What is it Like to be an Online Student?

Two children lie on the floor coloring while their dad works on his laptop in the background.
Category: Going Back to School

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For traditional college students, a day in the life may mean rolling out of a residence hall bed and walking across the quad in sweatpants for an 8 a.m. lecture. Shortly after that, it may be a game of Frisbee before lunch in the cafeteria. A leisurely afternoon of core classes might be followed by a little reading and then a bonfire. Those were the days, right?

Higher education is evolving due to the coronavirus pandemic, and institutions are shifting their coursework online. Many students may now be considering online learning for the first time. At Columbia Southern University, we’ve been at the forefront of distance education since our founding in 1993.

What is it like being an online student? Here’s a quick overview of online learning for college students.


People find themselves pursuing their college degree online for many reasons. Some students study online due to work and family commitments, affordability, or flexibility.  

Many online students are established in their careers, have families and are looking for a way to get or stay ahead without sacrificing quality time at work or at home. That’s why many online programs offer flexible enrollment options, textbooks at no additional fees, competitive tuition rates and limited group projects.

“I was a safety professional with a high school education for nearly 15 years before I took my first course at CSU,” said Tim Neubauer, a CSU alumnus with two undergraduate degrees and a master’s degree in occupational safety and health. “One of the most cherished moments in my life was in 2016 when the announcer at the CSU graduation said ‘Tim Neubauer, magna cum laude.’”

Joanne Black, an alumna with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration, had a similar experience.

“This has been a lifelong goal to complete my college degree. More than 30 years ago, I started college and had to put it on the back burner due to my law enforcement career,” said Black. “It was my dream to earn my bachelor’s degree before I turned 51 years of age. I finished all my classes in April 2017 and turned 51 in June. I worked very hard and dedicated many long hours to fulfill this dream and was able to graduate with honors.”  

A “Typical” Day for an Online Student

As an online student, your days will look different not only from traditional students’ days, but also from your fellow online students.

Some online students start their day before the sun rises, fitting in some time to study before their children wake up. Some complete schoolwork on their lunch breaks at a demanding career or after their families have gone to bed, accompanied only by a cup of strong coffee to keep the midnight oil burning. Some sacrifice weekends or take on extra work shifts in order to make their dream a reality.

There is no typical day or typical online student; all online students are living their unique realities and working hard to enhance their careers, families and communities.


Whatever a day in the life of being a college student may look to you, Columbia Southern University can be there to support you and assist you in achieving your educational goals.

For more information about CSU’s online degree programs, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu.

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