How to Succeed as an Online Student

carynn bohley herk from home desk v2

Advice from a Herkimer College Internet Academy Student.

Being an online student with Herkimer College wasn’t at all what I expected. I remember how nervous I was the day before classes opened; my mind was racing as I imagined everything that I would need to keep up with — and everything that could go wrong! Something about the idea that I would be in charge of my own schedule made me feel unqualified, as if I’d jumped into something I was completely unprepared for. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle it.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong. Not only was I able to handle my classes, but at the end of my first semester, I got an email inviting me to apply for Herkimer’s Honors Program.

I quickly realized that your success as an online student is determined by two things: organization and diligence


Before college, I was never really organized. It wasn’t that I was lazy or a procrastinator, just that I had so many interests and I had trouble paying attention to one at a time. I always had at least 30 notebooks laying around, each one dedicated to some random project — probably better categorized as a whim. 

Though you can afford to be unorganized in your normal, everyday life, online college is very different. You don’t always have scheduled class times or professors who check in every day to ensure you’re on-task. It’s up to you to keep track of what you have to get done, and when.

What I recommend is:

  1. Go into each of your course schedules in Generals Online (GO)
  2. Print them out at home or at your local library, if possible
  3. Write your assignments and deadlines on a calendar.

It might seem like a bit much, but trust me, you can never have too many reminders. I missed the deadline for a discussion post in one of my classes at the beginning of my first semester, and I made sure it never happened again! This is because I realized just how important it is to have all of your deadlines somewhere that you can easily keep track of them.


Now, let’s move on to the second necessary factor for success: diligence. It’s not enough to just write down your deadlines; you need to follow through. There are many ways to build your own schedule, and eventually you’ll find a process that works for you. I have tried several methods, and recently I found one that works perfectly. 

Let me use this week’s schedule as an example. This semester, I’m taking American History, College Literature, Biology, Writing Workshop, Honors Program Seminar and Keyboarding. If I were to list everything that I have to do for each of my current modules, it would seem extremely overwhelming — and perhaps you feel this way about your own classes. This is why it’s important to break up your work. This is what my schedule looks like this week:


  • History: The Patriot essay (first half)
  • Keyboarding: Memo Assignment
  • Honors Program: Read Articles


  • History: The Patriot essay (second half)
  • Honors Program: Quiz
  • College Literature: All Reading
  • Keyboarding: Business Letter Assignment + Personal Letter Assignment


  • History: Finish Reading
  • College Literature: Discussions
  • Writing Workshop: Week Eight Critiques


  • History: Exam
  • Biology: Figure out Biology schedule for next week + Discussion
  • College Literature: Test


  • Writing Workshop: Story
  • History: Discussion


​As you can see, I only have a few things to do each day — but by the end of the week, I’ve gotten so much done! I like to break up subjects so that I feel as if I’m accomplishing a lot each day, and I don’t get burnt out on any one subject.

When I’m planning out my weekly schedule, I like to plan work for every day but Friday. That way, if I feel overwhelmed one day or something comes up, I can move a few subjects over and still get everything done that week. If I don’t have to move anything over, I have a free day to use as I wish.     

As you can see, I moved over two subjects this week when some assignments took longer than I anticipated. There are always weekends too, and an hour or two on Saturday morning can really alleviate stress during the week.     

It’s a simple way to plan out each day, so you know what you’re getting done and when you’ll get it done. I certainly recommend this method, but feel free to make any adjustments that suit you.


The last thing that I wanted to say that I wish I’d known when I was first starting out is this: Don’t overwork yourself. I tried getting up early and working late last semester, and though it helped me to get ahead in the beginning, I started feeling exhausted during the day.

Relax, allow yourself some breaks, and breathe! If I can do it, I know that you can do it too.


 By Carynn Bohley '21

Carynn Bohley is a Herkimer College student in the Class of 2021 and a published author. Hear more from her on Twitter at @CarynnBohley, and check out her Goodreads Author page for more information on her latest works.