First Things First: Mastering the Academic Planner

Welcome to a new semester!  Life as a Penn State World Campus student can often be hectic and stressful. Whether this is your first semester here or your fifth, it is never too early (or late) to make your online educational experience easier!

“Tell us how, Stephanie!”

Most stores carry planners in a variety of styles and sizes that suit a person’s needs–from the student to the busy mom to the overbooked businessman or woman.  Many of us have received or purchased one of these in our life, our goal being to become more organized (and stop forgetting things!), but instead we get ‘too busy’ and the planner becomes another book collecting dust on our shelves.   Well, learning how to fill up one of these in a way that suits your schedule/life will guarantee a smoother semester for you as an online student.

Sample color-coded planner for one week with four courses.

About 2 to 7 days before the semester officially begins, most classes will send, or give you access to, their course syllabus.  Not only does this document detail requirements, grading formats, and class rules, it also includes a course schedule.  Your first task: print out this section of the syllabus for each class you are taking.

“So, you’re saying I have to do schoolwork even before classes begin!?”

Please hold all questions until the end of the lecture.

Now, grab your planner and a different colored pen for each class you are taking (optional). Beginning with classes that have assignments due on specific days of the week (Wednesdays and Sundays, for example), split up tasks in your planner so that you have the assignments in by the due date.  So, for Monday (or Tuesday), write all necessary reading and writing needed in order to complete the task due Wednesday for that class.  Then, on Thursday (or Friday), write all necessary tasks you need to complete by Sunday for that class.

When you are done filling in each week for the first class, move on to another course–and pen color, if desired. For classes that have all assignments due by Sunday, create a weekly plan based on workload.  If there is a lot of reading and work, then break assignments up between Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. If it is more manageable to do it in just two days, however, create a plan to do these tasks Tuesday and Thursday.

What about weekends, you wonder?  If you are at all like me, weekends are meant to be fun and relaxing.  Most of us want to spend our weekends outside, with family and friends, de-stressing. So, I suggest creating a schedule for yourself that leaves weekends free for the most part.  To do this, create a Mon/Wed/Fri or Tues/Thurs schedule for your classes and leave only reading and necessary tasks for the weekend.

Now, if you are wondering if all this ‘work’ is worth it, just imagine having to juggle all your classes each week, worrying about missing an assignment or forgetting a task.  In three semesters at World Campus, I have found the 2 hours I put into the planner before the semester begins makes for a very organized and un-chaotic semester.  I have never once missed, forgotten or turned in an assignment late.

For your sanity, for your grades, master the Academic Planner!