A Guide on How to Go Back to College: Part Seven (Page 2)

Use an Advisor:

Many colleges offer an academic advisor to help position you for success in your educational pursuits. They can help you navigate what progression of classes makes most sense given your academic background and degree aspirations. Speak with an advisor before you register for classes. The earlier you know what classes are required and recommended, the easier it may be for you to get into that class. In some cases, particularly at traditional colleges, many of the most popular classes and class times can become oversubscribed. This means you will have to wait for an opening in a different semester, as opposed to the semester which fits you and your scheduling needs. Online schools, however, typically don’t have this issue. The technology of online programs offers many non-traditional students course access anywhere, anytime to fit their lives.

Schedule as Strategy:

Choosing a class schedule is a bit like chess. The first moves you make are the most critical. Picking the right classes at the right times for where you are academically can make a huge difference as you move through school. For every one credit hour enrolled in school, you should expect to spend approximately two to three hours outside of class studying. For example, a 3-credit hour class (one college course) will equal 3 hours of class time per week plus 6-9 hours of study time per week.5

Be realistic about the existing obligations on your time. If you overextend, there’s a good chance few areas of your life will be getting the attention they need, including school. For example, if you are aware certain times of year are busy at work or home, that semester may not be the time to sign up for your most time-intensive and challenging classes. Choosing the right classes at the right time can make the difference between successful academic progress or not. In terms of scheduling, online college courses stand out by offering a high degree of flexibility to the non-traditional student. With online classes, whenever you go online is the right time.

Finally, when scheduling your semester course load, consider a variety of class types. Some college courses, like literature and other English classes, will require lots of reading and writing papers. You may want to vary those kinds of classes with math and science courses that require problem sets or lab work. A mix of class types can help prevent you from having to read an unmanageable number of books or write an untenable overload of research papers in one week.

Register in a Timely Manner:

When it comes to a traditional college environment, class availability can be limited. If you are late registering, there’s a good chance the most popular classes and/or the best class times are no longer available. Be sure to give yourself the best opportunity to take the classes you need when you need to take them -- and that means registering on time or early. For some, this often means taking classes online where scheduling and availability are rarely an issue. In fact, at least 31% of higher education students now take at least one college course online.6

You, the College Student

When it comes to your first semester of college, it will take time to adjust to your new role as a student. At this point in your college career, time management, while always important, will take on a critical role. Be realistic and realize there are only 24 hours in a day. Take the time to build the academic foundation you need for more advanced courses to come. The more flexibility you have, the better. Schedule your classes and your life wisely.

5 University of Michigan-Flint, Surviving College, 2011

6 The Sloan Consortium, Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011, p.1