When you think of that person in college who is always on top of everything, has their classes for next year already figured out and knows every stop from now to graduation then you’ve basically described the opposite person of me. Organization and planning never came easy for me, not that I ever really cared much about it. However, as life got crazy busy for me in my last couple years of school I found that I needed some ways to keep my life together as I was figuring out the next semester’s classes come registration time. Here are some tips that can help fellow procrastinators plan their semesters.
Start off by checking out your degree plan (your myPurdue Plan) and what requirements you need to stay on track toward graduation. While there’s seemingly a million things early on, you tend to see the light after a couple years and the classes that you need to take later become fewer. Pro Tip: leave a few generals classes for your last year – they typically have multiple sections and are easy to schedule around that senior seminar class that is only offered once per year. Once you know what requirements you need to check off and what classes you might be interested to do so, it’s time to meet with your advisor.
Before you sign up for classes, most colleges force you to meet with your academic advisor. Even if they don’t, it’s something you should try to do. However, that’s not to say that it should be the first part of planning your next semester. Your advisor is much more effective if you come prepared! Having the previously mentioned wish list of classes and what objectives you have left using your myPurdue Plan worksheet will make your meeting much more productive and give you time for those other questions your advisor can help with, like internships and post-grad plans.
So now you know what classes you should be taking and have your other questions answered it’s time for actually signing up. The key here is knowing your life. Not everyone is cut out for 8 a.m. classes. If you’re going to skip for sleep rather than go, find a way to work around it rather than handicapping yourself. Try to spread out your difficult classes, both across semesters and across days of the week.
Also take into account your life outside of class. If you have to work, have an idea of what your schedule might look like. One of the positives of having an on-campus job is that they tend to be able to fit hours in around your schedule rather than trying to get you to do the opposite.
Plan on taking 15 credits every semester! If you take 12 one semester, you have to make it up somewhere down the line and that sets you up for a potential 18 credit nightmare. This will keep you on track to graduate in 4 years. Not staying on track for 4 year graduation has a whole host of potential issues that come up including the costs of extra tuition & lost wages from not working, losing state financial aid, and running out of federal financial aid and 4-year scholarships.
Once you’ve taken care of the scheduling aspect, everything else starts to fall into place. You know your class times, you can figure out what time you’re busy with student organizations, you can fit in your work schedule and then everything else is left over for leisure, study, and class work time. Classes typically only take up less than 20 hours per week of actual in-class time. If you add that plus a mythical 12 hours of sleep per night, and 12 hours of work each day, you still have 52 hours of free time to devote to everything else (including homework) in a week. The key is finding a stable pattern that can help you take care of what you need. For us disorganized and unscheduled people knowing that you absolutely cannot procrastinate a project until tomorrow because your only actual time to work on it is today can make a world of a difference. If you have a relatively consistent schedule you can know this rather than being overwhelmed the next day because that paper is due tomorrow but you’re supposed to be at a club meeting tonight!
Other random tips:
Use ratemyprofessors.com to get an idea of what instructors are best.
Seriously, use a planner or calendar or something to put down when papers are due, when tests are, and other big events that could get in the way. I had at least half the crisis moments when I could actually see when I would have busy times coming.
Figure out your study style. Some people need to read and highlight, some people need to write and rewrite notes, and some learn by teaching it to others. If you’re spending hours every night in the library for one class you’re probably doing it wrong.
Also, your ideal study & homework time! I killed it between dinner and bed time but couldn’t find motivation earlier in the day. Some people do it right after class, it’s up to you to figure out!
Remember that you can’t teleport from one place to the next. Factor in travel time!