Choose Your Classes Wisely and Graduate on Time!
Most colleges emphasize the importance of graduating on time, and students have a lot to gain from doing so. Finishing on schedule allows grads to avoid incurring thousands in additional college costs and get their careers underway, thereby making money instead of spending it. Here are some questions that can help students determine whether they're on track to graduate on time.
1. Have you satisfied your general education requirements?
Okay, so maybe you've come to college with very specific goals for what you want to study and the career you'd like after school. Before you get lost in taking all of the great class offerings in your chosen discipline, don't forget about any general education classes a school might require. Many a college student has had graduation delayed because they put off completing general requirements.
2. Do any classes you'd like to take in the future have prerequisites?
Just as outstanding general ed requirements can affect your graduation timeline, so can prerequisites within a given subject area. Some students eagerly anticipate taking high-level courses in their discipline without realizing that a series of foundational courses may be required for admittance. As you look at course listings, don't neglect prereqs you'll be responsible for completing.
3. Is a class you're interested in offered in a future term?
This question most comes into play when you're trying to resolve conflicts in your class schedule. If you feel torn between taking two or more classes offered at the same time, you may have to make a decision based on a particular course's availability. If a class you really need isn't offered at a future time that works for you, it might have to be given priority over other options.
4. Is a class you want to take offered online?
A good way to potentially resolve conflicts in your class schedule is to take one of the courses you're interested in online. Because most Internet-based classes allow you to complete much of the coursework on your own schedule, you may be able to fit them in without missing out on other opportunities. The flexibility of online courses is so appealing that you may opt for them even if you don't have schedule conflicts.
5. Can you take courses over the summer?
Another way to address potential scheduling conflicts: take a required class over the summer. Taking summer courses also allows you to make up academic ground that you may have lost during the school year. Additionally, the summer session typically offers truncated versions of courses, so you'll be completing them in much less time than you would in fall, winter or spring.
6. Have you picked a major - and are you planning to stick with it?
Many students have trouble graduating on time in part because they have indecision about choosing their major. It's natural to want to give the question a lot of time and thought. It is, after all, one of the biggest decisions you have to make in college - not to mention that it will determine your ensuing studies. Just know that too much of a delay, or changing your major down the line, can result in graduating late.
7. Do you know all of your major requirements?
If you're clear on your major, consider yourself fortunate. But your academic planning, of course, cannot end there. You'll have to fit in all of the classes you're required to take to earn your major, plus any electives you're interested in. Getting in all of these classes can be tricky, particularly if there are required classes that are only offered on a limited basis. Be aware of these classes; they're likely to fill up fast.
8. Have you received all applicable AP and transfer credit?
This is something that should be taken care of with your admission into an institution, but AP and transfer credits are an oft-overlooked way to cut down on time spent in college. Perhaps you were told you'd have to petition for a particular AP or transfer class to count at your school but you haven't gone through that process. It may be worth your time to do the appropriate follow-up, especially if you've taken multiple disputed classes.
9. Does your course schedule allow you to succeed?
It's great to want to graduate on time, but sometimes that well-intentioned goal gets students into trouble. They might decide to take on a huge course load to offset the effects of previous, less vigorous terms. But to get credit for a class, you have to perform well in it. Jamming your schedule up with as many classes as are allowed may lead you to perform poorly and not get credit. Then all of that time will have been wasted.
10. Have you checked in with your academic advisor recently?
It can benefit you a lot to have a sound plan in place for graduating on time. The good news is that you don't have to come up with one on your own. An academic advisor at your school can help you to handle all of the issues addressed above - and any others that are specific to your institution or department. Take full advantage of the insight advisors can provide, regularly checking in with them to ensure you're on track to graduate on time.
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