How to Complete College

Barry Lenson

College: Don't Be a Non-Completer

How to complete collegeIf you want to do some motivational reading this summer, I’d recommend Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, a bestseller by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. It’s a book for business leaders, but its central idea is that getting things done is what separates leaders from everyone else.

That’s a pretty powerful lesson for success, and it applies to education as well as to business. After all, there are pretty well-defined finish lines that you have cross in most formal educational processes. You have to complete certain requirements to earn an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree. Only then will someone hand you a diploma. (Of course truly successful people don’t stop studying and learning after they graduate. They have a lifelong thirst for knowledge.)

Maybe because there are lots of requirements, it is awfully easy to fall into patterns of procrastination when working toward a degree. It happens to lots of students. How many people do you know, for example, who have only one or two courses to complete until they can graduate – but who have stalled about taking those courses for months or even years? How many people do you know who took a college course once, didn’t finish it (or failed to pass), and just can’t seem to try again?

Many of those people have already invested a lot of time and money in their studies, but they are full of excuses. They don’t have the time to go to college just now. They will take courses again after their young kids start school, after they lose 20 pounds, after they get out of a difficult relationship . . . you name it. Bossidy and Charan would probably say that they just can’t “execute” the process and get it done.

If you find yourself in that kind of holding pattern, here are some steps to take . . .

  • Start out small. You don’t have to sign up for three courses, come up with $4,000 to pay for them, move to another city, and buy a new computer before you can make a little progress. If you think you do, you are probably only putting obstacles in your own path. So start with a small step, like talking to a friend about going back to school. Or enroll in just one online course, to reactivate the process and start moving forward.  If you take just one small step that lies within your comfort zone, you can break the logjam and get moving ahead again.
  • If you have not completed previous courses or need to take them again, do so in a risk-free way. At StraighterLine, for example, you can take your time to complete any course you choose. You can repeat sections as you wish, confer with your course tutors, and do as much independent research as you need to master the material. That kind of flexible learning process is much more forgiving than what you will find in most classroom courses, where you need to adhere to rigid class schedules, submit your assignments at fixed times, and take final exams on a specific day.
  • Explore new interests and majors. If you’re stalling about completing the coursework for a program of study, there could be a deeper reason than simple procrastination. Perhaps you have chosen the wrong major or career and that’s what your lack of motivation is telling you. This could be the time to recharge, sample some courses in different areas of study, and take your education in a new direction.

So the bottom line is, don’t beat yourself up if you’re stalled about completing your education. Just take some small, comfortable steps that you can afford. Before you know it, your studies will be back on track.

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