you not to skip breakfast, now I’m suggesting you skip meals. What gives? Bear with me.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, intermittent fasting is when you go a set number of hours—say, 16—without food during a 24-hour period. Then you repeat that fast on several days during the week. People use intermittent fasting mainly for weight loss or weight maintenance, or for general health. But it also has productivity benefits.

“When practicing intermittent fasting, many people report feeling more focused, energized, and at higher levels of concentration,” writes Kelsey Michal at Ladders.

If you’re medically able to try this approach, give it shot to see how it impacts your focus and output.

4. Take breaks

Taking a break is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s essential for long-term success. Yes, it might mean disrupting your flow, but you’ll likely find your mind sharper when you return to your schoolwork.

What does a good break look like? That’s an individual question. You need to figure out what works best for you. It might be just a matter of switching mental gears from studying to a lighter mental activity. Other good options:

  • Try a few minutes of prayer or meditation
  • Take a nap
  • Go for a walk (physical activity is always a plus!)
  • Chat with a friend
  • Listen to some music
  • Catch up on some non-school reading

5. Tap into the power of momentum

Harnessing the potential of momentum in your school day is a huge leap forward. The first step in doing that is just getting started. I call this the “kickstart.” In my own life, I find that if I can get five minutes into a challenging task or project, half the battle has been won. It’s the equivalent of putting on your sneakers and just walking out the door to go exercise—that first step is often all it takes for you to end up finishing your walk or run.

“Success requires first expending ten units of effort to produce one unit of results. Your momentum will then produce ten units of results with each unit of effort,” said Charles J. Givens.

Start small and take things one step at a time, and momentum will carry you along.

6. Designate an area in your home for study

Remote learners face the same challenges as remote workers: When home is your workspace, it can be hard to find the “off” switch when transitioning between work and play. A big step toward a solution is to designate a specific part of your home for study.

Depending on how much space you have to work with, this could be a corner of your apartment, a spare bedroom, or an entire floor of your house (a finished attic, for example). It’s important that this area be customized to what helps you study most effectively.

Some possible aids here include:

  • Ambient background noise
  • Natural sunlight (or at least adequate lighting)
  • A comfortable desk and chair (skip studying in a big easy chair or in bed, as you might fall asleep)

7. Reduce distractions

Notice I didn’t say “eliminate distractions.” Depending on your stage of life, entirely doing away with distractions is a pipe dream. There will always be some, and many of us face significant distractions in our remote school or work environments at home. The key here is to reduce those distractions as much as possible and work around them.

Some tips:

  • Use a pair of noise cancelling headphones
  • Have a white noise machine running
  • Find a space for study with a door that locks
  • Turn off your phone and tune our social media

8. Track your time

Tracking your time spent studying is the equivalent of setting a budget in your finances. Regardless of how you spend your time or your money, admitting it “on paper” is a huge step forward. It enables you to look back and evaluate how effectively you’re using your time during the day (or how you’re spending your money, to keep the analogy going!).

The good news is that so many great time-tracking apps exist to help you. One app that combines some fun with helping you stay on track is Forest. When you commit time to a task, you plant a tree and watch it gradually grow. If you get off task, the tree dies. RescueTime is another option. This one is perfect to not only track your time, but to block out distractions (like social media).

Now it’s your turn!

So that’s my list. What about you? What approaches do you find most powerful for staying productive as a remote learner? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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Apprenticeship Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

Is college right for you? Eight alternatives to the traditional path

For many students, college is an important step after high school. College can provide training for a specialized career like medicine or law, or an opportunity to study at a deeper level than in high school. But for too many students, college is “just what you do after high school,” and they end up graduating (or dropping out) with crippling debt and no real prospects.

So it’s important to consider seriously whether college is a good fit for you. Let’s take a look at some alternatives.

1. Community college

Some of the fastest-growing career fields, including dental hygiene and veterinary tech, only require a two-year degree, and community college graduates may be better off financially than their peers at four-year colleges.

Tuition is much lower—think $3,400 a year instead of $9,400 for an in-state public university or $24,000 out-of-state. In addition, most community college students can live at home, zapping the cost of the dorm and cafeteria. Young adults can enter the workforce faster and without the burden of student loans.

2. The military

Joining the military after high school can be a great opportunity to spread those wings. Some young adults join the military because they aren’t interested in college or don’t have the grades to pursue something they want to study. Others don’t have the financial means to make it work. Some do it for patriotism, others for adventure.

3. Apprenticeships

Apprentices are busy both working and learning, and they’re paid for it. Apprenticeships include training for a particular job, and employers pay for their apprentices’ college or vocational degrees in some cases. By the time a young adult completes an apprenticeship, he or she will have the skills, experience, and credentials needed for employment in the field he or she apprenticed in—and no college debt.

4. Vocational training/the trades/certificates

The skilled labor shortage in this country is not a secret, but it could be a huge problem for the economy. A 2015 study predicted that by 2025, 2 million manufacturing jobs would not be filled. More than 80 percent of executives who responded to the study’s survey said they would not be able to meet their customer’s needs because of that gap. About the same number said they are willing to pay above market rates. 

What does this all mean? A vocational training program could jumpstart a stable, well-paying career. Most programs only take a year or two and may be ideal for someone who wants to earn credentials but cringes at the thought of four more years of school.

5. Entrepreneurship

The year after high school can be a great time to be an entrepreneur. If you have a particular passion or skill—and a lot of hustle—you might consider starting a business or nonprofit.

High school or shortly after can be a great time to start a business—at that age, most people aren’t trying to support a family or pay down massive loans, so the stakes are low if something doesn’t work out.

6. Volunteering

If you are passionate about a cause, the time after high school—with almost nothing in the way of family or financial obligations—is an ideal time to dive in. You could spend a year in the U.S. or abroad giving your time to a nonprofit or church group.

