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Succeeding in Fast-Paced Courses

An 8-week course sounds all well and doable until you feel like your professor is three miles ahead of you in the learning race.

Whether it be in the middle of the fall or spring semester, or an accelerated credit program over the summer, learning how to manage your time can be difficult, especially for a class that condenses numerous chapters of material in a few weeks. 

So how can you make sure that you are turning in quality work in a timely manner all the while not feeling like you are drowning in assignments? 

Can I Do This? 

Before taking a fast-paced course or several fast-paced courses, you should be aware of how much time you are expected to spend studying for the course. While a three-credit-hour course may seem doable during the registration period, the course may require you to study upwards of 10-15 hours a week to keep up with the lecture pace. 

A good way to evaluate if you can handle these courses in addition to other time commitments is to review the syllabus in the first few days of the class and make a note of each assignment, quiz, and major exam. 

Because shorter-term courses compact the material, the time between each assignment and exam is different than a normal semester or quarter-long course.

Considering how much it normally takes you to complete assignments or study, create a “time budget” sheet to roughly plan out your schedule.  Money After Graduation has a great article for how to create your own time budget sheet that can help get you started for the semester.

A Little a Day Goes a Long Way

A solid method for ensuring you do not get overwhelmed closer to exam week is to make sure that you are planning and studying ahead. 

Procrastination is a real poison! Making sure that you are staying on task with the schedule that lectures, assignments, and notes are posted can go a long way. Professors plan their coursework in a digestible manner for students and following the predetermined course schedule can help you manage your studies as well. 

It is essential to formulate a schedule that works best for the types of courses you are taking with the help of your time budget sheet from the previous step.

While the professor may not plan out your own projects for you, it is up to you to divide and conquer the larger projects, reports, and papers. After creating your own schedule, stick to it!

Breaking your entire coursework into smaller, manageable chunks gives you a greater chance to succeed. 

You’re Not Alone

Arguably, the most important step is to reach out for help. Coursework can be hard, and isolating yourself can make things feel even worse. Your professor is always available for any questions that you have, and don’t be afraid to take advantage of professor office hours. Even if you are the only one in the office hours, you can get to know your professor better.

If approaching the professor seems terrifying, you can also try to reach out to your fellow classmates. A lot of college students use Snapchat or GroupMe to form class group chats to discuss assignments, exam due dates, and more.

If you are still struggling to ask for help, or don't think it will make that much of a difference, there are a few key benefits and ways to make it less intimidating and worthwhile.

Fast-paced courses can be beneficial, especially when looking to graduate on time and meet degree requirements. They also serve as perfect learning opportunities to solidify your study habits and planning. While these courses are academically demanding, if you can successfully manage your pacing while maintaining a strong relationship with the classroom community, you will see that these courses aren’t as difficult as they may present themselves to be.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Luong is a third-year student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign studying Consumer Economics with a concentration in Accounting.