Switching to Online Classes Boosted My GPA: How to Do the Same

Online classes can help you get a degree quicker and simultaneously free up valuable time. As an added bonus, I was able to boost my GPA. A few tips for online class success include: securing proper Wi-Fi, messaging your professors, and choosing to work ahead.

It wasn’t until I was halfway through my undergraduate degree, that I decided I wanted to graduate early.  That meant getting stuff done fast! I wasn’t smart enough to have brought in credits from high school. Plus, my tiny high school didn’t offer many transferable credits. Anyway, the internet makes everything faster — so, in order to graduate ASAP, I headed to the internet.

Not to mention, 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.”

With online classes, the Jimmy’s 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 in to 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 completing assignments and taking tests. This appealed to my entrepreneurial side; I felt in control of my destiny. I alone could determine how my time would be spent.

All my online classes were three credits. Had they been on campus, I would have spent 45 minutes three times a week just sitting in class. Instead, I took those 2 hours and 15 minutes per week and spent that time completing assignments. Time wise (most weeks) it was like not having any homework! It was the most productive time of my life. I took online courses for two semesters and over one summer. During that time, I also went on three week long trips across the U.S., completed two internships in two different cities, and even kept up with a dating 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 much better online. Think of your 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’ve never considered myself that smart or skilled at anything. No joke, I tied my shoes wrong until I was 16 and they would come undone twice a day. So these tips can definitely work for you. Here’s what I did to raise my GPA while taking online classes:

Hack #1: Pay Attention to Wi-Fi

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 Wi-Fi won’t be an excuse.

I did a lot of schoolwork at my parents’ house. Their internet isn’t the best. No joke, the microwave causes the internet to crash. (Side note: I’ve read on Lifehacker that you can make some sort of tinfoil shroud to protect your router from the microwave.) One night when I was at my parents’ house, I had to pack up my laptop, textbooks, and notes and drive through a thunderstorm to get to my uncle’s house to use his internet to finish an exam. The test had to be done at midnight and, like I said, most professors do not give a dang about your Wi-Fi woes.

Hack #2: Test like MacGyver

Don’t know who MacGyver is? He’s from an 80s TV show and he uses things like dental floss and duct tape to conquer the world.

For online classes, I used everything at my disposal to reach my goals. Online tests are timed, so you can’t just Google every answer. We could, however, use textbooks, notes, etc. I spread everything out all around me in a U shape before a test. I stuck Post-it notes all over my textbooks on pages I thought would help during the test. My notes were splayed out individually. Accidentally turning on the ceiling fan would have been the difference between an A and a C.

Hack #3: Message Your Professors

Emailing professors shows them you care. This is especially important for online success. Make your presence known. If you build a relationship, they may even cut you some slack if you actually do have last-minute Wi-Fi problems.

Hack #4: Trust No One

I dodged group projects at all costs. Organizing people online is tricky. Everyone has to be motivated, and, obviously, not everyone is motivated to be in school. Often, my peers 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.

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 work out any technical issues that may arise. Technology always breaks at the worst times, ya know? See above for Wi-Fi issues.

In Summary

Using online classes saved me hundreds of hours and boosted my GPA from a 3.2 to a 4.0. Not only did online classes boost my GPA, they also freed up my time. And time is your most valuable asset. I was able to live in different cities, take trips to Arizona, Florida (Disney World!), and Boston, and complete two life-altering internships. And the best part: I didn’t have to waste my time sitting in class.

I also learned that I can earn my master’s degree online, should I want to put myself through that torture. Seriously, though, if I want to go back to school to complete a Master of Arts 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. If I want to change careers in the future, I’ll certainly earn my new degree online.

A note of caution: It takes self-motivation to succeed at online courses.

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  • Hey! awesome words of advice. I am trying to boost my GPA For graduate school where did you do your online coursework?

    • Hi Caton,

      Smart move boosting your GPA for grad school. I went to a private school and took these additional online credits at a community college. I chose the school largely because it had the cheapest credit hours of any community college in my state.

