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When you take classes online, you may feel disconnected from the college community. You’re not right there on location. You may be significantly older or younger than your classmates. You probably have family, work, and other obligations demanding your time and attention. Still, feeling connected to Ashford makes for a more satisfying experience and can be a key element of success.
“The key to staying in college for all students, regardless of your background or identity, is making sure you take as many opportunities as possible to integrate yourself…both academically and socially,” says Dr. Luoluo Hong, vice president for student affairs & enrollment management at San Francisco State University, California.
We asked experts and off-campus students how to connect. You don’t need to do everything, they said; just do something. “At first, you may only have the capacity to engage in your course, and that’s normal. Use the time to get to know your peers and your instructors. But once you have your bearings, don’t forget to take advantage of the many student groups, honors societies, and volunteer events that are available through Ashford,” says Matt Galloway, Student Care Manager at Ashford University.
“Make an effort to meet at least one new person in each class.”
—Second-year graduate student, Utah State University
“Find other students who are interested in forming a virtual study group. You don’t even need to be in the same course. It’s about sharing motivation and having a support group where you can bounce around ideas and get feedback.”
— Online Student, Ashford University
“Consistent participation in group discussions and not being shy to initiate an email were important steps [for me].”
—2016 graduate, Empire State College (online), New York
“If you live close to someone you are in an online class with, meet up for coffee.”
—Third-year graduate student (online), Governors State University, Illinois
“I go to school online and live in a different state. I have purchased a few college items (like T-shirts) to help me feel connected.”
—Second-year graduate student, Fort Hays State University, Kansas
Knowing that someone can relate to your experience is powerful when it comes to finding a mentor. Ashford’s CHAMPS Peer Mentoring Program matches high achieving, upper-division students (Mentors) with new students (Mentees) to Ashford University.
“Research studies have shown that at least one connection with a faculty, staff, or administrator makes a big difference in a student’s success.”
—Dr. Amy Baldwin, director, University College, University of Central Arkansas; author, The Community College Experience (Pearson, 2012)
“Have a mentor or buddy to help you navigate, and check in at least monthly. Something specifically nontraditional and for veteran students would’ve been extremely helpful [to me].”
—Second-year graduate student (online), Clemson University, South Carolina
“I would like to have had a mentor to help and give me advice in terms of the classes mostly, but also general time management and social life. Now I serve as mentor for new grad students. I wish I also had one four years ago.”
—Fourth-year graduate student, University of Delaware
“Make friends with people in your major [or program]; get their numbers and emails and add them on Facebook.”
—First-year graduate student, Wayne State University, Michigan
“Taking the simple initiative of making a group chat for all of your classes will enable everyone to get help 24/7, and gives you the feeling that you’re not alone.”
—Second-year student, Wayne State University, Michigan
Routinely check your sources to see what’s going on:
- Ashford’s Facebook page
- Reach out to Ashford University’s Sharing Time And Resources (STAR) program to learn abour volunteer opportunities
- Check out My Career Center in your student portal to learn about the national events hosted by Ashford’s Career and Alumni Services.
“Find something that you are passionate about and find a group of students who are also passionate about it. This is where you will find the most opportunity and social growth.”
—Fifth-year student, University of Regina, Saskatchewan
Amy Baldwin, Ed.D., director, University College, University of Central Arkansas; author, The Community College Experience (Pearson, 2012).
Jason Enser, MS, Dean for Student Affairs, State University of New York, Adirondack.
Luoluo Hong, PhD, vice president for student affairs & enrollment management, San Francisco State University.
Christie, N. G., & Dinham, S. M. (1991). Institutional and external influences on social integration in the freshman year. Journal of Higher Education, 62(4), 412–436.
Student Health 101 survey, May 2016