Answer these three questions to yourself before reading this post:
How many credits are you taking this semester?
Do you wish you were taking more or less?
I was inspired to write this post after reading some articles on the "15 to Finish" initiative that many states are undertaking to ensure students graduate within four years. According to Complete College America President Stan Jones, “When students start with just 12 credit hours per semester, they are already on the five year plan.”
They are encouraging states to see full-time as 15 credits per semester.
I've also been inspired by programs like the CUNY ASAP program for community colleges in New York City, providing students with the resources needed to attend classes full-time, such as tuition waivers, free textbooks, and a free metro card.
Here is what I know about going to college full time:
1. It's a full time job.
College requires a lot of time (and money). And if you do the work ahead of time to figure out what you want out of college and your career and commit yourself to doing whatever it takes, then I think it's one of the best investments of time and money that you can make.
If you have the time, the money, and a plan, you should go to college full-time.
If you don't have any of those things but would like to get them, there's still hope. Ask for help!
Find out what opportunities your college offers when it comes to scholarships, jobs on campus, accelerated degree programs, career advisors, or anything else you think you'll need to plan out your college degree goals and your time. Don't just search the website, but start asking real people. Keep asking and asking.
Getting your degree done faster means you can be working a full time job with a potentially higher salary much faster.
However - that may not always be the right choice for everyone. I've known some incredible single moms, for example, for whom it took ten years for them to achieve their degree. But they did it with 4.0 GPAs and were able to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
Was it hard? They'll be the first to tell you "Oh yes!" Would they have preferred to do it faster? Definitely. But they did what they had to do at the time, and it's incredibly admirable.
How do you know what's best for you? Ask yourself this question:
Do you have the time to spend at least two hours outside of class studying for every one hour you're spending in class?
Don't just make time for attending classes. You must be able to make time for all the other things that accompany being a successful student.
If that means you can only take one or two classes per semester, then start there and continue to ask for help along the way and keep your eyes open for any opportunities that would allow you to accelerate your progress.
Sit down with an academic advisor at your college as soon as possible and talk about the pace you're thinking of doing college and ask for advice.
Fill out this time management chart and bring it to your advisor to talk through your plan. When do you want to graduate? How many classes do you need to take to make that possible? What adjustments can you make? Can you find a more flexible job? Is there a way you can find other means of financing your education so you can work less?
Doing college fast does have a lot of benefits, but doing college well is most important.
If going to college part time is what you require to do college well right now, then that is great. It's better to pace yourself and do really well then rush through and have your grades reflect your lack of time versus your true ability.
But I want to leave you with this: If you can find a way to go to college full time and give it your 110% focus, it is a wise investment. You owe it to yourself to at least look into what's possible. The creative options you can find may surprise you.
If you've decided you want a college degree, then do whatever it takes to make getting that degree a priority. Because, the truth: it requires nothing less.
As I say in the #SoCanU project: It's not that it's easy, it's that it's possible.