There is a method to the madness of graduating in 4 years or less. Being strategic about the way you schedule your classes will help you cross the finish line strong!
#1 Remember you’re human
What do humans need to survive? Food, water, shelter, sanity, etc. Therefore, don’t set yourself up with an impossible schedule! Make sure you have room for mental breaks, socialization, and food.
#2 Have a backup plan
Chances are if you’re just starting your academic career straight out of high school with no AP, IB or dual credits then you won’t get first dibs on the classes you want. Don’t let this frustrate you. Instead, make a backup plan just in case the class gets filled up before you can register.
#3 Avoid stuffing
This hack does not apply to nontraditional students with extra commitments like a full-time job or a family. However, if you are a traditional student, avoid stuffing your Tuesday-Thursdays or Monday-Wednesdays with classes back-to-back.
The logic is that you can use the off days to study, but it never works out that way. You end up using those off days to recover. Furthermore, cramming and back-to-back classes hurts your retention, and performance in those classes.
Not to mention, you’re going to end up burning yourself out! Do yourself a favor and spread out your classes throughout the week.
#4 Embrace the morning
I know an 8 am class can be a buzzkill, but embrace it. There are perks to having morning classes. It gets you up in the morning so you can be more productive. Everyone is tired so no one is bothering you or being generally annoying. It’s easier to focus and the teacher is probably just getting the day started as well.
Plus, since early morning classes are not popular, chances are there will be fewer people in your class. If you have morning classes, by lunchtime you are done with classes! That way you can dedicate your afternoons to homework, office hours, tutoring, student orgs, working out or anything else that needs to get done that day.
#5 Embrace the evening
This hack is specifically for my non-traditional students. Most likely if you are working during the day or have other commitments, you have to take more night classes. During my academic career, I had a handful of evening and night classes. I know from experience they can be a struggle, but also speaking from experience night classes tend to be more relaxed.
The teacher is okay with you bringing dinner to class and the classroom structure is more flexible. Plus, evening classes tend to be once a week (but 3 hours long). Evening classes make an academic career possible for non-traditional students.
#6 Petition your internship for credit
Seriously, consider your internship academic experience (because it is)! It will help you finish your degree that much faster and take more courses during the semester. I especially recommend petitioning your internship for credit if it’s an unpaid internship. The only fall back is that since it’s a credit, you have to pay for it as if it were a class.
#7 Independent Study
Doing an independent study adds more flexibility to your schedule and degree plan. It allows you to structure your own educational experience with the guidance of a professor. Don’t let the freedom and flexibility fool you! It’s still work and you have to be exceptionally disciplined to pull it off successfully.
#8 Take similar courses at the same time
Personally, I have had several marketing classes that were very similar. I was able to apply some of the concepts from one class to another and vice versa. For example, my digital marketing class and my search engine optimization classes covered similar material. It helped reinforce what I was learning.
Taking similar classes in your degree plan together is like taking one large class. In some ways, it makes things a lot easier.
#9 Include a block for office hours in your schedule
If you know a specific class is going to be very challenging then block off the professor’s office hours in your schedule beforehand. (Email the professor to find out their office hours if you don’t have access to the syllabus yet).
For example, at Bauer College of Business, Business Statistics was the kiss of death for many students. If you are about to take that class or another difficult class, find out your professor’s office hours and make sure you don’t have a class scheduled during that time.
#10 Take harder classes earlier in your academic career
Take the kiss of death early in your academic career. You want to move past those hurdles fresh out of the gate. Like I mentioned earlier, Business Stats is the weed-out course for Bauer students. To graduate from Bauer or even declare your major, you have to take that class.
Imagine taking that class senior year and failing it (which is what many students so the first time around) you won’t be able to graduate!
Take those type of classes early to relieve the pressure of not graduating on time. Plus, taking them early will give you enough time to take it again or make a different decision about your degree while still graduating on time.
#11 Avoid classes with 300+ students
In other words, avoid the large, stadium-style classes whenever possible. Smaller classes provide a more intimate academic experience. You are more likely to network with your peers more effectively and create a sustainable relationship with your professor. (Read more about that here.) You can do this by joining the honors college at your school, taking prerequisites at a community college or taking alternatives to satisfy the credit.
For example, maybe you need an English credit. Instead of taking English 101 that everyone and their mother takes, take Creative Writing in Poetry that maybe 30 people might enroll in. It still fulfills the credit you need and provides a better academic experience.
#12 Don’t underestimate online courses
A lot of students take an online class thinking it’s going to be a blow off. Since you’re reading this, you are not like a lot of students. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes they are a blow off, but making that assumption can get you into a world of hurt if you are wrong. Just assume you have to put effort in all your classes until the class proves you wrong.
These course scheduling hacks will help you navigate your undergraduate academic career successfully! Do you have a hack that’s been particularly helpful? Please share in the comment section below! If you found this article helpful, please pass it along. If you still need more help making sense of your higher ed journey, feel free to reach out to me.