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Getting through School

How to Get Through School Faster

Get the Details into the Big Picture: "The 6-Year Academic Plan" (see End of Document)

  1. Visit with your advisor before your first semester begins.
  2. Get a list of all courses required for your degree.
  3. Plan out a schedule of courses you will take over the duration of your program, using "The 6-Year Academic Plan" (it may not take 6 years, just use the years you actually need).
  4. During your first visit with your advisor, be sure to ask if certain courses are only offered once per year, or every other year. Write these in your 6-Year Academic Plan.
  5. Strongly consider taking summer term courses. Students can knock as many as 18 months off their time in the program by attending summers.
  6. If a thesis, dissertation, or senior project will be required, begin working on it your FIRST SEMESTER (write it into your 6-Year plan).

Write Your Prospectus/Thesis/Dissertation Early In your Program

  1. Find a faculty member to serve as the chair of your committee (ask the advisors and secretaries who they'd recommend, what the department politics are, and if they have any suggestions)
  2. Talk to a faculty member and together find a topic you are interested in and that your committee will support you in researching (don't get overly zealous about setting up some original research question. Let your chair guide you to a research issue that he or she knows will work and then ask your chair for recommendations for faculty who you can invite to become a part of your committee.
  3. Organize your committee with Chair and the other faculty.
  4. Get started on your prospectus (the first 3 chapters of your thesis= Ch1. Introduction; Ch2. Literature Review; and Ch3. Methodology).
  5. Give your best effort into building your prospectus. The department should provide guidelines so, follow them exactly. Consult frequently with your chair and other committee members. Find another completed thesis to see an example of how one actually looks when it's finished. Get started.
  6. Get your prospectus defended by the end of your first semester. This opens the door for you to begin the actual research and the pressure decreases dramatically once it's approved.
  7. When writing papers for other classes, try to write on topics related to your thesis.

Avoid the "Binge & Purge" pattern of mismanaged college effort.

As you already know persons suffering from Bulimia often engorge themselves to unhealthy levels of eating then follow up immediately with self-induced vomiting and laxatives to void out all the over-consumed food. It's a very unhealthy eating pattern. College students often binge and purge when it comes to procrastinating in their studies. Here's a typical scenario: Bill started his semester overwhelmed by all the assignments required by his professors. He experienced "first day of class shock." So, he procrastinated doing studies or homework because the pressure felt too intense and he also never fully recovered from last semester's feeling of burnout (that resulted from binge and purge practices). Look at the diagram below. Bill relaxed (20-30 MPH of effort) and took in some social scenes, played some video games, watched a few football games, and of course worked. By the time the 4-5th week came around, Bill realized that he was under immense pressure to take a few tests and turn in a field-work assignment. Because he'd procrastinated, this made Bill have to put forth enormous efforts to get good grades (70 MPH of effort). The next few weeks Bill had to recover (10-20 MPH). During weeks 7-8, Bill had mid-terms. He felt busy every waking moment and managed to catch up and perform at an acceptable level, again the effort required was enormous (80-100 MPH). Bill got sick from feeling burned out and repeated the binge and purge cycle throughout the semester until finals ended. He again found himself with a burnout hangover (just like the semester before). Although Bill earned good grades with each binge he went on, his finals proved to be overwhelming and he saw every grade fall in each class.

Use the "60 MPH Principle" Each Semester

The 60 Miles Per Hour Principle (60-MPH) is a metaphor for the amount of energy and resources you put into each college semester. Just as it takes effort to accelerate a car on the freeway, it likewise takes effort to get your time management, routines, and self-discipline accelerated. By choosing to use the 60-MPH Principle, you shift from a passive/defensive posture to a more proactive/offensive posture. You take control of college rather than it taking control of you. The 60-MPH Principle gives you a jump start in your semester utilizing the relatively slow and undemanding first few weeks of the semester to get you ahead of the workload. Almost every course you take starts with an introduction phase where the professor tells you what the course will be like, what the assignments will require, and what he or she expects from you. This phase could last anywhere from 3-6 class meetings before any real assignment is required of you. What most students do during this time is take it easy and settle in to all the changes that a new semester brings. Skip the settling in part and get to work following these 60-MPH Principle steps.

60-MPH Principle Steps:

  1. On the first day of class write down all assignments for each class with due dates on the Semester Assignment Form (most professors spell these out on their syllabi).
  2. Identify any assignments that you can start to work on immediately. Yes, even on the first or second day of the semester! Start that project, paper, survey, etc. and get as much work as you can get done during the slow, beginning phase of the semester-this will relieve the high pressure times such as mid-terms and finals.
  3. Once you have finished and turned in (some professors won't let you turn it in early so store it safely) the assignments you can finish early, begin working on bigger projects, studying for tests that may be given in the next few weeks, and/or writing your research paper.
  4. Write every paper you have to write during the semester on the same or highly related topic (in grad school this can be your thesis/dissertation topic).
  5. Choose now to use the 60 MPH Principle for a well-managed and self-disciplined college effort.
  6. Write all your assignment due dates in your school planner.

