By Melanie Dougherty
Academic Advisor at American Public University
Congratulations! You’ve taken a big step in starting your education. Whether you’re pursuing an associate, bachelor’s, or a master’s degree, I want to tell you what an exciting journey you have ahead of you. Are you scratching your head wondering where to begin? Well, don’t! Here are some suggestions for starting out in your degree program.
First, you need to invest in yourself. As you prepare to embark on this new journey, be prepared to encounter new ideas and new challenges. Take this time to discover new passions, to learn more about yourself, and to prepare for a future doing something that you love. Don’t jump into this program without knowing what you want to get out of it! You should write down some small goals that you want to achieve at different points in your program and in your life. Seeing these goals written out can remind you of how to invest in yourself both academically and personally.
Next, you will want to familiarize yourself with your academic plan. Programs change, and you’ll want to ensure that you’re in a program that fits your needs. If you are not happy with your program or the courses that are offered, contact your advising team to discuss alternative programs or to discuss a change in concentration (if applicable). Know what courses you will need to take and prepare to map out a course progression for yourself. Planning ahead is essential when planning out your program.
Don’t look to the end — yet. When you begin your program, don’t jump immediately into the core and concentration or major courses. You will want to start with the general education courses. These courses provide foundational skills, such as writing skills, analytical skills, and quantitative/qualitative reasoning skills. They also focus on exposure to traditional disciplines, such as humanities, political science, and history. These courses are a stepping stone to your major courses.
What do you do after you have familiarized yourself with your academic plan? Study your online campus. Do you know how to request an extension if you need one? Do you know what resources exist for writing papers? Take the time to familiarize yourself with your online campus before taking courses. The online campus hosts a variety of tools and resources. The online campus is your guide to connecting with your advising team and connecting with your peers (via the Quad). It is also your direct link to the APUS library, the schedule of classes, and your registration confirmations. Take some time to explore your online campus before you begin courses.
The last suggestion — and maybe the greatest one — is to take a deep breath. Seriously — this is essential to daily living. For students starting school at APU know that you have a great support system, and you should take advantage of the personnel who are here to assist you! Because we don’t offer physical education courses, I do recommend that you take a few minutes to breathe —before you start your program, before you jump into an assignment, or before you do anything. Clear your mind and get ready to embark on this new journey- and just breathe knowing that we’re here to guide you!