How to Graduate Early! (Or at least on time)
Every once in a while, I will be sitting in class and over hear some of these phrases:
“I’m going to have to stay an extra semester!” – “I’m going to have to take summer classes just so I can graduate on time” – “I’ll have to take 20 hours just to graduate with my class.” Chances are if you’re already saying these phrases, it is too late for you. But if not, this article is going to help you prevent that problem all together.
The biggest issue is here is most people are completely unorganized and expect their advisor to do everything. UAB has amazing advisors that are here to make sure you’re on the right track, but they’re not here to be your mama. Planning out your college career has a lot to do with you and how well you organize your classes from year to year. Now, if you’re part of a special program, all of this may not exactly apply to you because you may have set classes you have to take certain years, but for everyone else, this should be pretty helpful.
I’m going to use my major and minor to help illustrate everything. (I’m graduating a year early by the way!!)
1. Choose your major(s)!
May seem obvious, but it’s honestly crucial to getting out early or on time. I understand a lot of people really don’t know what they are going to do with their lives but you really need to decide on some area around the 1st semester of your sophomore year. Start by making a list of all the things you enjoy and all the things your good at. Once you have that list, research everything you can about each thing listed and hopefully you’ll stumble upon a career that is right for you. (HINT: Use the student catalog to get an idea what majors UAB has to offer)
“I enjoy filming, television, and entertaining people…so broadcasting was right for me!”
2. Research your major!
Once you have your major, research your major. All you need to do is look up your major in the student catalog located on the school website. It will have everything you need to know about your major along with a list of every class you’ll need to take to graduate. You may even find out you won’t need a minor (but chances are you will.) If you do need a minor, now is the time to look for one. Apply the same technique you used to pick your major when finding your minor.
There are two types of minors you can pick. You can pick a fun one that you can enjoy or you can pick one that actually applies with your major. Either way, make sure you enjoy it since chances are, you’ll never actually use your minor. (HINT: foreign languages are a good pick because future employers love to have bilingual people on staff, plus, they are generally only require a few credit hours)
Here is the catalog info for my major:
Here is my minor’s info: (I choose film because it is a lot of fun and all the camera work will help me when I’m looking for a job.)
3. Meet with your advisor
Time to chat up your advisor! Shoot your advisor an email as soon as possible and set up a meeting to talk about your major. Let them know what major and minor you have chosen so that when you walk in for the meeting, they will be prepared to give you all the information you will ever need. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to prepare. Make sure you have an idea about what classes you need to take and start getting an idea of what classes you need to start taking as soon as possible.
4. Organize your college career on Excel (or whatever you like, just as long as it’s organized)
After the meeting, you should be pretty well informed enough to start your own excel document to organize all the classes you’ll need to take. Here is mine for example: (It’s not 100% complete because I haven’t added some of my electives yet)
There are 4 parts to organizing your “master plan”: (1) Core Classes (2) Major Classes (3) Minor Classes (4) Electives
Core Classes are all your history, science, math, etc. They are all pretty straight-forward, but they have to be done. Your advisor hopefully gave you a list of all the core classes at one point or another. All schools very so make sure you have a list from your school. Also, certain majors require certain core classes so be sure to keep an eye out for that.
Major and Minor classes are those lists you found in the catalog. Make sure you plan to take all prerequisites first so that you don’t screw yourself over later on.
Electives are everything else! (I changed majors twice so I have a few classes that are pretty much worthless now but at least they count for something!) Electives are going to make sure you have enough hours to graduate. (You need 120 hours just to graduate and all your required classes down to graduate.)
When making your “master plan” organize things by difficulty. Make sure you don’t have one semester doing nothing, and then the next doing non-stop work. Talk with students who have taken classes you need. They’ll be able to let you know what’s hard and easy. Also make sure you realize how many hours you want to take per semester. If you want to graduate early, chances are you’re going to have to have a lot of hours per semester. Just be smart about it.
You should be set now. You now have a basic idea for what you need to do to graduate. (You will have to adjust things as time goes on because of class conflicts or scheduling problems.)
5. Keep up to date
Keep an eye out on your progress! Are you taking enough hours? Is that class going to be offered every semester? Do I have a scheduling conflict? You’ll nearl always run into problem, but hopefully, now that you are organized and prepared, you can swap around classes to make the perfect schedule and graduate early or on time.
And always keep in touch with your advisor. They know everything and will always be there to help.
So there you go! Are you going to graduate early now? Are you at least going to graduate on time? At least now you know what you have to do to succeed. How this has been helpful and I hope you all have the best of luck with classes!
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