The Study Dude—How to Finish Your Degree

Dawdling with your AU degree?  You’re not alone.  So, how can you gain momentum to finish your degree?   Faithann Brown, author of Returning to School as a Busy Adult: 8 Practical Tips for Succeeding in Your Degree Program, reveals tricks to successfully speed up your path to convocation.

Don’t stop taking classes.  Author Faithann Brown reveals the secret to getting your degree: “Any nontraditional student who is serious about completing a degree, especially their first associate’s or bachelor’s, can dramatically improve their chances of graduating by following one piece of advice: keep taking classes” (71%).  Simple, isn’t it?  You can technically achieve a degree by taking two classes a year, but it would take you 20 years.

So, gain momentum.  You don’t just need to keep taking classes, but also gain momentum.  Faithann says that “Research of national student data has shown that academic momentum in the first year of enrollment is a powerful indicator of whether or not a student will complete his/her degree” (74%).  But what defines academic momentum?  Well, “the most important factors are these: accumulation of at least 20 credits during the first year of enrollment, earning more than four credits during the summer semester, earning grades that place you in the top 40% of your cohort during your first year of enrollment” (74%).

Gain momentum to avoid derailment.  Be warned: “The longer your degree program, the more likely you are to face at least one major life challenge while you’re attempting to complete that program” (71%).   After all, “you don’t want to spend the rest of your life deferring family and social events, putting off starting a family, or postponing vacations because you’re still getting your degree” (74%).   So, if you plan on starting a family, then try finishing your degree before giving birth.

But gain momentum the smart way.  Faithann lays out a strategy for momentum: “If you’re a new graduate or undergraduate student studying part-time and working full-time, begin your first semester with six credits [2 courses] just to get your feet wet.  As long as you’ve passed those courses with a B or better, add another three credits [1 course] and continue taking nine credits [3 courses] each semester until you need to reduce your course-load for a life emergency.  If you’ve gotten less than a 3.0 GPA your first semester, remain at six credits [2 courses] until your GPA reaches 3.0 and then add the third course” (74%). In my first year, I started with one course and then took two courses.  After that first year, I took three courses each semester until I graduated.  My lowest grades were two B+’s.   I won the silver medallion and went into grad studies.  To say this differently, you don’t need a five-course load to succeed academically.   But if you can manage a five-course load with a high GPA, more power to you.

Cut back on classes whenever slammed with less than a B-minus.  Heed the advice from author Faithann Brown:  “Take as many credits as you can reasonably take and still make A’s and B’s in most of your courses and maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average” (74%).  If you’re struggling to make a B, it’s not because of lack of smarts.  I guarantee this.  The struggle is likely because of time management issues, ineffective study habits, too many classes or responsibilities, or a need for more background.   Try cutting back your responsibilities or classes, so you can ace the grade.

Avoid anything less than an A-minus in grad school.    During my first semester in full-time grad school, I scored a B and a B+ in two of my classes.  In other words, I barely passed.  You see, in grad school, a B-minus is a fail.  The next semester I scored all A’s and A-minuses.  But, due to my first semester, I didn’t make the 3.80 GPA needed for entry into a PhD program.

In grad school, if you score less than an A-minus, cut back on classes or on responsibilities.  “It’s okay to begin a graduate program slowly to get your feet wet, but after the first semester of testing the waters, consider adding an extra course just to get accustomed to working at a more demanding pace” 976%).

Keep going even if you don’t gain momentum.  If you don’t meet the definitions of academic momentum, don’t worry.  In my first year as an undergrad, I didn’t acquire 20 credits, but I wound up with a graduate degree.  I didn’t have work or family commitments either, which you might face.  If academic momentum seems too tough to achieve, then stick with the first rule: keep taking classes.  When you feel ready, trim back your responsibilities and add one more class.  Gradually gain momentum to finish that degree.

Brown, Faithann.  (2018).  Returning to School as a Busy Adult: 8 Practical Tips for Succeeding in Your Degree Program.  United States.  Beta Draft.  Ebook.
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