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Establishing rapport for both online and on-campus students

The image and substance of who you are is important in gaining access to scholarships. I understand this now, but as an undergraduate student at an urban commuter campus, I was more concerned about showing up, doing my work and moving on, than “building relationships” or “making connections” with my professors. I worked two jobs, sometimes three, and had an active family and social life. At the time, I didn’t fully understand how my professors, instructors and advisers could truly help me beyond their classroom or office.

Now, as a scholarship professional, I see all of the missed opportunities during that time of my life. I realize for online students with even more family/work/community pressures it can seem daunting.

In traditional on-campus settings, students not only need to build a circle of support within their personal life, but also their campus life. Beyond making connections to other students, you should include the professionals who have access to the types of information and opportunities that can benefit you. Back then, I saw this as “using people,” and avoided that situation at all costs, but now I have a different viewpoint. If the relationship is mutually beneficial, then you are not “using people.” Now, as a professional, I regularly reach out to the professionals I know and ask them for recommendations of good interns, or I ask them to post a job opening. They, likewise, reach out to me if they know of a good student who needs to conduct an informational interview or is looking for some writing experience. The students, alumni and other professionals connected to them are one step more closely connected to me.

In on-campus settings, the people with whom you are connected, who truly know your strengths, can serve as great recommenders for future jobs, internships, residencies or scholarship opportunities.

When you are operating online, there are benefits and drawbacks when building fruitful professional relationships. I think that your chance to make an impression relies more on your written communication because the instructors are not able to meet you in person, but they have plenty of documentation of your assignments, chat sessions, emails, etc. You need to make a concerted attempt to reveal positive attributes from your past and present, and ask for feedback on your individual accomplishments that surpass the required reporting.

For example, if you are struggling in an online class and choose not to acknowledge your struggle, ignore attempts at help and dismiss constructive criticism, you may alienate the very people who can help you. However, if you work collaboratively with instructors and fellow classmates, and are engaged in classroom discussions you will probably be recognized and remembered for your hard work and determination.

As you begin your next class, think strategically about what you can do to make an impression on your instructor and build your network of potential supporters.

University of Phoenix has provided more tips on this subject in its Frequently Asked Questions section of the website.