Top 5 Tips for Success in an Online DNP Program

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous to enroll in an online BSN-DNP program last year. After all, I was always the “front row” girl in school with her own case of multi-color highlighters. In an online program, my place would be front and center behind a computer screen, alone, and probably wearing pajamas with yesterday’s lunch stains. I didn’t see how I would ever be able to perform as well in a nontraditional classroom, and I was right! I learned I could do even better when I created my own schedule and used the flexibility an online program at Loyola University New Orleans allowed. These are my top 5 tips for success:

  1. Get Your Ducks in a Row:
    Sit down and figure out why you want to enroll in the online program. Are you wanting to advance your career? Are you taking it for fun? An established “why” will help you realize that your efforts and sacrifices are worth it. Additionally, invest in a reliable computer, reduce your hours at your job if needed, and take a look at your finances. The last thing you want to do is drop out because you weren’t prepared ahead of time for the demands of an online program. Take the time to ensure you are whole-heartedly in it to win it!
  2. Create Your Study Space:
    This could be anywhere you choose but I have two suggestions: make it quiet and make it consistent. Pick a place where you know you’ll always have a seat, an outlet, strong WiFi, and optimal lighting (bonus points if there are snacks and coffee available). I recommend setting up your own desk in your home where you can control your surroundings. At my desk, I have pictures and quotes framed on the wall for motivation, a calendar with all my school assignments, and my favorite gardenia scented candle. When I sit here, I know it’s time to work! When I need a change of scenery, I often go to the Loyola library and reserve a study room or, when I’m craving a hot Café Au Lait, a trip to the corner coffee shop to catch up with classmates.
  3. Make Connections:
    First and foremost, being in an online program does not mean you are alone. After all, the World Wide Web gives students the opportunity to connect on all types of platforms including Blackboard discussion posts, email, and social media sites. Reach out to your professors early in the program and genuinely communicate your goals with them so they know your name. Share your questions with your peers and exchange phone numbers. You will quickly realize it is not just you and the computer screen!
  4. Create a Routine:
    Whether you are working a full-time job or sleeping in until noon, you need to establish a routine for your online classes. I strongly suggest writing in your calendar what times are non-negotiable study hours every day and stick to it. Just as you would not skip or show up late to class in person, you should not put your online coursework on the backburner. Commit to a consistent routine for consistent results. I am a morning person so my routine is to wake up at 6:30am and catch up on my emails with breakfast and coffee and start actively studying by 7:30am. Choose yours.
  5. Take Meaningful Breaks:
    Let’s be honest, study breaks are 100% necessary for success. Whether you walk your dog around the neighborhood, take an exercise class at the gym, grocery shop, or catch up with your friends at a new restaurant, do something active away from your desk! It is tempting to use the internet as a break, but I’ve found that sitting in the same place for long periods of time makes it difficult to transition back to studying! By using my study breaks as opportunities to complete other tasks I have on my To-Do list for the day, I feel very productive and efficient with my time!

About the Author

Caitlin Owsley is a registered nurse in pursuit of her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with a Family Nurse Practitioner concentration at Loyola University New Orleans. Caitlin received her baccalaureate degree in nursing at St. Olaf College in Minnesota in 2014, where she was captain of the varsity tennis team and studied abroad on several global health excursions to Honduras and South Africa. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Caitlin moved to New Orleans to pursue her passion for dermatological skin health with a special interest in completing her DNP Scholarly Project as a culmination of translational research on preventative measures to improve skin cancer outcomes. Outside of Loyola’s program, Caitlin enjoys cycling and kickboxing classes, interior design and gardening, cooking nutritious recipes, and playing with her cat, Bjorn. She currently lives in New Orleans, LA.