How to Embrace College Culture As a Long Distance Learner

Guest Post

Thirty years ago, the thought that people could someday experience higher education schooling on a personal computer without ever stepping foot in a physical class room would have been unfathomable. It has been transformative in a time when cost and convenience are both matters which would otherwise inhibit one’s ability to access education.

However, some might argue that a great part of the experience can be lost in translation. Many people who attend online universities tend to be uninterested, or feel out-of-touch, with college culture since these people tend to be later-in-life students or have limitations in regards to physical access to an institution – and that’s okay.

But for those who want the social and cultural experiences of college from the comforts of a strictly online education, it can be difficult to do without extracurricular activities on your schedule. If you are unable to attend school at a physical campus and you would like to be more involved in the college lifestyle, here are four ways to do that from a distance.

1. Attend Collegiate Events

If you live close enough to your college or university, the first and most obvious choice is to go to campus events, either sponsored by your university or those designed more generally for college students in mind. This may include sports, games, tail-gating, drama and art events such as plays and cabaret type programs, musical gatherings, and other events as well.

Most universities and college departments keep online bulletins of such events, making them easy to track down and join. It can be hard to get past the initial anxiety of not knowing your peers personally, but it can be a highly rewarding experience to take the plunge. After all, a college student’s social life wouldn’t be complete without mingling with complete strangers!

2. Online Clubs and Social Media

No matter where you attend, there is most likely a variety of clubs and groups at your college campus. There are typically social media groups for these clubs where you can discuss common interests, concerns, and topics. With social media meet-ups, you’re able to connect with people over a medium that allows you to share the things you have in common, and provides a natural platform to meet-up should you kick it off with anyone.

If your school does not happen to have these things, join one from a school close to you locally! You don’t have to mingle with peer groups from any particular college if you share common academic or personal interests. However, there are other online ways to get connected with people from your school, of course.

3. Class Programs and Group Projects

It’s common for students to meet friends in college through group projects. Most online curricula require responding, chatting, or even visiting peers to complete some assignments. If you’re looking for people to meet or ways to get involved, it may help to seek out elective classes that have a more involved social element.

Whether you’re exchanging emails, chatting online, or video conferencing, you’re ultimately getting to know each of your group mates more personally and engaging on the college social life on some level. All friendships have to start somewhere. Still, there is a way to make an impact on the people you don’t meet as well.

4. Be involved with College “Politics”

When it comes to being a student, it can be a way for you to get involved. It may be very hard for you to run for office on student council, since you are not physically going to school at the institution you’re attending. However, knowing who your student council is and what they stand for, as well as specific issues like administrative decisions and local events, are hot topics on every college campus.

Once you know what makes your peers tick, participating in forum discussions and voting in open polls is a way for you to be more involved and to make a difference. By keeping in tune with the issues that are motivating your peers, you’ll naturally engage in college culture and flourish in a social life that only a college student can experience.

While it can be difficult to experience that college life can offer from afar, initiative and creativity can go a long way in picking up the difference. And as more and more students attend online due to rising costs of attending a university and the convenient of online education, you might find that you and your peers have more in common after all!

What are your experiences in online education? What else would you recommend to a student who wants to engage in college culture as a distance learner?

This article was contributed by bloggers with Sessions College of Professional Design, which offers online design programs. Sessions College is an online institution based out of Tempe, Arizona, and you can read more about current design trends on their Notes On Design blog.

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