Graduating on Time: It’s All About Planning

I had a harsh realization this fall when I was getting ready for my first class: I am a graduating senior. I have nine more months of my undergraduate career, and then I’m out in the real world. And after 19+ years of school, that’s a pretty scary thought (but also very, very exciting). But there’s no way I would be able to walk in a cap and gown in June 2013 if I didn’t make a plan for myself as a freshman, and follow all the steps to ensure I would get out of college on time (as much as I wish I could stay forever). So here it is: your guide to graduating on time!

Freshman Year

  • Check your major requirements: One of the first things you should do when you decide your major (or are even leaning heavily towards one) is to check your major requirements. What general education classes do you need to take? They may differ from major to major, and knowing this in advance will help prevent you from taking classes that won’t count towards your degree. Check out your major classes, too. Look at the general progression of courses to have a general idea of what you’re in for. Having this info in the back of your mind will help you all four years.
  • Plan out your schedules in advance: After you establish what classes you’ll need for your major, get in the habit of planning your schedules for each quarter/semester in advance. Look at the succession of classes and what prerequisites are needed for each one, and plan accordingly. Save this on your computer so you can edit when you need to, as well as track your progress.

Other helpful hints:

  • Focus on school and don’t fall behind in classes
  • Know how many units you need to graduate
  • Know what classes you need to take, and in what order

Sophomore Year

  • Check graduation requirements: Every school has different requirements of their students before graduation, and its important to know what those are a couple years in advance so you have ample time to complete them. For example, you may need to take a writing proficiency exam. Figuring this out in your second year will allow you to research deadlines for the test, enroll in test prep workshops and give you time to take the test again if you don’t do so well the first time (but I’m sure you will!). You won’t be as pressured or stressed in your last two years of college if you take the time as a sophomore to work out these logistics!

Other helpful hints:

  • Focus on school and don’t fall behind in classes
  • Perform a self-check to make sure you’re staying on track
  • Meet with your academic advisor if you ever have questions

Junior Year

  • Check your graduation status now: In your third year, you’re going to want to start closely checking how many more units you need to take before graduation, and what specific classes are left in your major or general education. Graduation still seems so far away as a junior, but it will sneak up on you! Go back to your schedule that you made as a first year – have you followed it completely, or made adjustments where they are needed? Now is the time to really check yourself before it’s too late.

Other helpful hints:

  • Focus on school and don’t fall behind in classes (notice a pattern?)
  • Meet with your academic advisor to make sure that everything is counted for in your formal student reports.

Senior Year

  • Fill out any paperwork early: You are finally a senior in college! You’re starting to understand why people wish they could go back – it was really the fastest four years of your life. But now is NOT the time to speed off course, because you will crash and burn. Check and re-check that all the necessary paperwork is turned in and processed as soon as it’s due. With so many students, the evaluations office could make a few mistakes – don’t let yourself be one! Meet with your academic advisor (there may even be two- a department one, and a general major one) to see what still needs to be done. It may sound excessive, but taking these precautions will save you any trouble when you’re starting to feeling the senioritis towards the end of the year.

Other helpful hints:

  • Focus on school and don’t fall behind in classes
  • Stay on top of graduation deadlines
  • Meet with graduation evaluation office to make sure everything is accounted for
  • Make sure you are still following your planned schedule
  • Enjoy your last few months in college!

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Kimberly Taylor

Kimberly Taylor

Kimberly Taylor is a senior at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo pursuing a degree in journalism with a concentration in public relations. At school, she enjoys her job working for the university's Academic Skills Center, taking part in social and charity events with her sorority, or just reading a book in the sunshine. Outside of school, she enjoys travel, learning to cook, catching up on her favorite TV shows and exploring her coastal college town.