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Strategies for a successful semester


These trying economic times provide opportunities for career changes. Perhaps you’re returning to college for your first degree or to obtain an additional one. Whether you’re studying for a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, the strategies below can help you achieve your academic goals.

Organize your time

Dedicate time every day to your coursework. It’s not easy to carve out an hour or two to devote to your studies, unless you study while your family sleeps. So instead of forcing yourself to sit and study for an hour, complete one task each day toward your course requirements. These tasks may include reading an article, organizing your electronic files, communicating with classmates, and the like. Do these at a time that works best for you—perhaps in the morning before work or at the end of the day. Tackling your coursework daily keeps you from falling behind, getting frustrated, and risking failure and loss of tuition reimbursement.

Involve your family in your studies

Instead of isolating yourself when you study, involve your family. For instance, ask your teen to help you set up your electronic filing system.

Many courses require students to give presentations about their work in front of the class. To become more comfortable doing this, practice by giving an after-dinner presentation to your family. You can also have them quiz you before exams to help you get test-ready. Embracing your family as helpers makes them feel they’re contributing to your success.

Organize your coursework

Once you’ve enrolled in a course, review the course requirements immediately. Note due dates for papers, projects, and exams. Try to clear your calendar the week before a big assignment is due, to give yourself extra time to complete it. Compare your work and family schedules against the due dates for course assignments and exams; if you find conflicts or overlaps, the course instructor may be willing to set up alternate due dates.

Buy required course books online or at the bookstore. Set up an electronic folder for each course and create separate subfolders within the main folder for your project, assignments, and other course elements.

Know your computer’s capabilities

Many courses have a Web-supported or totally Web-based format. When you register for the course, check Web browser requirements to determine if your home computer supports Web-based course materials. Make sure your computer has the proper software and browser capabilities to successfully download and complete assignments, videos, and other activities.

Get to know the faculty

Whether your course is online or on-site, get to know your instructor. Faculty members like to get acquainted with their students and enjoy mentoring them to help them succeed. Be prompt with assignments and respectful to faculty and students. If you’re confused or need help, ask the instructor. Seek out faculty for assistance and guidance.

Get to know fellow students

Read students’ blogs and participate in online discussion boards to learn more about classmates, particularly if you’re taking online courses. For on-site courses, network with classmates before or after class to exchange ideas, collaborate on projects, lend each other moral support, and explore opportunities for career changes. Nursing is a small world, and you may encounter these nurses in your classes again and again.

Taking on an academic program of nursing studies can be challenging but gives you the opportunity to expand your horizons. Staying on target through organization and time management will go a long way toward making your academic pursuits enjoyable, memorable, and successful.

Lisa Marie Bernardo is the managing member of The Pilates Centre, LLC in Allison Park, Pennsylvania and an adjunct instructor in the doctoral nursing program at Carlow University School of Nursing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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