Graduating on time is harder than you’d think. Four to five years is no longer an assumed window. Some people take six or seven. The biggest problem is that those years cost you money, money you probably don’t have.
Here are five mistakes to avoid if you want to graduate on time.
1. Taking too few units/credits
When you head into your first semester you might be concerned about overwhelming yourself. It’s a new environment. You want to make friends. What if the classes are hard? There are a thousand excuses that will justify your desire to take the minimum amount of units. My advice? Don’t fall into the trap! Taking too few units in your first semester creates a habit that’s hard to break. The people I knew who were consistently taking 18 units started their college career at 18 units. This forced them to find a good work-life balance early on. It’s harder to add units to your schedule when you’ve grown accustomed to sleeping until ten and binge watching Netflix. Do yourself a favor and start with 15-18 units. When you’re able to take less your senior year, you’ll be grateful.
2. Overworking yourself
Having a job in college is important, and oftentimes a necessity. Then there are the clubs you want to join, the internship that’ll help you post-grad. Pretty soon your calendar is filled out with no space for study time. This is not good! Remember why you’re at school. Dedicate the four years to getting a degree, making that your number one priority. Scale back. Everything will have a season, and you might not get to be the president of the knitting club AND have the super awesome internship. It’s good to learn to say no, and find what you can and can’t handle. Some people thrive with a full plate, others don’t. College is a great time for self-discovery. Just try and self discover before you’re an eighth year senior.
3. Starting with courses for your major
You may be SO excited about fashion merchandise, excited enough to take all of the courses for it right out the gate. This is a huge temptation. If you’ve got a mind for business you might not be interested in taking the required Art Appreciation course. At the same time, the artist might detest the Human Biology requirement. Don’t save the worst for last. It’s like eating a slice of cake. Some people save the best part for last. Be one of those people. Pace the major courses throughout and save some good ones for the final semesters. Having some frosting leftover is good incentive to keep going.
4. Changing your major
Speaking of major courses, there’s a reason they tell you to start with the general education courses. If you sign up for every business class they’ve got, you might discover you hate business two or three semesters in, and then those are wasted units. If you start with general courses and requirements, you might discover your true passion lies in Shakespeare. Who knew? Some people change their major two or three times. Don’t be one of those people. You’re allowed to change your mind, but try and schedule your college career with room for that. How much it affects your graduation is totally up to you.
5. Ignoring the fine print
Schools have specific requirements for graduation. There’s a whole petition you have to complete, with details you may or may not have heard of. Don’t assume you are going to graduate having not looked at the petition. There’s also a minimum unit amount. I met all of the required courses, had highlighted each course listed on my sheet, but completely ignored the 13 units of electives I needed to take to meet the unit requirement. The best way to avoid this? Meet with an advisor every semester. There will be an “advising week” and you should use it. They’re there to help you, and they should know what classes you should take—and when. The best way to graduate on time is staying one step ahead.