      If I were you, I would look for the cheapest hours in your state but also feel free to see what it would cost to get credits from an accredited online-only school. Since these are just ancillary credits you’re after, don’t stress too much about school choice. The name of the school may make its way on to some documents but it won’t make or break your reputation.

  • Online classes are definitely beneficial for helping a busy student raise their GPA. I imagine all classes will be online in some way or another in the future.

  • Ha! I came across this article as I started preparing for an exam for one of my online classes. I switched my class schedule to include more and more online classes for reasons similar to yours. It has gotten me on track to graduate with two graduate degrees in one year…. I think time is something most folks our age (I’m 25 years old) don’t see as a limited resource. Taking these online classes for the first time felt like I discovered a gold mine (although I am skeptical about the value of gold).

    • A. That’s awesome you found the site through Google… it’s finally starting to get respect from the almighty Google Gods

      B. Two graduate degrees in one year = WINNING!

      C. As the old men say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” We’re exceptions, of course. 😉

      D. Gold is a terrible investment, I agree.

      E. Thanks for commenting, Clay!!! I hope the article helped out!

  • I did my first two years of college at my local community college. Several years later after working full time I completed a bachelors degree in Business administration. Strayer has several campuses around the country and I took about half of my classes at my local campus while I still had to take several classes online. Typically because there was not enough other students for the local campus to hold a class. A typical class entitled reading of a few chapters per week, a weekly quiz, a couple of tests and somewhere between 1-3 papers and posting and responding to a online discussion board. I enjoyed the online classes because I could do the test, quizzes or discussions whenever I wanted.
    I will say some classes I took at my local campus because the class would of been very difficult for me online because of the nature of the class. For generic classes, history, etc. online was the way to go for me.

    I agree with Will that working ahead was a must. I typically liked to stay 1-2 weeks ahead. For all those working adults I would encourage you to take a online class or two and obtain that degree that you have been wanting for a long time. Please do not under estimate online classes because you still have a good amount of work to do.

  • I took online classes a few times and they were all great. I freed up a ton of time, it allowed me to take more classes, and my GPA was always higher in those classes.

    • You forgot to mention that you were able to graduate in 2.5 years with 2 degrees!!!

      I’m so impressed. *bows down to computer screen*

  • Online classes are great because of the control you have over your own learning. However, it was so difficult for me to get through a few online classes. For those who have a lot of self-discipline, online classes are a great way to go!

    • Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. Maybe you could have used a real life accountability partner, idk if that would have worked.

  • I loved taking online classes. I lived an hour away from the school I was attending and it saved me so much money and time just to be able to do them at home.

    The part I disliked about it was when you had to have the “class discussion” on the message boards. I had a hard time finding something interesting to say as a reply to someone who obviously could care less in their initial post.

  • Oh my gosh, I hated online classes. I took quite a few to graduate early too – always did the reading and work and almost always got B’s. I almost always got A’s in actual classes – some were even with professors I knew from real classes. It frustrated the heck out of me and I couldn’t figure out what the difference was.

    I wish I’d seen your “message professors a TON” idea back then, I do sort of wonder if that makes a big difference – that they really KNOW you’re engaged then. I used to passionately hate those communal discussions on the discussion boards though – everyone was usually just spouting nonsense.

    • Humanizing yourself helps. Whether consciously or subconsciously, I think a professor will give you higher grades if they feel you are a real human who is really engaged.

      Sorry it was a bad experience for you. 🙁 Sounds like you rocked those traditional classes though!

  • I’ve never taken an online course. But that is about to change! In order to sit for the CFP exam, I need to take an online capstone course. I’m interested to see how it goes… Although there are no grades, I do have to “pass” and complete it in order to sit for the exam. After being out of school for 3 years, I’m looking forward to this!!

    • No doubt you’ll love it! Oh and if you have any timed tests, put on some fast music. It worked wonders for making me test faster, anyway!

