The ABCs of earning degrees

A-B-C-Diploma (blog)


Just recently, I started getting really nervous that I wasn’t going to have all of the requirements met in order to graduate on time (May 2015). Despite the fact that I’ve worked really hard to make sure I stayed on track, I was convinced it wasn’t going to work out. I set up an advising appointment and had a really helpful meeting with an LAS advisor. She explained to me exactly what I need to do next semester so that I can graduate, and I left feeling so much better.

Because of this (and just because I’ve been here for some time), I feel justified in explaining what I think is necessary to earn a degree and succeed while in college.

Check it out:

Ask for help when you need it. Don’t let yourself get to a point where you feel helpless. There are plenty of people out there who can help you.

Buy or rent books for classes-and actually read them! Don’t think you can simply skate by without picking up the book for a class. What’s the point of taking it if you aren’t going to read the required material?

Care for yourself. Are you eating? Drinking water? Sleeping? Relaxing? Don’t lose sight of what is important. You are a human being (not a studying zombie) and need to treat yourself as such.

Determine what classes you need to take each semester to stay on track. Don’t just go semester by semester. Make sure you are sitting down and analyzing what needs to be fulfilled so that when the time comes to graduate, you can do so.

Enjoy what you are studying; if you don’t, maybe it’s time to reconsider. Why is your major what it is? If you don’t love what you’re doing or can’t see yourself doing that in ten years, look at your other options. Consider anything and everything.

Forget the stereotypes and generalizations and do what works for you. Who cares if the library is where your friends think everyone should study? If your room or some other place works for you, study there!

Go to your professor’s office hours or a study group if you need help. This goes back to letter A. Seek help in whatever way is going to get you the best results.

Hold on to handouts and notes from previous classes. Don’t be caught in the situation where your professor is covering something you touched on in a previous semester, but you don’t have the notes from that. Hold on to what you have so that you can reference it.

Include homework time on your daily schedule. By making time every day, things won’t pile up as high and you won’t feel like you are suffocating.

Join clubs and organizations that interest you. There’s more to earning a degree than just classes. Make the most out of your time and enjoy the UIC experience.

Know your resources on campus. With so many resources, it’s ridiculous not to use them.

Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. You’re surrounded by people who you can learn a thing or two from. Take advantage of that and educate yourself as much as possible.

Motivate yourself at all times. Don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal and don’t get sluggish for more than a few minutes. Stay on track!

Never underestimate your abilities. You can do it, whatever it is. Don’t think you aren’t qualified or ready for something. Give it a shot.

Overwhelm yourself with opportunities (in a positive way). Recognize all that is around you and capitalize on that.

Put your phone down and actually study.

Quit selling yourself short — you can do anything you want. I’m not joking. You can do anything; it’s just a matter of trying and working your hardest.

Relax (but not all the time). Take moments for yourself where you can do things you love and maintain mental health. It’s important to still be happy.

Study for exams in a way that works for you. Whatever that may be, do it. You’ll see a higher grade by doing this.

Take the time to BE on time to class. You might miss something if you show up a few minutes late…you may even miss points or an attendance sheet passing around. This way you’ll also get to sit wherever you want.

Understand the value of going to class. Have you figured out the mathematical cost of skipping a class? If not, look it up online. Hint: it’s expensive. Beyond the monetary value, think of what you are missing out on in the big picture.

Visit your professors and TAs at their office hours or after class. Build a relationship with them.

Write assignments and exams down in an agenda/planner. How can you forget things when you write them down and check your planner frequently?

X”amine” the syllabus throughout the semester. Checking it once during syllabus week isn’t going to help you very much. Be aware of what is going on in class, and write down important dates in your planner.

Yawn less — get enough sleep whenever possible. You’ll get sick less and will be able to focus on school more. Plus, no one likes to feel exhausted.

Zone in on your teacher during class. Why go to class if you aren’t going to pay attention? Give it 100% when you are there.


Holly Brenza (F)


Holly Brenza is a senior majoring in English and minoring in communications and management. In her spare time, Holly enjoys playing with her puppy, Bear, and watching the Blackhawks and White Sox, reading and trying out new recipes. After graduation, she hopes to work in public relations.

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