It is widely assumed that the college experience is only a four-year one. Many students embark on this journey believing four years is all they’ll have, as if college will automatically end once that proclaimed time period has passed. However, college doesn’t necessarily wrap up in four years so easily. In fact, the amount of time you spend there is very much in your control. Unlike in high school when teachers and various meetings helped you map out your schedule every semester along the way, no one will be closely overseeing that aspect of your college classes. If you don’t keep track of what subjects and how many hours you need to take in order to graduate on time – or graduate at all – you may not be finding this installment of higher education to be completed so easily in just four years.
From the very beginning, you are the one who needs to be aware of what classes you have been, are, and will be taking. Yes, you will have an advisor assigned to you by your major who will be able to help you scope these things out, but even then, you must set up your own meetings with them at the right times. Especially if you end up attending a larger school, it will take a lot more effort to schedule some time between you and your advisor to make sure you degree requirements are correctly on track. If you are planning on going to grad school you may want to check out some of the best classes for grad school admissions.
This is clearly an important process to be aware of if you want to be sure to successfully graduate in general, but it is absolutely crucial that you are on top of these things if you want to guarantee yourself a timely graduation ceremony with the rest of your class. There are several things to keep track of and you need to have a personally helpful system in place in order to keep this information organized. It isn’t the most fun thing to do and it may not feel necessary right away, but you’ll be thankful that you did it once senior year rolls around and the degree application process isn’t giving you red flags of rejection.
It may seem overwhelming, but there are just a few areas you really need to make sure you look at:
General Education Requirements: Your freshman orientation will probably encourage you to sign up for most of these anyway, but it is a good idea to check out exactly what you need to take in this section of classes. Among the selection of English, math, and science related courses, there will be a specific amount of general education courses that you must complete. Don’t just assume you only need one of each and then think you’ve gotten them out of the way. There are sub-categories in each of these subjects that you must pay attention to. For instance, you may need to take a certain number of science labs in addition to lectures, or fictional literature classes in addition to non-fiction ones. Throw in the endless variety of mathematics and you are facing quite the handful of possible Gen Ed’s. A very useful tip in this area is to get as much of these taken care of as early as possible. Although they may not be the exciting courses you wanted to start your college experience with, you’ll be a lot more content sitting in these classes as a freshman than as the only upper-classman in the bunch later on.
Requirements for Your Major: Needless to say, every major is different and therefore demands vastly different selections of classes for you to take. If you are an Engineering major, you should not converse about registration decisions with your Psychology major roommate. This is particularly where advisors come in handy because they are informed most specifically on your field of study. There are going to be a certain amount of hours you need to take of classes related to your major, and a specific list of the types of classes related to your major. Make sure you understand which specific subjects you need to take, how many hours of each of them, and how many hours overall. Additionally, you may be required to take a certain amount of classes/hours in the particular school you belong to (i.e. School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Business, etc.) that are specifically not related to your major. Universities like you to be well-rounded even within your major, so be prepared to continue looking at the wide span of things even under this umbrella. If you are still unsure about your major you may want to check out this information on college majors.
Semester Hours: This is the big one. Graduation requirements will typically state that you need to have X amount of hours total to graduate – but it never stays that simple. There will be semester hour requirements within those total hours. For instance, no more than X amount of hours can come from your major, or at least X amount of hours must come from general education classes, etc.. If you’ve paid attention to the aforementioned course requirements, these hours should ideally fall into place relatively easily. However, it is still very important to keep track of, since one small mistake with your hours could throw off everything and cancel out many hours of hard work.
Bottom line: these requirements are tricky, and these requirements are final. Make a list or chart early on to map out these demands perfectly so you don’t get lost as time flies by. If you get this process started before it begins, you will be far more likely to stay on top of it throughout the entire duration of your college experience. Whereas if you try to catch up on it in the middle of your junior year, there will be much more of a challenge to get your schedule straightened out and ensure you are set to graduate on time. Get this information put together immediately and you will have a great item of guidance every semester when it comes time to register for classes. You may also want to check out this information on how to network as a recent college graduate!