I recently enrolled in my classes for next semester and something major hit me: I only have two classes left for my degree and I’m graduating in the spring. But before I go on about how quickly four years fly by, let me just say that there is no dominating rule that you need to graduate college in four years. Things happen: you might end up doing a 5-year program instead; you might decide that you want to take an extra semester or year—whatever. It’s totally okay to graduate from college whenever you need to. But I know there are some people who might be very concerned with finishing in four years for whatever their reasons may be, so I decided to write this blog post to give you tips on how to do that.
When I entered college as a freshman, I was a Health Science major on the pre-med track, and I studied all science and math classes for my entire freshman year before realizing I didn’t want to be a doctor. After that, I changed my major around a few times but sophomore year I settled on Journalism. At my school, Journalism is the second heftiest degree with 124 credits needed to graduate. My advisers warned me that I may not finish all my classes by Spring 2018 because the major is so demanding and I was already behind, but I was all like, ‘well, watch me,’ and I pushed on. Fast forward almost six semesters and here I am. So yeah, it is possible even if you are behind in your major.
If finishing in four years is something that stresses you out or something you hope to do, I’m sharing things that I’ve been doing in order to stay on track to graduate on time. So, keep reading to find out more!
1. Take “stupid” required curriculum courses seriously.
I’m pretty sure every college has mandatory curriculum requirements intended to make you more well-rounded. So, students are usually expected to take an art class, math class, technology class, and others even if they don’t necessarily fit with their major. I know a lot of people complain about these courses and don’t take them seriously, only to end up failing the course. Or, they may just put off taking these classes because they “don’t want to waste their time” with them, only to end up not being able to get into them when the final semester nears.
Always keep track of what requirements you have left! Go to an adviser and see where you are if you don’t know how to check your progress yourself. Your adviser can even make class recommendations depending on your interests. You may hate having to take these classes, but you won’t graduate if you don’t take them seriously!
2. Take classes that can satisfy more than one requirement.
I found that a lot of the curriculum courses I took ended up satisfying more than one curriculum requirement. For example, a graphic design class I took satisfied my art requirement and my technology requirement (bonus points if it also satisfies part of your major or minor!). It’s just an easy way to finish your curriculum requirements faster so you don’t have to think about that remaining two or three during your final semester.
3. Go to your adviser for any and all issues.
Don’t worry about annoying your adviser with your pretty face all the time—that’s what they’re there for! I’m the kind of person who runs into my adviser’s office for almost every little thing (if I can’t find the answer to my question online or something). It’s comforting to have a definitive, authoritative answer to my questions and problems, and I like to address any potential issues before they become major. Follow whatever directions you need to follow for making an appointment with your adviser. You don’t need to see them every week, but a good rule of thumb would be to see them once when the semester begins and see them again before you enroll in next semester’s classes. This way, you’ll know exactly what to take to stay on track.
4. Come up with a class enrollment strategy before you see your adviser.
I’m kind of a problem-solver and I like to already have a solution in mind before I approach someone with my problem. So, for most of college I’d think of what I want my schedule for next semester to look like, jot down any questions I have about it, and then see my adviser to get their input and show them what I came up with. I know some people say they feel like their advisers take control and force them to take classes they don’t want to take or deter them from taking classes that could fit into their schedule, so this is a way of regaining that control. It’s your college career, after all. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and be a little pushy (pushy, but not rude!). When I started the Journalism major, I was so behind that I pushed my adviser to let me take some of my 200-level courses alongside their pre-requisite 100-level courses so I’d be right where I needed to be.
5. First semester freshman year will probably be the only time you have a 12-credit schedule.
Not gonna lie, you’re going to have at least one semester where you’re packing in a shit ton of classes. It’s going to be stressful as hell and you’re going to curse yourself the entire time for doing it, but you’ll feel super accomplished when the semester is over and you can finally say that you did it. This was definitely the biggest way that I kept myself on track for graduating. This semester is insane for me because of that (I’m taking seven classes, yikes!) and while I countdown every week till the end of the semester, I know I’m going to say that it’s so worth it. Plus, it’s really putting my time management skills to the test, so yay for that.
I’m not telling you to go crazy and have a 20-credit schedule every semester; know yourself and know how much you can handle. Don’t be afraid to take it easy one semester, especially if the previous one was really rough. Also, if you’re interested, check out my post on How To Balance School, Work, And A Social Life In College.
6. Take classes during the winter and summer sessions.
When the fall semester of my sophomore year was coming to an end, my adviser told me that I would have to take a winter class in order to have a chance at catching up in the program. Yeah, it was extra money in tuition and living on campus, but it was so worth it. I know taking another class during a time is the last thing you want to do, but it can really be the difference between being behind and being right where you need to be. Pro tip: don’t wait until junior year to see if you can take a 300-level class for your major during the winter session because they usually only offer 100-level and 200-level (if you’re lucky) courses.
7. Don’t give up if you get locked out of a class during enrollment.
Listen, your advisers can pull more strings than they might be willing to admit. I know the queasy, panicky feeling of seeing the big, fat red ‘x’ on my enrollment page because a class I need is full or I ‘don’t have permission to enroll’ in it all too well, and, trust me, you’re gonna want to freak out at first. But don’t. See if your adviser would be willing to throw you into the class anyway. Most of the time, they can give you permission to take a certain class and you can enroll above the capacity or as a co-requisite. But you’d have to present a convincing case if you’re trying to take the class as a co-requisite with something, so be prepared. I’ve done this more times than I care to remember, and it has helped me out so much.
8. Take your time when planning your schedule.
You can’t plan a schedule in 30 minutes, so make sure you set aside two or three hours to really think about what you need to take and what can work with your schedule. Set aside some time during the day to just relax and think about what classes are next in your sequence. I like sitting in the couches at Starbucks and blasting Marina and the Diamonds through my earbuds when I plan my schedule because I find the setting so relaxing.
Are you going to be a graduating senior? What are you most excited for?