What To Include In An Academic Plan

Though four years of college might seem like a long time when you’re a freshman, the reality is that you have a finite amount of time to take more classes than you could in a lifetime. As soon as you can, you should sit down with your academic adviser and map out an academic plan to help you meet your requirements and make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the courses you’d really enjoy. In fact, if you’re reading this in the summertime, school might be the last thing on your mind, but it might not be a bad idea to pull out the course catalog and get a jump on your plan before you sit down with your academic adviser in the fall.

Distribution Requirements

Make a note of any distribution requirements your school has. In addition to what the required courses are, you should make a note of when they’re offered. If you are interested in getting your requirements out of the way as soon as possible, this is important information for you to have. Some classes aren’t offered every semester, so you should plan ahead.

Go Shopping In Your Major

If you know what area you would like to major in, you should begin making a list now of the department’s course offerings. Write down the classes you are just dying to take, as well as any prerequisites that these courses have. Many departments require a 101 course, a broad overview of the subject, of all students planning on majoring. If you know the major you’d like to pursue, you should try to take this 101 class in the fall. Here, too you should make a note of when courses are offered to make sure you will be able to take them.

Plan On Some Fun With Electives

Once you see how much time distribution requirements and a major will take, you’ll see how truly limited your time in college is. (Even if you don’t know your major, you should plan on blocking out eight to ten classes to fulfill the requirements of whatever major you declare.) Time is of the essence, but you should also take some courses that simply appeal to you because you think they’ll be fun, interesting, or both.

Get Your Foot In A Door In The Real World With An Internship

Now that you’ve blocked out your class schedule for the next four years, look and see where the lighter semester loads might be in your class schedule. If you’ve created an academic plan that takes care of distribution and major requirements efficiently, you should have time for an internship. Usually, you can do these for course credit during the semester or summer.

Online Scheduling Software Helps Colleges Easily Book Rooms, Schedule Advising and Testing Sessions

Colleges and universities are typically known for their forward-thinking focus and advancements in academic fields. However, some institutions do not implement these important traits when it comes to managing and scheduling such activities as academic advising and student testing, as well as booking room space. In fact, some may still rely on the more traditional tools to help schedule their appointments: A paper appointment book and pen. Others may utilize an electronic calendar or similar software, which, at first glance, seems to provide an efficient solution to their scheduling needs, but, in reality, does not offer the functionality to truly automate and improve appointment-scheduling procedures.

These institutions of higher learning that rely on these inadequate means of scheduling and managing appointments are not alone, as many businesses and organizations, both large and small, utilize them as well. However, are growing number of tossing aside their appointment books and electronic calendars for a more efficient and effective method: online appointment-scheduling software.

ONLINE APPOINTMENT-SCHEDULING SOFTWARE: THE BASICS

The design of many online appointment-scheduling systems is what makes them so appealing to both user and student alike. Generally known as Software as a Service (SaaS), these programs share many of the same characteristics as other Web programs most of us are familiar with and use on a daily basis, such as e-mail, online banking and social-media sites. They’re accessible in the same manner, which is typically through a secured Web site or portal. And like those sites, most require a username and password to securely access the scheduler and account.

They’re also different than electronic calendars such as Google Calendar and the one included with Microsoft Outlook. Although they may seem to have many of the same features, they lack the functionality many administrators require for their scheduling needs. In short, they’re personal calendars, not online schedulers. Because they’re Web-based, online appointment schedulers are accessible from any Internet connection. This can be a tremendous benefit for administrators who work out of the office or for staff working in different offices or locations.

WHAT COLLEGES, UNIVERSITIES USE IT FOR

Because of its versatility, online appointment software is applicable for a wide range of scheduling needs. Some of the more popular tasks institutions use the applications for include:

• Room scheduling. Scheduling software helps faculty and staff master this sometimes difficult procedure. A proven scheduler will automatically manage and track room space, times, students and other information.

• Academic advising. Many institutions rely on appointment software to schedule and manage student times and information. If the advising office permits online self-scheduling, students can access the scheduler and book their sessions online at their own convenience.

• Student testing. Online booking systems make it easy to set and efficiently manage student testing facilities and times. As mentioned above, online self-scheduling makes it convenient to schedule their testing times 24 hours a day.

WHAT APPOINTMENT SOFTWARE OFFERS

Features vary among providers, but most offer standard functionality such as:

• “Point-and-click” technology. Many scheduling systems offer both college faculty and students the ease of viewing a calendar online and clicking on the available day and time they wish to schedule or manage.

