Forming a College Completion Plan
You made it to college. Congratulations! You have a huge and exciting journey in front of you as you form lifelong bonds, continue to learn and set yourself up for success in the career you could pursue the rest of your life. With so many new and difficult challenges, however, it’s not as easy as it might seem to succeed in college. In this section, we’ll go over some general steps for success as you take your academic career into college.
A College Completion Plan is a road map of each year you plan to be in college. Working with your college advisor to create a plan will help you make sure that you complete your college on time while taking all of the courses and electives you need to earn the degree you want. Taking 12 credits is enough to be considered a full time student; however, if you want to graduate in four years (for a bachelor’s degree) or 2 years (for an associate degree), you need to plan on taking at least 15 credits each semester (30 credits each year). Click here to learn more about graduating on time.
Where do I start?
If you’re at a public Indiana college, you should receive a degree map that shows all the courses you’ll need to take to finish your degree.
If you’re at a private college, ask your advisor for a list. Be sure to find out when each course is offered, too.
Graduating on Time
Aside from completing your college plan, there are other ways to make sure you graduate on time or potentially early.
15 To Finish
If you are a full-time college student, you should prepare yourself to take at least 15 credits each fall and spring semester. Otherwise, you may not be able to earn all the credits you’ll need to graduate on time. Additional semesters could cost you thousands of dollars, even if you’re only taking one class.
Earning credits in the summer could help you earn your degree in fewer semesters, and it’s also a great way to catch up if you’re not able to take 15 credits in each of your spring and fall semesters. Some colleges even discount their tuition rates during the summer semester, so it could be a good idea cost-wise. See which courses your college offers, or enroll at a community college or regional campus to save money on tuition. Just be sure to check with your college advisor to make sure any courses you take at another college will transfer back to your permanent institution.
Community College Classes
If you are planning on a four-year degree, you may be able to start your college education at a two-year community college. Community college courses are cheaper and many general education courses transfer directly to Indiana’s four-year institutions. Learn more about how courses transfer among Indiana’s colleges here.
Commit to a Major
You’ll spend the most time studying and working with your major. If you don’t know what your major will be when you start college, that’s okay! Having a general idea of what field you’re interested in will help you choose a college that offers degree programs that fit your goals. Your college should have a career services office that can help you figure out what might fit best with your interests, so it’s worth a visit. If you want more help finding out what you might like to do as a career, take our personality test here.
For most degree programs, your first one to two years in college will be spent taking general education courses. Even if you don’t know your specific major, you can enroll in college on time and work with your advisor to make sure you’re signed up for the right courses.
Once you’ve decided on a major, you can make sure it’s right for you. Talk to professors and professionals in your field to make sure you’ll like the job after you graduate. An internship is a great way to experience firsthand what working in a specific field will be like. Get help finding a career that fits you, here.
Maintaining Academic Standing & Time Management
The Best Ways to Keep Grades Up
You might be working a job, participating in extracurriculars and enjoying a social life as well as attending classes in college, and all that can be tough to handle at times. See some quick tips and guidelines on how to make sure you keep your grades up and don’t get too distracted by everything else college has to offer.
College offers students a lot of flexibility they might not have had in high school, which can make it seem like skipping classes is okay. However, professors often cover information in lectures and discussions that you can’t find in the reading material, and this information may show up on exams. You’re paying to go to college; not attending classes is just wasted money.
Your professors are there to help you succeed in class and in college. Introduce yourself to them, and take advantage of their office hours if you have questions. Stay an active, engaged participant in class. Colleges offer tutors and other forms of extra help for you to use. Look into joining a study group or finding a partner from class to work with. It can be easy to shy away from help if you’re feeling overwhelmed or embarrassed, but people are understanding and genuinely want to see you succeed. You owe it to yourself.
Keep Up With Your Syllabi
Most professors will provide a class syllabus – an overview of what topics will be covered during the course and a list of assignments, exams and due dates, as well as class policies. Use the syllabus to help you plan ahead for studying, completing homework and preparing for exams. Be sure to complete reading assignments before class so you can participate in discussions and ask questions.
Managing Your Time in College
In college you’ll spend less time in class, and more time studying and preparing assignments on your own than you did in high school. It’s important to manage your time inside and outside of class so you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Meet with your advisor to develop a class schedule that will give you enough time to study properly.
- Explore first-year programs like summer-bridge programs, orientations, first-year seminars and mentoring programs.
- Make a schedule and commit to it to improve your grades with minimal stress.
- Join a club or student organization to meet new people and expand your study habits with a group.
- Use your school’s academic support services. Many colleges have free workshops, tutoring and supplemental instruction sessions available for out-of-class help.
Click here to download a sample college schedule.
Getting Involved on Campus & Creating a Support Network
The more involved you are in your campus community, the more meaningful and fun your college experience will be. Make the most of your time outside the classroom by building a community for yourself. You have an opportunity to create new circles of friends and feel a sense of belonging at your school. You’ll also get a chance to find new interests and boost your resume by joining clubs and developing interpersonal skills.
How do I get involved?
- Join a school club. College websites usually have pages for student activities and organizations, and many colleges also have extracurricular fairs for student groups to advertise to potential new members. Go to one and see what feels right for you.
- Look for volunteer opportunities. Community service activities are great experiences, and you could even get college credit in some cases.
- Participate in recreational sports. Many colleges have intramural team sports, fitness classes and more. Look for flyers on campus or information on the school’s website to find when these classes or clubs meet.
- Attend special events. Throughout the year, college campuses host theatrical performances, special speakers, symposiums, and more. Many of these events are free or discounted for students. Check your campus calendar for a schedule.
Download this worksheet to get more ideas for how to make the most of your college experience.
Where Can I Turn if I Need Help?
Everybody can use help from time to time finding their way through life. Plotting your path to college and career success is no different. Having an adult mentor is a great way to stay on track and help you overcome any obstacles along the way. Mentors can be anyone you look up to – a neighbor, an employer, relatives, religious leaders, coaches or teachers. Professors keep office hours, in case you end up struggling with some of your coursework.
If you find that you need additional support, the student services on campus will be able to offer help through providing additional resources or counseling support. Lastly, remember to stay in touch with your family and friends from home. Independence is good, but don’t cut yourself off completely.
Campus Offices and Departments
Admissions office: helps students apply for and enroll in the college.
Academic affairs: typically oversees all academic-related services, including academic advising.
Bursar’s office: in charge of billing and collecting fees for the college.
Financial aid office: responsible for determining students’ financial need and awarding financial aid.
Registrar’s office: in charge of registering students; managing records, such as schedules, transcripts and student information for current and past students; as well as providing educational support services, including assistance with dropping or adding classes.
Student affairs: typically oversees a wide range of programs and services to support students in their college experience, including student activities, student government, housing, counseling services and more.
Peers Who Can Offer Assistance
Teaching assistant (TA): an upper-level or graduate student who assists an instructor with a course; TAs often help teach the course, lead discussion sections and grade papers.
Resident advisor or assistant (RA): an upper-level, trained student leader who supervises a specific residence hall or section of a residence hall; RAs are trained to counsel students, answer questions and offer advice about college.
Mentor: an upper-level student, faculty or staff member who is experienced at navigating college and who can provide support, answer questions and offer advice to first-year college students.