There are no quick ways to learn- so save yourself the disappointment of buying those infomercial DVDs on speed-reading and photographic memory skills. However, there may be ways to trim down the time it takes to earn a degree, just by avoiding common time wasters. The tips below include everyday, time management ideas and degree plan strategies that are worth exploring.
Lack of Confidence
Nothing slows students down quite like anxiety and self-doubt. As you work toward a degree, some assignments will seem impossible before you’ve even begun. And that’s exactly the problem. Some students are so afraid to write the wrong thing, they write nothing at all—until the night before their paper is due.
Here’s what you need to remember about college: As long as you are attending class and trying your best, it’s very difficult to fail an entire course. Instructors recognize what an honest effort looks like. Even if your worst fears are true, and you are less prepared than everyone else in your class, the semester gives you a chance to improve. Most teachers would rather work with students who admit they need practice and instruction than with those who come to class already expecting A’s. Do your best. Ask for help. Try again. There’s no shame in a hard-earned C minus.
You have a job, a family, a social life… and now a college goal. How much time do you spend transitioning from one role to the next? Many employees arrive at work and putter around for 15 or 20 minutes of “transition time” (coffee, office small talk, etc) before they even start getting down to business. Coming home to family is another transition. Some of us need to vegetate in front of the television for 20 minutes, or check our email/voicemail/fantasy football scores as soon as we walk in the door. By the time we sit down to do homework, we’ve used up precious hours on these leisurely transitions.
If you can, try to minimize the number of breaks or transitions that divide your day. True enough, quick breaks can reduce muscle and eye strain, while giving us time to eat meals, be sociable, and refocus. But 30 minutes of online Scrabble is hardly a necessary break—especially if it’s sandwiched between transitions you’re already making, like your drive home and your dinner with family. Instead, look for opportunities to merge your different roles—like ways you can use your current job knowledge in school projects, or ways to involve you kids in break time activities—so you don’t have to reorient your brain quite so often.
Already earned some college credit? Unless you learned the material 15 or 20 years ago (and are likely out of touch with current theories in—for example—teaching, healthcare, nursing, computers/IT), you probably don’t need to retake introductory courses. Basic algebra and American history haven’t changed very much, regardless of your graduation date. So some high school knowledge may overlap with intro college courses, too.
Avoid paying for these classes and spending time on material that you already know, by researching “credit for prior learning” options. Ask about your school’s transfer credit policies. Many colleges will let you “test out of” (or skip) certain course requirements if you earn a passing score on a one-time exam, like the CLEP.
The Two-Semester Schedule
Traditional college students (18 to 22-year-olds) are often enrolled in two semesters per year; they study during the fall and the spring, while enjoying month-long breaks during the winter and summer. Luckily, many colleges are recognizing that students want to earn credits faster. Some traditional schools now offer summer session classes and winter session classes. Online colleges and other schools that cater to working adults may offer a variety of semester schedules—including accelerated semesters and year-round course options.
If you’re hoping to shorten your college timeline, you may want to explore online colleges with year-round start dates or truncated semesters—some are less than 10 weeks in length vs. the traditional, 16-week semester.