When I was halfway through my undergraduate degree, I decided to graduate a semester early. That meant GETTING SHIZ DONE FAST! I wasn’t smart enough to have brought in credits from high school. That, and my tiny high school didn’t offer many transferable credits. I think they offered like cooking and art…

Anyway, the internet makes everything faster – so in order to graduate ASAP I headed to the interwebs! Plus, going to class was such a bother.

You know that kid in class who always asks the dumbest questions? Jimmy was a repeat offender in one of my classes.. “Dr. Thompson, I was gone last week. What did we do?” I always wanted to look at Jimmy and yell, “Pipe down, Jimmy! You’re wasting everyone else’s time. Ask the professor after class. Get it together.”

I found out with online classes – Jimmy couldn’t waste my time. In fact, class time didn’t even exist. The online classes I took were self-taught. We were told what textbooks to buy, then we logged into our online dashboard and navigated the courses ourselves. I had daily work to complete and tests to take. Complete the tasks with an ‘A’ average and you get an ‘A.’

I spent the time I would have been in class and used it to complete assignments and take tests. It must have been the entrepreneurial side of me. I felt in control of my destiny. I alone determined how my time would be spent.

All my online classes were 3 credits. Had they been on campus, it would have been 45 minutes x 3 days a week spent in class. I took those 2 hours and 15 minutes per week and spent them completing assignments.  Time wise (for most weeks) it was like NOT HAVING ANY HOMEWORK! I kid you not, this was the most productive time of my life. I took online courses for 2 semesters and one summer. During that time I also took 3 week-long trips across the US, completed 2 internships in 2 different cities, and even kept up with a long-term relationship.

Online classes freed up my schedule something fierce. I had so much more time in my life!

In the classroom, my GPA was 3.2 but online it was a 4.0. I’m so much cooler online lol.

Think of GPA like money – being in a classroom is like working for someone else – you’re on their time. Taking classes online is like running your own business. I do what I want, when I want (within reason). I could go farther, faster on my own.

Like I’ve said in the past, I’ve never considered myself that smart or skilled at anything. No joke, I tied my shoes wrong until I was 16 and got sick of them coming undone twice a day…

So these tips can work for you, too. Here’s what I did to raise my GPA.

Online classes hack #1: I paid attention to Wifi

Paid attention… okay… I worshiped Wifi. Professors generally don’t let you get away with saying internet connection issues are why your test didn’t get taken. You may as well say the dog ate your homework. So make sure Wifi won’t be an excuse. I did a lot of schoolwork at my parents house. Their internet isn’t the best in the west. No joke, the microwave causes the internet to crash. I’ve read on lifehacker you can make some sort of tinfoil shroud to protect your router from the microwaves… anyway.

One night when I was at home, I had to pack up my laptop, textbooks, and notes and drive through a rain/thunderstorm to get to my uncles house to use his internet. The test had to be done at midnight and like I said, most professors do not give a dang about your Wifi woes.

Online classes hack #2: Test like MacGyver

Do you get that MacGyver reference. I actually had to Google his name. I just know he’s from an 80’s TV show and he uses just dental floss and duct tape to conquer the world.

For online classes, I used everything at my disposal to reach my goal.

Online tests are timed so you can’t just Google every answer. We could use textbooks/notes/etc. – I mean, of course they let us. How could they regulate its use?

I spread everything out all around me in a ‘U’ shape before the test. I stuck post-it notes all over my textbooks on pages I thought would help with the test. My notes were splayed out individually.

Accidentally turning on the office ceiling fan would have been the difference between an ‘A’ and a ‘C’.

Online classes hack #3: Message professors A TON

Emailing professors shows them you care. This is especially important for online success. Make your presence known. This way they will cut you some slack if you actually do have last-minute Wifi problems.

Online classes hack #4: Trust no one…

I dodged group projects at all cost. Organizing people online is tricky! Everyone has to be motivated. Obviously, not everyone is motivated to be in school. Remember Jimmy?

I found that some of my fellow students wouldn’t stay on top of our group projects. So I opted to be a lone wolf in most classes. It’s just easier that way. I love collaborating with people online outside of class though. Other bloggers care. 🙂

Online classes hack #5: Work ahead

I usually like to procrastinate. But online classes are timed so luckily Parkinson’s law doesn’t apply. Getting stuff done early will mean more time to workout any technical issues that may arise. Technology always breaks at the worst times, ya know?

So that’s it! Using online classes saved me hundreds of hours and boosted my GPA from a 3.2 to a very nerdy 4.0. I didn’t graduate with a 4.0, however. Traditional classes in my last semester drug me back down again haha. But I’m perfectly okay with that!

Not only did online classes boost my GPA .8 (which is freakin’ huge!), it freed up my time. Time is your most valuable asset, after all. I was able to live in different cities, take trips to Arizona, Florida (Disney World!!!), and Boston, and take 2 life-altering internships. And the best part – I didn’t have to waste my life sitting in class!

Oh yeah, I also learned that I can earn my master’s online, should I want to put myself through that torture. Seriously, though, if I want to go back to school to complete an MA in Forensic Psychology, for example, I can get it done in as little as 20 months. This degree would set me up to work as a trial consultant, a law enforcement officer, a substance abuse counselor, or a community liaison. I’m aware that all of these jobs sound important, but, who knows? Maybe I’ll want to change careers in the future and if I do, I’ll certainly earn my new degree online.

I heart the interwebs. But proceed with caution. It takes self motivation so if you don’t really want to work hard, online classes can swallow you whole. Read more about the ups and downs on this wiki page. Feel free to chat with me more about any of the conquerable concerns you may have (hint: they’re all conquerable).