Approaching the End of the Term: 5 Tips for Finishing the Semester’s Coursework

by Layla Abdullah-Poulos

half way finishedJust about every ESC Fall 1 Term student is looking at the calendar in horror. Where did all of those weeks go?! How did they fly by so quickly?! The semester is approaching a swift end, and there are students who find themselves behind on their assignments. This is a critical time, because adult learners with multiple responsibilities may find it easier to give up and address life’s many demands. Well, that is not allowed to happen here! With a little strategic planning, it is possible to complete coursework and accomplish term goals.

1.  TIME TO HIT THE CAVE!

Anyone who has taken any of my writing workshops knows what I mean. The cave is that one place where nothing and no one is allowed to come between you and your school work. It could be a room in your house, a place at work, or the local library. You can also visit your Empire State College unit to use the computer lab or see if there is an empty room you can use.

Wherever it may be, crawl right in there and don’t come out unless you are finished or there is an actual zombie apocalypse! This means postponing social events and may involve NOT making cupcakes for your child’s class, but it will be worth the scorn of your fellow parents when you see that A on your transcript.

Don’t allow guilt trips to hinder your progress. You are an academic android who will attain your objective!

2.  SET SMALL GOALS AND DON’T NEGLECT ANY COURSE

When there is a mountain of work, bring an ax. Just like a mountain climber (I don’t climb real mountains, but it is a great metaphor), look at what you need to do to get closer to completion. This involves setting small goals. If you have a 1500 word paper, intend to finish 500, 250, or 100 words a day. Your first draft will be completed in 3, 6, or 15 days respectively.

Set a small goal for each course. Don’t go a day without completing something for every course. Remember, these courses are all on the same 15-week timeline. Give each course a time of day (ex. Economics in the morning, Chick Lit in the evening, etc.) during which you will concentrate on getting some of its work done. Create a completion check list, check off everything you finished and assess your work. Did you neglect a course? That means the work for that course will be double the next day. Move unfinished work over and keep moving!

3.  TIME TO CALL IN REINFORCEMENTS

Contact a fellow student to help you get through your work. Sometimes having accountability to someone else motivates us to get things done. Plan to email or call each other daily or weekly, and give one another a status update. The extra perk is that when you are feeling like you are going to pull your hair out, you have someone to whom you can vent and they completely get it.

Don’t overlook the value of ESC learning coaches at this time. They are there to help you get your work done. Schedule weekly appointments to review work you’ve finished, what you are presently working on, and what needs to be done. Knowing that there is a coach waiting to see your work is another great motivator to finish.

4.  GET READY TO DO SOME BEGGING

Well, not actual begging, but you may have to ask a mentor for an extension. This is where having a good rapport with your instructor is worth its weight in gold. Mentors have some discretion with how much extra time they will allow you to complete coursework. If you’ve maintained consistent contact with your mentor, and displayed that you are working hard, the likelihood of getting additional time is more probable. Yes, this may mean seeing an “IN” on your transcript for a while, but that is better than a low grade.

Try to email your mentor at least one week prior to the end of the term and let her know that you don’t think you will finish your coursework. If this includes more than one paper, it is better to try and meet with your mentor face to face or on a phone conference so you can best explain your situation. Also, if you need to do this for more than one course, you should talk to your primary mentor and make him aware of your situation.

5.  50% IS YOUR NEW FAVORITE NUMBER

Mentors will only afford you an extension if at least 50% of your course work is completed. Anything less than that, and you are out of luck and precious tuition money. Review all of your course learning contracts and make sure at least half of the work for each is completed. If not, you need to focus on the one(s) with less than half the work done. What’s that? I also wrote in #2 not to neglect any course? Yeah, but don’t jeopardize the opportunity for an extension, so that means ignoring #2 until you are half-way through each course’s assignments.

There is still time to accomplish your academic goals. Don’t allow stress to overwhelm you; instead, take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves, and know that all is not lost.

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