• Online student self-scheduling. If selected, institutions and departments can allow students to view the online scheduler and securely schedule their appointments, sessions or room space. All that’s required is an Internet connection.

• Automated e-mail and text message reminders. Everyone appreciates reminders. And they can reduce the number of “no shows” by over 50 percent. Phone call reminders and e-mail messages, however, can cut into staff time. Some systems will automatically send e-mail and text message reminders prior to a scheduled appointment. Faculty and administrators can also receive reminders on scheduled appointments, cancellations and changes.

• Accurate record-keeping and reporting. Because schedulers act as a centralized location for scheduling details and student information, it allows for efficient record-keeping and compiling reports. The system may even provide pre-set reports to help faculty pull its desired information more easily and quickly.

• E-marketing capabilities. Having your student and faculty contact information in one easy-to-access location makes it simple to pull e-mail lists for sending information on upcoming programs, classes, events, reminders and other news. It’s a great way to keep in touch with those who use the scheduling system.

CONSIDERATIONS

While all online reservation and booking systems may appear the same on the surface, they can vary in functionality, capabilities and service. Among considerations administrators should look for when choosing an online scheduler are:

• Security. As your appointment software will house information contact information on your students and faculty, security is of the utmost importance. Many software providers implement the latest technology to ensure their client information remains safe. However, it’s always a good idea to research the specific type of security measures are in place before implementing the software at your institution or department.

• Customer support. Have you ever purchased a product, only to find out later that the company offered little or no customer service? This is an important consideration, especially if the scheduling system chosen will be the primary means of scheduling and managing students and faculty. Check to see if the provider offers e-mail and/or phone support.

• Dependability. Proven online appointment-scheduling software can give administrators the peace of mind that their system is accurately and effectively booking and managing rooms, students and faculty members. Check to see if other colleges, universities, technical schools and other educational institutions use the software and how they view it. Also, if offered, sign up for a free trial of the product, which will give you a feel of how it works and its specific functionality.

• Cost and service plans. Just like the systems themselves, prices and service plans can vary. Many scheduling systems are cost-effective and affordable. Additionally, some offer month-to-month payment options, rather than long-term contracts.

Organizations large and small are realizing the positive impact online appointment software can have on their operations. Colleges and universities are no exception, and they’re tapping into technology that allows them to spend less time manually managing their appointments and more time on their students and programs.

Staying on Track With Academic Advising

Whether you are a first time freshman or an experienced college student, getting academic advising is one of the smartest moves you can make. Here’s a short list of what an academic advisor can do to save you time, money, and headaches.

Providing practical advice on creating a balanced class schedule that will give you the best shot at excelling. I once knew a student who put off taking four very work-intensive required classes until his last quarter before he planned to graduate. All of them were likely to require several major papers each. He registered for all of them at once, even though he was working two part-time jobs as well. I honestly don’t know what the outcome was, but it was certainly not one of the better choices I’ve known a student to make. Academic advisors can help steer you away from self-defeating scheduling decisions.

Making sure you take classes in the right sequence. Not all classes in a discipline will have formal prerequisites in place to limit registration in non-introductory classes to those who have already taken the introductory class. For instance, my discipline is psychology. Students who register for the second-year personality psychology course without the benefit of taking introductory psychology tend to have a much harder time of it. This is something that a savvy academic advisor will point out to you.

Helping you select classes that keep you moving efficiently toward your goal. This is important whether you are working on general education classes or proceeding through classes in your major. Satisfying general ed requirements can be surprisingly complicated. Take a look at this document from California State University, Fullerton as an example. It’s simple enough at first, but then all heck breaks loose the further you go down the webpage. When you move on to classes in your major, your academic advisor will know valuable stuff like whether a particular required class is only offered once every academic year. This is more common than you might think, so having that information can prevent you from wasting time and money waiting a whole year for the class to come around again.

Sharing information about other valuable campus resources and opportunities. Curious about study abroad? Need an on-campus job? Looking for an internship? Want to do some research with a professor in your major? Your academic advisor might have the inside scoop on these and other gems of campus information. At the very least, he or she should be able to accurately direct you where to go and who to ask.

Giving support, encouragement, and guidance when the going gets tough… or even if things are going great. Academic advisors are there to make your educational journey as smooth a trip as possible. They are great first points of contact when you hit bumps in the road, and they also enjoy hearing about when you passed that tough class, you were selected for the internship they suggested, and the award you earned.

It’s an excellent idea to meet with your academic advisor at least once per semester just to make sure everything is on track. However, if things are not going as well as you like, don’t hesitate to meet with your academic advisor more often.