Forming an Academic Plan

        Academic and vocational success depend on planning.  If you do not know where you want to go, it is hard to get there--or anywhere.  Thus, the purpose of academic planning is to enable you to succeed.

    Planning exists on different levels:  how do you spend your day, your week, your semester, your life?  Please consider the following:

Get organized for each class. Know what the reading assignments are, what kinds of tests the instructor will give, when they will occur, and what type of term project is required.

Set long-term goals for what you want out of class. After you know what you want out of the class (in terms of learning and grades), then you need to decide what you need to put into the class. Keep in mind that grades donít grow on trees. If you expect an A, you will need to work much harder than if you expect a C. To earn an average grade, you should study at least two hours of each hour you spend in class. So if you have 15 credit hours, you should spend 30 hours per week studying for a total of 45 hours of schoolwork.

Set short-term goals to accomplish long-term goals.

Plan the major events that are coming in the semester. You might want to get a calendar and list the major events so that you will be sure to plan your work around them. You will want to list things such as concerts, your birthday, exams, paper due dates, club weekends, and other events you want to attend. Donít forget to change your calendar when dates change.

Be realistic in planning how long it will take to read a chapter in a book. Schedule breaks for yourself during study periods. However, be sure the breaks donít run longer than the study periods. Plan your favorite activities for after you have completed harder tasks. Otherwise if you do them first, you might be tempted to continue them instead of returning to your studies.

Plan your major tasks for your most productive time and your most productive environment. If youíre a "night person," then plan your hardest activities for that period and in the location where you work best. If you work best in the early afternoon in a quiet plan, then plan to do your most demanding task in that time and place. After identifying your most productive time and place, try to stick with them.

Notice what kinds of things distract you. For some people, it is classical music. For others, soap operas; for others, rock music; and for most, a knock at the door. Try to eliminate distractions in your study environment. If you usually cannot study while watching a TV movie, donít try. Be honest with yourself and do one or the other. Choices are necessary and there should be time for both if you are setting your goals effectively.

Set deadlines for things you need to have done. These deadlines help overcome procrastination. To many, a very human characteristic is to want to put things off. If you are going to meet your short-term and long-term goals, you should set deadlines. Meeting these deadlines will enable you to accomplish both your academic and fun goals.

Mix the subjects you study in any one-study period. Study psychology for a while and then move on to literature and then to philosophy. If you study any one thing too long, you will probably find it boring. Try to study topics that require memorizing and recall before you take a nap or go to bed at night. You will learn the material better.

Look for "hidden" study time. We waste a great deal of time each day that we could spend studying. Carry a text to read while waiting for the bus, riding downtown, waiting in the health center, or doing your laundry. Study between classes.

Schedule time for yourself. Donít overextend yourself so that you have so many classes, club meetings, school activities, and job commitments that there is not time to reflect, relax, and think. Different people do these things in different ways. Some people meditate, others pray, others prefer to be alone to just let their mind wander. Make time for these activities.

The Bigger Picture.   Beyond this sort of operational planning, you should also look at the bigger picture.  What sort of life do I want to live?  What career fits that lifestyle?  What major leads to that career.  Are my goals in line with my interests and abilities?