The first-year checklist for online college students

January 11, 2022 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
Heading into your first year of online courses? Take a look at our checklist for first-year online college students for top tips on how to prepare.

Starting your first year of college is an exciting time as you begin your semester and connect with new people. Preparing for your online classes in advance can ease this transition and get you started on a successful path.

Making the transition to college requires some time, effort and critical thinking, but that investment can pay off as you progress through your program and eventually earn your degree.


Your online school checklist

If you’re wondering how to prepare for online classes, we’ve shared some practical advice in this checklist for first-year online college students. Following these steps will prepare you to prosper right from the start of your first year in college and ASU Online.

  • Attend ASU 101.
  • Choose the right courses for your major.
  • Ensure you have the appropriate technology.
  • Familiarize yourself with Canvas.
  • Develop a study plan for productive learning.
  • Identify additional support that can empower you to thrive.


Complete ASU 101, The ASU Experience

Getting your studies off to the right start begins with ASU 101. It’s a 1-credit course that prepares you for your online degree journey, and it’s highly recommended you take it during your first semester at ASU Online.

Topics covered in ASU 101 include:

  • Establishing personal and career goals that will help guide your success. 
  • Gaining awareness of the resources available at ASU to support your success both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Gaining awareness of the value of engaging in research activities.
  • Understanding the importance of academic integrity and other university policies. 

Note there are different versions of ASU 101 and you may need to take the one specific to your degree’s college. (For example: ASU 101-CLS is for undergraduate students of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.). Consult your major map or check with your academic advisor to confirm the one you need to take.


Choose the right courses for your major

How do you know which courses to take? Your academic advisor will work with you to choose the right major or exploratory degree track based on your interests and career goals, so you can take the correct courses starting your first semester. 

Your academic advisor and success coach are among the most important student services available to first-year college students. They are available to assist you in registering for courses, setting goals, defining an academic path and connecting with other resources offered by Arizona State University.

What’s the difference between an academic advisor and a success coach at ASU Online?

Academic advisors are there to make sure you graduate on time. They’ll assist you with setting timelines to graduation, choosing classes, adding minors/certificates and switching majors and more.

As the name suggests, success coaches are there to help you succeed. They’re available to provide time management tips, help you set goals, craft strategies for success and more.

Ensure you have the appropriate technology

Before you log in to your online classes, make sure you have the tools necessary to collaborate with classmates, engage with an instructor and complete projects. Keep these needs in mind as you complete your online school checklist:

  • Course-specific requirements: Certain software and hardware — such as a drawing tablet and associated application for a graphic design program — may be required.
  • Desktop or laptop computer: You’ll need a computer that can reliably support streaming video, audio and text-based interactions with instructors and fellow students as needed, as well as run any major- or course-specific software.
  • Internet browsers: At ASU Online, students need to have both Firefox and Chrome.
  • Internet connection: Online learning requires a dependable internet connection.


Familiarize yourself with Canvas

Canvas is the online learning management system used by every ASU Online instructor and student. It fuels the online learning process and offers a stable and familiar educational environment for all participants.

Watch the Canvas tutorial video for a run-through, and view the student guide for more in-depth, text-based support. These and more support materials are available on ASU's dedicated student resources page.

A help desk is available for students as well to address questions about online learning related to Canvas.


Develop a study plan for productive learning

A peer-reviewed research article published by the journal SAGE Open found that a student’s perceived control of their time was the factor that correlated most significantly with their cumulative GPA. In other words, a strong plan may support better outcomes in an individual online course and throughout your time in college.

To better manage your learning and studying time as an online student, consider:

  • Adding important deadlines and dates, such as upcoming exams, to your calendar well in advance to avoid any surprises.
  • Breaking down large tasks into smaller, more easily completed ones.
  • Establishing a regular routine that supports your strengths as a student.
  • Factoring in other responsibilities outside of school into your schedule, such as work and time with friends and family.
  • Identifying the times during the day and week when you’re most productive, then committing to completing academic tasks at those points.

ASU Online offers students dedicated time management coaching that can empower you toward being a more productive student.

Creating a conducive environment for studying on a consistent basis can also support productive learning. The space where you participate in an online course or complete classwork should be:

  • Comfortable, allowing you to settle in and get to work.
  • Organized, making it easy to find the resources you need.
  • Quiet, allowing you to focus on the task at hand.
  • Well lit, to avoid any eye strain.


Identify additional support that can empower you to thrive

ASU Online provides a robust range of student services, including online tutoring, time management coaching, counseling and life services, student wellness services and technical resources and support. All online students have access to these valuable offerings, allowing for targeted and relevant assistance.


Stay plugged in while your class progresses

By following this checklist, you can improve your chances of being prepared for life as an online student. These actions can aid a strong start and keep the momentum going by:

  • Building and reinforcing good attendance, study and work habits early on.
  • Creating a distraction-free study space.
  • Reviewing and taking full advantage of all student services relevant to your needs.
  • Scheduling your time to build in dedicated periods for learning and coursework.
  • Taking the time to reach out to your instructors for direct support when needed.

All about online clubs at ASU

Joining online clubs can enrich your ASU Online student experience. Whether you’re looking to make friends, network and strengthen your resume, or get involved in a causes that matter to you, there's a club for you.


About ASU Online

Earn your degree completely online from the nation's most innovative university. ASU Online offers more than 300 degree programs and certificates in high-demand areas such as nursing, engineering, business, education and more. Explore all of our areas of study.

Our offerings include:

  • Elite expertise and research.
  • Innovative curriculum design.
  • Superior student support services.

Learn more at our about us page. And follow ASU Online on Facebook, YouTube, X and Instagram, and connect with us on LinkedIn.

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