It is a sign of our times when you hear that it takes college students an average of 4.5 years to complete their studies with a significant number of students taking as long as six years to get their degrees. No, I’m not talking about the student who has to work their way through college, rather the student who is in college thanks to the full support of their parents with perhaps some scholarship money and savings thrown in.
Most students need 120 credits to graduate college with some requiring an extra six to eight credits for remedial basic skills courses or if they’re pursuing a double major. That means college students must take about fifteen credits per semester, which translates into roughly five classes at a time.
Now for a controversial statement: many students drag their feet and can easily graduate on time, but only if they are disciplined when it comes to their studies and diligent when it comes to securing their needed classes.
True, the securing classes part can be challenging especially in light of recent college cutbacks including courses which are only taught once each year and/or in sequence. You certainly can’t take Biogeography 301 if Earth Science 201 is a prerequisite and not available. But for everyone else, you can graduate on time if not earlier if you keep the following in mind:
College Isn’t A Game – I’m afraid we’ve made college too much of a party for students these days. Fraternities, sororities, clubs, sporting events and all sorts of extracurricular activities are distractions. Certainly, having some fun is fine, but do you need more downtime than study time? Pick and choose your outside pursuits carefully but don’t let them impede upon your progress while you’re enrolled at college.
Get Used To Working Hard – Most older people who have paid employment put in at least forty hours a week, in some cases a lot more than that. If you match every hour you attend class with one hour of study per week, then those fifteen credits mean thirty hours of work each week. Why not plan on carrying eighteen credits for thirty-six hours of work each week? You still are putting less time into your studies than the average person does on the job.
Course Load – I agree with the advocates: college freshmen shouldn’t carry a huge load but they shouldn’t learn to become slackers either. Lots of students drop out of college after their freshmen year because they fail to pick up good study habits as they go along. Take 12 credits during your first semester to get used to attending classes, acquiring new study habits, and living apart from your family. Take 15 credits during the second semester than 15-18 for each of the next six semesters. You’ll graduate on time with a few classes to spare!
Plan Ahead – Map out your college years during your very first year at college. You may not be ready to declare a major from the onset, but you should tackle all of the required coursework first. Then, when you are ready to pursue a major, start laying out when you’ll take specific courses. A word of note: don’t save a hard to get class for your senior year. Take it during your junior year to ensure that it is available and that you will graduate on time.
Graduate On Time
If you’re a below average student, then you’ll have trouble meeting this goal, but average students should be able to graduate on time. That leaves above average students – people who excel while in college – as the ones able to handle 18 credits or more each semester. They’re the kind of student who will graduate with a double major or finish school early, or perhaps finish with their graduate degree before the six-year plan students get their bachelor’s degree.
What kind of student are you? If you establish good study and planning habits from the start, you stand to finish college within four years and probably have a richer, fuller experience to draw upon as you move through school. Best of all, you’ll create a disciplined lifestyle that will appeal to many employers, resulting in more pay, better opportunities and a richer life experience.
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