Bill took an ABSC seminar on getting through college efficiently and quickly. He employed the 60 MPH Principle and used his Semester Assignment Form. His first day of class he called his grandfather in Michigan and interviewed him for a paper that was due in one month (for a Gerontology Course assignment). The second day, he located two research articles about recreation in the mid 1900's then found an article on Google about how recreation changed for people over the last half century. He typed up his paper and saved it in the notebook he takes to his Gerontology class. Bill then worked on the next assignment that he could begin work on and started it. See the 60 MPH Principle diagram below. This approach centers your locus of control within yourself (you start on your time table rather than waiting for the onslaught of assignments to pile onto you). It diminishes your sense of vulnerability as you act proactively rather than defensively. It also alleviates the pressures common to mid-terms and finals by dispersing the load more evenly throughout the semester. By the end of this semester, Bill had worked hard, justifiably felt tired, and had managed his energies in such a way that he felt much less burnout after finals.

Top Ten Strategies for Getting Through College Efficiently

  • Every paper you write should be focused on the same topic in some way. Keep records of papers and supportive articles you've written. Once in graduate school continue writing about the same topic and focus your thesis/dissertation on the same topic.
  • Write the same paper for two different classes, tweaking it according to different professor's guidelines.
  • File all your syllabi and graded assignments in folders (and backed up on e-versions), so that you can get back to them to revise papers and resubmit for other courses. This is in part why you write on the same topic for all your papers. Filing your work is valuable because often your grad school courses will be very similar to your undergraduate courses. By the time you graduate, you'll have your own library of your academic works.
  • Every chance you get, study in groups. You remember more for tests (and later in your profession) if you've taught each other and learned together.
  • Be decisive about choosing you major/career paths early in your undergraduate studies. This will help you focus on the graduate program you may want and you can tailor your undergraduate coursework toward it. Many students take the "I'll wait until it comes to me" attitude until they are seniors, then they get focused. Follow the example of pre-nursing, pre-law, pre-engineering, and pre-med students who concentrate their energies in anticipation of their graduate school.
  • Become a planner/organizer person. Carry a week-at-a-glance planner and use it daily. Put school assignments (papers, projects, tests, etc., work hours, play, and other demands on your time) clearly into the planner, and stick closely to the Motto, "write it down now."
  • Locate favorite places on campus to study and frequent the same places when you study. Empty classrooms, quiet hallways, far corners of the library, and other places can be very powerful to your quality of studies. If you study in the same place at the same time everyday, you condition your brain to learn in that place and time. Also, you sometimes have to hide from friends and family to get real studying done. Turn the cell phone off, hide, and study. Remember that college is like a job and many students find that it becomes stressful to carry their job into their home. Go home after you've finished your studies.
  • Find an exceptional student in your major that tends to out-perform other students and model their behavior. Interview them about what they do that works for them.
  • Take highly related courses at the same time so that you get reinforcement on the same topic and can learn common materials for both (IE: counseling and personality theory; applied parenting and adolescent development). Also disperse the easier classes to lighten the semester load when a tougher class is on your schedule (IE: DSM, Research Methods, and Stats should be combined with GE courses-upper division combined with lower division).
  • Use the 60 MPH principle, Semester Assignment Form, 6-Year Academic Plan, while avoiding "Binge & Purge"

How to find scholarship information and How to get one?

  • www.fastWeb.com
  • www.Finaid.org
  • www.petersons.com
  • There's a list of books on getting scholarships at www.finaid.org/questions/reference.phtml#books

How to get one:

Look at the subject criteria: stated requirements, service to others, academic achievement, extracurricular activities, leadership, traits specific to that organization, goals and values of organization

Look at your own personal qualities: hard working, overcomes obstacles, works on team, perseveres, individual initiative, passion and enthusiasm, responsible, civic minded to do your duty, have purpose and character

When applying, develop 3 or 4 themes in your scholarship application: (service, creative talent, survival, academics, community action, entrepreneurship, leadership, science, athletics, and ethnic identity are a few)

Then add breadth & depth to your application:

Breadth: select at least 3 ways you used the theme (IE: for service theme you volunteered for 3 things in the community)

Depth: Wow them with specifics (when I volunteered for Sub for Santa, I supervised 26 students and we raised $1,200.00 dollars)

How to make it easy for a professor or supervisor to write you a letter of recommendation

  • Fill It Out and Give it or e-mail it To Those Who Write A Letter of Recommendation for You
  • Who are you?
  • Remind professor when you took a class, assisted with teaching, & participated in service project/club.
  • What are you trying to accomplish by having the letter written? (IE: get into grad school program)
  • What do you want to do for a career? (in other words, grad school is a step along the path to your becoming...)
  • What are the criteria set up in the application information? (IE: minimum GPA, description of "ideal student", and other required criteria).
  • What was your overall and last 2 year's GPA?
  • Which studies have you participated in and in which capacity?
  • What specific types of research have you performed (IE: Surveys, participant observations, clinical studies, etc.)
  • Where and when did you volunteer?
  • Where and when did you show leadership?
  • State that you respect diversity, maintain professional boundaries and confidences, have a proven work ethic and record of starting and finishing things.
  • When will you graduate and with which emphasis? What other degrees and when received?
  • What extracurricular activities did you experience? (IE: club, teams, etc.)
  • What is your work history?
  • What Student memberships do you hold in national associations? (IE: APA, ASA, AAA, AACS, NASW, etc.)
  • What clinical work experience do you have?
  • What languages do you speak, software can you use, and certifications do you hold?
  • What major obstacle did you have to overcome in order to succeed in life/university?

Supporting Documents

Semester Assignment Form
How to be a Better Student
Academic Plan
How to Get into Graduate School
How to Calculate you GPA