The Goal Too Far

Recently there was a post on the Athabasca University Facebook page questioning the graduation policies?specifically, when the course work needed to be completed in order to participate in the convocation ceremonies in June. (That would be the first week of May according to the AU website.) As a distance education student I am sure the logistics of attending convocation is something we have all considered. In traditional schools you participate with your fellow peers who you have gone to school with for the last, typically, four years. You are already on location so have no travel cost, or accommodation costs, and you walk through convocation shortly after completing your final exam and/or assignment.

Since adding a minor to my degree I have been re-working my personal study schedule (a wonderful procrastination tool.) I am trying to schedule my courses and time into something that will challenge me, and yet remain feasible. I am making a conscious effort to keep in mind that things can always change, that life happens, which can delay finishing a course, or a course load might not lend itself to the strict schedule. I have come up with what, I believe, is a sensible plan: two courses every two months. If I am able to stick to this plan that means I would be squeaking in under the line for graduation ceremonies in June 2016. Oh, except for the four extra courses that do not fit into that time frame that I figure I can just sneak in somewhere along the line. But, that is still do-able, right?

Having a goal is important. Having a realistic goal is possibly more important. After setting this deadline for myself I have gotten lots accomplished; I wonder, though, at what point am I sacrificing my quality of education for the completion of my education by trying to speed through a course and potentially not getting everything from it that I should be? I think something that can get lost in this process?and hopefully it is not just me?is what we all started this for. I did not begin this journey with the sole goal of being finished as soon as possible. Rather, I started because I wanted to learn. This idea of attending convocation, being able to celebrate an end to all of my hard work and the beginning of something new, motivates me to stay focused on my work. I just need to remind myself to not lose sight of what is most important in this process, and that is, of course, my quality of education.

Students always have the option of participating in convocation the following June if they do not make the deadline. If I completed my degree in October 2016 ? would convocation ceremonies have the same impact that many months later? On the same Facebook post I mentioned earlier there was a student who did just that; they commented that even though so much time had passed the excitement all came flooding back when they stepped out onto that stage. A bonus to completing months before-hand would be not worrying about missing the deadline by a day or two and having to wait a year, or rushing to cram in the last few units to try and finish on time; potentially sacrificing not only your sanity but also your GPA. I try to keep this in mind; that if I do not make my goal it does not mean I will not get to participate, so if I need to take some extra time on a course or assignment, or just cannot fit those four extra courses into my schedule, it is not the end of the world. It simply means I will wait a little longer, and possibly milk my last few courses for all they are worth. While it is great to have a goal?I am not so sure I am in a hurry to leave AU.

We need to have goals to work toward and setting deadlines for ourselves can present an extra dose of motivation. However, one great thing about our school is that it is flexible. I think it is important to remember this and remain diligent and flexible with our own self-imposed deadlines. We are all undertaking a great task, we need to learn to cut ourselves some slack now and then?at least I know I do.

Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature.