Strategy for Graduating College in Four Years or Less
Before you read the whole article, I just want to put a disclaimer that I wrote this blog as my own personal testimony, sharing the tricks I used to accomplish my goals. People have different stories and issues they deal with in life. I cannot claim that what I did to graduate college in 3 ½ years will help everyone. However, if it helps even one person with his or her college strategy, I would have done my part.
I am graduating from Southern Adventist University with a Bachelor of Science in public relations and minors in marketing and religion. All in just three and a half years. My friends would shake their heads at me and ask “How?!” More than a handful would almost immediately roll their eyes and say, “Oh, it’s cause you’re Asian.” I laugh along and let it go.
The truth is my ethnic background have nothing to do with my early graduation. I am where I am right now simply because of God and strategic planning.
But first a little background context. I was never one of those people who knew what she wanted to do in life exactly. I didn’t play an instrument or sing, I can’t draw or paint, and I hate seeing blood and guts… In other words, I didn’t have a particularly pronounced talent or gift. Yeah, I got good grades, but I wasn’t in any way exemplary. However, I had one clear goal in mind, and that is to graduate from college. And that became my focus.
High school graduation came and went, and I headed to Southern with no idea what major I am interested in, much less declare. My first strategic plan was to let go and let God. I realized that the whole reason why I am in college in the first place was to learn better how to serve Him. Why should I stress when it is off my hands?
The second check mark on my plans was that instead of letting people pressure me into choosing a major in high school that they think would be good for me, I gave myself one semester to just take general ed courses. I reasoned that since I would have to take these classes no matter what my major is, I might as well finish them early on.
Because hindsight is 20/20, I realize that one of the top reasons why people don’t graduate in the traditional four years is because they switch majors and that the courses they take for one major are not required for the other major, so they have to take more classes. I am aware that people and their passions change. Switching majors in college is okay! However, giving yourself time to breathe and be truly sure what degree works for you is imperative.
The third thing I made sure to do is once I declared a major (that God directed me towards and that I love), I did not give myself space turn around when the going gets tough. College is not easy any way you go through it. Sadly, I have known people who switch their majors three times over because of one or two classes they did not like. Cliché as it seems, perseverance pays off. What are your priorities? What are you willing to sacrifice to pass a class?
This fourth item on my strategic plan goes hand-in-hand with my fourth: I made sure I got passing grades in all my classes. There’s a joke among college students that go “C's get degrees!” Although the higher the grade the better, just aim for not failing a class. Having to repeat the same course another time can add a whole semester to your time in college. Be mindful of your grades and schedule.
Items four and five on my list are closely related, and that is I made sacrifices. Time is something I have a love and hate relationship with. There just seems not to be that much time for everything I want to do in college, so I have to prioritize. There were days I wanted to go to the jump park with my friends, but I have to practice self-control and study for a big test.
The sixth thing I did was take summer classes. Growing up, students are so used to the concept that summer equals freedom from school that even the thought of summer classes is repulsive. However, taking a course or two is usually not as stressful because I can focus all my mental capabilities on it, therefore getting a good grade, which in turn raises my GPA and saves me time. You can still work and earn money, but taking an online gen ed class from Southern or your local community college will help you in the long term.
Last but not least, I paid close attention to my degree audit (now student planning) and visited my academic adviser often. Triple checking that I am taking classes that I have to take and that they are offered in the semester I wanted pays off. There was one class I took without checking my first semester and discovered I didn’t need it halfway through. The regret was real! However, I learned my lesson, and from then on, I was not above asking for professional help in scheduling my upcoming semesters.
I also was intentional in taking classes that “kill two birds with one stone.” For example, I took Principles of Marketing, which was an elective for my public relations major but also contributed to my marketing minor. (Random tip, you can easily get a religion minor, as Southern already requires 12 credits for religion gen ed and all you have to do is add two more classes!) Calculate what majors/minors combo you can do here at Southern, and make yourself more marketable to the working world.
Southern is a school that truly opens opportunities for its students. Sometimes all it takes is for you to be purposeful in what you want and where you’re going. But above yourself or the school is a loving and all-knowing Father. Go to Him with your college decisions or indecisiveness. Let Him show you the grand plans He had set for you even before you were born!
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