The Best-Kept Non-Secret to Graduating on Time
Every year around advising time, I like to give our student workers a secret quiz. It usually goes a little something like this:
STUDENT: Oh yeah, I need to register for classes soon.
ME: So how do you know which classes to register for?
STUDENT: I just look at what’s being offered next semester.
(I’m not originally from Texas, but I have lived here long enough to know that this is where I would clutch my chest and say “Bless your heart” because the student is putting effort into something and failing. But I’m not nearly that classy.)
ME: Er. Wrong.
STUDENT: What should I be doing?
ME: You need to look at your catalog first.
STUDENT: What’s the catalog?
(My breath becomes short and chest constrictions take over.)
If you would have answered this quiz the same as our student workers, keep reading. We have a lot of ground to cover.
The Catalog is Your Contract
Every year here at Angelo State, we release a new version of the academic catalog. Among other content, the catalog includes degree programs and course descriptions for each academic department.
You only need to concern yourself with the catalog from the year that you first enrolled at the university. That catalog is essentially our contract with you as a student. Degree programs change a little every year, but following the catalog from the year you enrolled ensures that you don’t have to meet any subsequent degree requirements that take effect after you enroll.
I recommend you go to your catalog, find your degree plan and print it out. Keep it for your own records. You’ll want to reference it every semester when it’s time to get advised and register for classes.
Do Some Prep Work
You probably get advised every semester, but your advisor shouldn’t be doing all the thinking for you. Use your advisor as your final proofer — you should already have your schedule figured out ahead of time.
Each semester, advisors are working with hundreds of students on different catalogs and different degree plans. It’s unreasonable that they would have your particular requirements memorized, so put some effort into your own schedule.
On that same note, don’t rely solely on a degree audit or a “what if” analysis (found in RamPort for ASU students) to tell you where you’re at in your degree plan. While these are excellent tools, computer errors can happen or you could accidentally select the wrong catalog year.
I recommend cross-checking your degree audit with that print-out that you made of your degree plan. You can cross off the courses that you finish each semester to get an up-to-date look at what you still need to take.
One of my favorite expressions is “Knowledge is power.” The more informed you are about your own degree plan, the better you’ll be able to ask your advisor questions.
For instance, if you took some advanced placement or CLEP exams to test out of some of your lower-level college courses, you want to make sure you aren’t enrolling in classes that you’ve already received credit for. If you neglect to ask about it and later find out you’ve taken a class to fill that requirement you’ve already met, your advisor can’t work any magic to apply that credit toward a different requirement. You’ll just have to chalk it up as a loss of time and money.
What About Graduating On Time?
A lot of factors come into play when you’re trying to reach a graduation goal. Obviously your grades and the amount of credit hours you take each semester are huge.
But following your degree plan is one of the most underrated ways you can stay on track to graduate.
No one likes to look back and realize they took classes that didn’t count toward their degree. The best way to get around that is to be an active participant in your degree plan.