When we enter into a university or college program, we all have one goal in mind: graduation. Many students will go at their own pace, taking courses when they can, and graduate when the time comes. But for others, the timing of graduation can depend on whether or not they land that job they want, get the promotion they need or have the right skills and background to ask for a raise.

If you are in that boat and need to graduate on time, there are things you can do to make sure that goal is met.

Take Only the Required Courses

It can be tempting to take a course outside your degree program that interests you, and there is nothing wrong with that! But, if you have a goal date in mind for graduation, taking these extra courses can derail you. Instead, try to stick to your required courses that are laid out in your degree program. If you really want to take another class, or pick up a minor, talk to your academic advisor about what your options are—they may be able to swap courses or find a path for you that enables you to take the courses that interest you and still graduate on time.

Take it Seriously

This one may sound obvious, but even slacking on one project for one course can push back your graduation date. Always get your work done on time, study hard and make school a priority. If you have to miss class due to work or personal issues, speak with your professor about completing makeup work or course hours to ensure that you still pass the class and can take the final exam with everyone else.

Think Ahead

Before you enroll in courses, have a game plan ready to go. What field will you go into? What concentration within that field do you want to focus on? What is the preferred date you want to graduate? All of these things will help you create a road map for the next part of your life and will keep you focused on the goal at hand. If you are getting a degree to advance in your current career or get a promotion, talk to your boss about taking lunch breaks or a day out of each week to do school work and attend classes.

Be Realistic

If you work full-time, it may not be realistic to finish your degree in the allotted time. Consider your options: can you attend online courses while at work, or will you need to focus your studies to only nights and weekends? If your answer is yes to the second question, obviously this will limit you, so it’s important to be realistic about your graduation date. Speak with an advisor to get their input on what you need to do to graduate as soon as you can. They will help you come up with a realistic date that enables you to reach your goal in an appropriate amount of time for your personal situation.

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