It’s pretty exciting to think about and plan for the next big part of your life—the college experience. The freedom, class flexibility, new surroundings, and new people. Sounds good, right?
But when things get real after settling in, there’s just one thing standing between you and all the good times ahead—a workable class schedule. Trying to get the right balance of required courses with courses of interest, plus a social life, hobbies or sports, time to relax, and grab some zzz’s might not be as easy as you thought. Use these tips to find balance and craft the perfect plan.
What is strategic planning?
You’ve probably heard that most start-ups fail within the first year because they didn’t have a strategic plan. You may also have heard that most successful businesses have a strategic plan that they follow, revise, and follow some more.
So, what exactly is strategic planning and why is it important for you?
Strategic planning sounds kind of big and intimidating, but really, it’s just an important tool to help you stay on track. It’s basically a map of what you want to achieve with a timeline and a plan on how you’re going to make that happen. It’s a way to focus attention and manage progress on measurable goals, action steps, and feedback/progress on how well it’s all working.
Another great thing about strategic planning—it’s not set in stone. If something isn’t working, you can tweak, adjust, or completely dump anything that’s not working out. A strategic plan is designed by you for you. You can pull your class schedule together, making sure you’re ticking all the boxes, but still find that it isn’t working. The best way to find out if your strategic plan works is just by jumping in the deep end. Don’t get too hung up on getting it perfectly right the first time. Sometimes when things look good on paper, they don’t really work out in real life. You won’t know that until you work your plan.
How will strategic planning help plan your class schedule?
When you nail strategic planning, you should have enough time to attend your classes, finish homework on time, study, and have time left over for your part-time job, socializing, or just chilling.
When there’s an imbalance in your class schedule, everything else suffers. You’ll find yourself running out of time for everything and not enjoying anything. Following a strategic plan gives you a guideline, an idea of how much time you spend on school, work, recreation, and social activities. When you know what you’re dealing with, you can manage it more realistically and better budget your time.
Mental health saver
Strategic planning can prevent a lot of stress and the need for mental health days. When things are written down, it’s easier to just stick with the plan.
If you tend to wing it or think you can whip something together in a couple of hours, you’ll freak out when you realize a major assignment is due the next day, and you’re missing the latest class notes. Feeling overwhelmed can settle in pretty quickly, followed by stress, and ultimately a meltdown. Don’t have a meltdown.
Before things get totally out of your control, focus more on what you can do versus how stressed out you are. Check out some of the action steps you can take to fix your schedule and get things back in balance. You’ll probably need to make adjustments to your schedule. Maybe a lot of adjustments.
Find out that you need more study time or need to find a tutor for help? Change your strategic plan. Discover that you really want more time for social activities? Look for extra time or re-prioritize things in your strategic plan. Not to sound like a mom here, but include time for sleep in your strategic plan. Lack of sleep affects both your physical and mental health. Lack of sleep makes you irritable, unable to focus, and makes you tend to overreact, especially times of high stress like exams.
How to create a strategic plan for your class schedule
Studies have shown that putting your goals in writing makes them easier to achieve. A written (or electronic version) of your strategic plan is your lifeline.
If you take the time to break your class schedule down from big milestones, assignments, and goals into smaller, more manageable steps, you’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time and headaches. By following your plan, you’ll know what you need to do and when you need to do it. A great place to start is by using the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting outline. With each class, ask yourself what outcome you’d like to achieve and use a S.M.A.R.T. guideline to get there.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are:
- Time Sensitive
Here are some other things to think when you’re working on a strategic plan for your class schedule:
- What is your major, or you still undecided?
- Number of classes/credits needed to graduate in (typically) 4 years?
- How many classes can you realistically handle in a semester?
- Your strengths?
- Your weaknesses?
- Are you a morning person or not so much?
- Would you consider yourself to be a self-starter, a bit of a procrastinator or somewhere in between?
- How much time will be spent in the classroom (or virtually)?
- How much time is needed for studying/homework?
- How much extra time is needed for mid-terms? Finals?
- How much time do you need for getting back and forth to classes?
- When is break or lunch time? How long are your breaks?
- Do you plan on participating in sports or a club? How much time for practice, workouts, or meets/games/events?
- Do you have a part-time job? How many hours do you work per week?
- How much do you go out, hang with friends, watch movies, play video games, etc. for recreation?
It seems totally overwhelming at first, but as you go through this process up front, it will save you an incredible amount of time trying to figure it out later. And later, you might be too stressed out to put together a better plan B, C, D or as many other plans it takes to get it right for you.
One thing that will blow up your strategic plan for sure is not being completely honest. If you really want to be an early morning person but you just aren’t, be honest about that. A later morning or early afternoon start time might be a better choice for you. If your friends are taking five classes per semester but you know deep down that you can only handle four, then stick with what feels right for you.
As you put together an amazing strategic plan for your class schedule, don’t forget to take advantage of these tips and resources to make it easier:
- Start thinking and planning out your class schedule sooner rather than later. Some classes fill up quickly or are only available during certain semesters, so don’t be on the late show.
- Meet with a college advisor who can answer tons of questions, help you put together a good mix of required classes and classes you’re interested in. The advisor is there to help make sure that the classes you pick will keep you on track for credits you need to graduate.
- Try to strike a nice balance between difficult and less difficult classes with an average of about 15 credits per semester. You’ll be happy you did when it’s time for homework, study time, and exams. Plus, you won’t have to cram a bunch of tough classes into one semester.
- If you drop classes or make a major change to your class schedule, the original strategic plan will change. Update your strategic plan with the changes that will possibly change your short- and long-term goals.
Balance is Key
The key word to always remember here is balance. What you want is to strategically plan a class schedule that gives you enough breathing room for everything you both need and want to do. Work something up. Write it down. Change it. Play with it. Use it for accountability. Use it for motivation. Check it every day to see your progress.
When you get into your groove with the help of strategic planning, you’ll see how it helps keep stress, anxiety, sleep issues, and overwhelm from creeping into your already full class schedule. To make your strategic plan work even better, we’ve got the support and tools like Chegg Study to help achieve your study and homework goals faster and easier. You’ve got this!
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