September 26, 2023

Three Tips for Creating a Manageable Course Load

Author: Online Learning Tips Staff Writer
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Start a degree program at American Public University.

By Trudy Doleman
Senior Student Support Representative II, APUS

The holidays are over, you’re back into the swing of things at work and you’ve managed to stick to your New Year resolutions so far. But there is one more thing on your to-do list: start classes again.

By this point, you’re likely running out of good excuses about why now is not the right time to jump back into your studies. After all, you were juggling multiple classes, a full-time job and a host of family obligations last semester.

It seemed like all you did was read, write and repeat. There was no downtime. As a result, you became overwhelmed and found yourself with a lower grade point average (GPA) than you hoped for. Maybe you even faced academic risk or probation.

Now is the perfect time to make an appointment with your academic advising team to discuss how to move forward. Also, there are three viable options to help you create a manageable course load and achieve your academic goals without feeling overwhelmed.

1. Stagger Your Classes

Consider when you schedule your classes. If you stagger when your classes begin, you will be able to manage your workload by building up to a full course load, one class at a time (just as you build endurance to achieve your fitness goals).

For example, start with one 16-week class and begin an eight-week class a month later. When your shorter class begins, you will be around the halfway point with your longer class. At this point, you have a set study schedule and can add the new class into your schedule more easily.

If there are no 16-week classes available, consider scheduling eight-week classes a month apart. You may not have much of a break between courses, but you will be less overwhelmed by a heavy study load.

2. Take Breaks between Classes

Time is often a significant hurdle for students. Many students want to finish their degree as quickly as possible. That is an achievable goal, but it comes with a price. Scheduling a heavy course load with no breaks is where the “all I do is study” feeling originates.

An alternative option is to schedule your classes every other month. The break between classes will afford you the opportunity to step back and clear your head for a few weeks before jumping into the next class. These breaks are great opportunities to review your progress and identify areas that still need some work.

If you are a student working your way up from a low GPA, think about checking in with your advising team during breaks. That way, you can make sure you are on track and get expert advice with making your next class selections.

3. Choose a Variety of Classes

As you talk with your advisor, consider the type of classes you want to take. Many students want to get the hard classes out of the way so they can get to the classes they enjoy or that relate directly to their major.

In those situations, schedules become very heavy in science, history and English classes scheduled simultaneously. I have seen more than one schedule with two history or English classes scheduled in the same month.

Conversely, a balanced course load will include at least one subject you enjoy. By balancing your studies, you avoid putting a lot of pressure on yourself, particularly when it is midterms or finals week. You will also feel more accomplished as you move through your studies.

Your Course Load Should Allow Some Downtime

No matter how you decide to schedule your course load, do not forget to allow for some downtime. It will help you stay motivated to accomplish your goals, and you’ll soon be able to check another item off your to-do list.

About the Author

Trudy Doleman has been with American Public University System for 16 years. She started in the Admissions Department, helping prospective students to transition into new students who are ready to achieve their academic goals. Currently, Trudy is part of the Student Support Center, working with students who need some help getting back on track with their studies.

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