In addition to being a service opportunity, volunteering gives you the chance to explore your passions, gain experience in the field, and create a network of people who can vouch for your skills or connect you with further opportunities.

7. A side gig

Whether it’s driving Uber or substituting for organists at area churches, more than 30 percent of workers in the U.S. have side hustles, and the trend is growing. Some side gigs can turn into full-time jobs, but another advantage of side gigs is their scalability.

8. A gap year

Some students will benefit from a year spent exploring their skills and interests, whether it’s volunteering, apprenticing, traveling, or working. A gap year can allow you to recharge your batteries and take a breather before diving back into academics. It can also help you clarify what (or whether!) you want to study in college.

In some cases, a gap year spent working is just a plain good decision. If you want to attend college, but money is tight, a year of work can be a good head start on the tuition bill.

Wrapping Up

While many students benefit from pursuing a four-year degree immediately after high school, others will be better off taking a gap year or a different route altogether. When college tuition costs are rising and non-college opportunities are multiplying, it makes sense to think seriously about what’s best for your future.

Categories
Career Colleges General Interest Online learning

7 fast facts: Should distance learning students bother applying to an Ivy League school?

Ah yes, the prestigious Ivy League—Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Penn, and Yale. Considered to be among the crème de la crème of American universities, these eight private schools rank high on the list of many high school students—including homeschoolers—when it comes to applying to colleges.

And what’s not to like? Known for their academic excellence, selectivity in admissions, and elite social connections, Ivy League schools often deliver a high ROI to grads who are able to translate their pricey degrees into high-paying jobs in the upper echelons of America’s top career fields.

And thanks to multi-billion-dollar endowments, students from middle-class and lower socioeconomic backgrounds can benefit from generous financial aid packages that offset high tuition rates and make an Ivy League education more affordable—and no longer the exclusive domain of the rich and powerful.

But even with these positives, many students and their parents look at the average $65,000 annual price tag for tuition, room, meals, and fees and ask themselves the big question: Is an Ivy League degree really worth it? And perhaps more to the point, why should you even bother applying to an Ivy League school when there are so many other high-quality, lower-cost public and private higher education options available?

Are Ivies worth the trouble?

To help answer these questions, Dr. Kat Cohen, founder and CEO of IvyWise, a college counseling firm, offers some insights from her days as a former Yale application reader.

For her, it’s all about the financial aid package. Beyond this, Cohen says the most important element of a student’s college education is what they make of their experience on campus. And while an Ivy League education can be valuable, she believes that many highly motivated students who are proactive about fostering rich academic and social experiences with classmates and faculty can get the same caliber education at other schools for a fraction of the cost.

Bottom line: Simply attending an Ivy League school isn’t enough to guarantee long-term career success. However, if an elite-level school offers a combination of scholarships and other assistance that significantly offsets the high tuition costs, then it makes sense to apply and see what happens. As the old saying goes, you never know until you try!

The good news is that no matter which college a student chooses, those who are active on campus, maintain top grades, develop defined interests, and connect with classmates, faculty, and alums will get the most out of their educational experience. And there are plenty of great public and private options available in every state across the nation.

So, while it may make sense for students to shoot for the stars and apply to an Ivy League or similar elite-level university, it’s always good to have a backup plan that includes a solid mix of educational options at varying price points.

With this in mind, here are seven fast facts to keep in mind if you’re considering decide to throw an Ivy League school into their college application mix:

Fact #1

Most homeschoolers have a higher GPA than traditional students—making them relatively more competitive from the get-go.

Fact #2

Elite-level colleges like Harvard, Yale, MIT, Duke, and Stanford want homeschoolers—and are doing everything they can to actively recruit students who have been homeschooled. They recognize that homeschooled students are often better prepared for college than their non-homeschooled peers. And they see the value in going after them.

Fact #3

Many colleges are adjusting their admissions policies to be friendlier to homeschooled applicants. Instead of relying on transcripts, many now accept work portfolios and offer a more flexible admissions process.

Fact #4

Homeschooled students often stand out in highly competitive admissions situations. Why? Because when a large pool of students competes for a few coveted spots, homeschoolers have an edge when it comes to excelling in independent study situations that require a high degree of self-motivation—traits that point to a greater likelihood of success in the rigorous academic environment of an Ivy League school.

Fact #5

Don’t believe the rumor that homeschoolers must get a GED to be eligible for federal student aid—it’s simply not true. Unfortunately, some colleges continue to hold this incorrect view. In reality, however, homeschooled students are exempt from this requirement.

Fact #6

Homeschooled students are ahead of the curve and typically earn more college credits than their traditional-school peers before they even get to college—on average 14.7 college credits for homeschoolers compared to 6.0 credits for traditional-school students.

Fact #7

Homeschooled students do very well in college—so much so that they tend to outperform traditional students from start to finish during their college careers. For example, first-semester homeschool freshmen have an average 3.37 GPA, compared to 3.08 for other freshmen. And homeschooled college seniors earn an average GPA of 3.46, compared to 3.16 for their counterparts educated in traditional schools.

Wrapping up

In the early days of homeschooling—30-plus years ago—there were significant hurdles that homeschool students faced when it came to admission to elite-level colleges. Nowadays, Ivy League schools are rolling out the red carpet to welcome homeschoolers and making it easier to navigate the process and receive full and fair consideration.

Coupling this trend with the generous financial aid and scholarship packages that most elite-level schools offer, the pie-in-the-sky dream of attending an Ivy League college may not be as far-fetched for homeschool students as it once was.

Of course, there are more factors to consider than just cost and potential career earnings when it comes to deciding which schools to apply to, but there are plenty of good reasons for homeschool students to spice up their college applications with a couple of Ivies and see what happens.