  • As a homeschooling family, we are huge proponents of online classes, for all of the reasons you mentioned above. And we will likely continue to take lots of them.

  • I love going to school online! I attend Ashford and my classes are only 5 weeks long, which is awesome!

  • Nice! I’m always impressed with your hustle stories. Did the online classes cost any less than traditional courses? I’m really intrigued by these new all-online degree programs and universities. I just read an Atlantic article about Minerva Project, which is an almost completely online platform for undergrads. I didn’t take any online courses, I think I’m slightly too old. I got my BA in 2006 and my MA in 2012 and neither offered any classes online.

    • You would read The Atlantic. :p

      Online classes were like $240/credit hour. Traditional courses weren’t broken down per credit hr. like online classes were but if they had been, they would cost approx. $1,500/hr.

      It makes oodles of sense as to why the cost difference…

  • What a great post – there were loads of Jimmy’s in my day, and sadly no online options 10+ years ago.

    I fondly remember the lecturers that took attendance, and those that took attendance and counted heads…

  • Great points. I enjoyed online learning and it has tons of values but as you pointed out in your hacks you have to make the most out of it by being more active and engaged. Traditional universities are offering online classes that significantly cut costs. I actually end up learning more because of the requirements and log of activity.

  • I hated Jimmy. Every once in awhile, the professors would be generous and let the class out 15 minutes early….except Jimmy would always have a list minute question. “How do you think Lions contribute to the economy of Antarctica” or a similar garbage question and we’d all lose five minutes of our lives. Online classes weren’t an option for me at the university I attended, but I would have jumped all over them if they were. I’m a big fan of efficiency and not a big fan of finding parking on campus.

  • Great tips man. I have debated on taking an online course for stocks but have kept putting it off because it is online. I just seen the cons and not the pros but I think you might of convince me to just take the damn thing already.

  • K, I’m like a dinosaur compared to you, but I took an online class for my Masters about 8-ish years ago and it sucked. It was videos of a previous lecture, so I still had to listen to Jimmy (darn that Jimmy). I am super impressed you were able to get out of group projects – when they were required, they were required and I did take some academic hits by getting stuck with lazy team members.

    • I just built a good rapport with the professors first. Then if the group was unresponsive, I’d ask to go it alone. It also helped because I was usually 100 miles away from everyone else so meeting in person was never really an option.

      Shoot, once though for a traditional class we had to rate our team members. I thought they were anonymous reviews. Turns out they weren’t and the professor handed them back to everyone during group time. Was super awkward when I gave a brutal (but honest) assessment of one of the girls on our team.

  • Back in the day I had done a certificate program in University (100% reimbursed by my employer) and most of the classes were on-line. I did well with the online system and studying/learning from the comfort of my couch.

    • Couch > hard plastic classroom chairs

      Classroom chairs are ridiculously uncomfortable now that I think about it..

  • I took online classes a few times in college, and they were pretty convenient. My campus was only 5 minutes away, but if I didn’t have to deal with parking, I was happy. My online courses were based on discussion, homework, and tests. Most professors required you to post a minimum of 3 times a week, and some people completely failed at this. I did the same thing with my notes when it came to tests!

    • Oh, yeah. I remember doing some discussions as well. Mostly it was just make one post on a class forum and then make at least 2 replies. Still quicker than going to class.

      I agree, parking is a pain on/around college campuses.

  • This is the coolest how-to tutorial, and it’s certainly becoming easier as more universities adopt online course structures. Did you find yourself limited by which courses were available online and which ones weren’t?

    Also, if you don’t mind sharing, which major were you pursuing?

    • Hey, Camille!

      Online offerings were somewhat limited, that’s why I had to take traditional classes my last semester. Classes like senior seminar (like a capstone class) weren’t offered online. Although I did get my professor to run a direct study class with me. I met with her once a week at most. 🙂

      I got a major in Business Communications with a minor in Poli Sci.