Application dates, deadlines, and semester start dates can all make it difficult to jump into a degree program quickly. If you’re a non-traditional college student, you probably want to start your degree sooner rather than later, so you can graduate and improve your career options. Sometimes the decision to go back to school or start college is such a big one that you want to take that momentum and hit the ground running as soon as reasonably possible.
Did you know that some universities, like Independence University, offer frequent new course start dates, instead of a traditional semester schedule? These frequent starts often mean that you can begin new classes on a monthly basis, rather than a semester basis, allowing you to start sooner and graduate faster.
Here are some of the main benefits of frequent starts versus a traditional semester schedule:
1. An Accelerated Schedule Saves You Time
The option to choose your start dates and times makes it easier for you to accelerate your learning and get your degree faster. This is particularly convenietn if you’re a student who is working while you take classes online. It also fits well for students who prefer to take their courses year-round. While getting a break is nice, if you are particularly determined to graduate and advance your career quickly, a frequent start option helps you complete your degree more quickly.
Frequent start dates can also help because accelerated schedules can be very intense and tiring for students. There is a lot of information and material to complete over a short period of time. Monthly starts can alleviate some of this stress because they allow you to take a month off from your classes if you need a break, without losing a significant amount of time like you would on a traditional semester or term schedule. If you need, you can still enjoy a summer respite from school, or a longer Christmas vacation with your family, without setting your graduation schedule back six months or even a year—the standard penalties for taking time off in a semester-based program.
2. Less Time Waiting for Eager Students
Once you’ve made the decision to head back to school and get your degree, the last thing you want to do is wait around until a new semester or term begins. A college with a frequent start schedule allows you to start on your own time, when you feel driven to do so, and finish when you want.
The option to graduate when you want to can also benefit you when you look for a job upon graduation. Did you know there is actually an ideal time of year to job hunt? Some of the best months are January and February because companies have often finalized their budgets for the new year and everyone is back from vacations. By the time you reach April and May, hiring slows and you face more competition from other recent graduates who are finishing traditional college degrees around this time.
Frequent start flexibility allows you to tailor your learning to graduate at an ideal hiring time to give yourself a better opportunity of landing the job you want.
3) Focus on a Smaller Course Load
In a traditional, semester-based college environment, a full-time student generally has to take four or more classes each term. Each class meets a couple of times a week, with ongoing assignments in all 4+ classes to keep straight over the course of a few months. When it comes time for midterms and finals, the juggling gets even more fun, with multiple term papers and big assignments and tests due at the same time for all your classes.
Contrast that with accelerated courses that begin more frequently. Depending on the school, you may only be taking as few as one or two classes at a time. You would have no more than two syllabi to keep track of, and when a big test is coming, your focus doesn’t have to be split several different ways. Instead of dabbling in several different subjects at once, this schedule allows you to immerse yourself in just one or two. The workload is probably similar at the end of the day, but your ability to focus and concentrate on fewer classes makes a big difference.
4) Get the Class You Need When You Need It
The following story is based on real events. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Jenna was finishing the first semester of her senior year at Semester University when she found out that she failed her term paper in a course she needed to graduate. The paper was worth 74% of her grade, which meant she failed the class and needed to rethink her final semester. Jenna already had a full load scheduled, so she swapped out an elective course that she was really looking forward to in order to retake the required class. But, of course, most students had signed up for all those classes months before, and the class she needed was full. There was no way she could graduate on time!
Dejected, Jenna resigned herself to finishing up in the Summer Semester by going halftime so she could focus on the missing class. To make matters worse, the required course wasn’t offered as a summer course. She had no choice but to wait until next fall, pushing her graduation back a full seven months, and costing a pretty penny too. You can bet she focused like crazy on that term paper the next time around, though.
At many semester-based schools, Jenna’s example isn’t a super unrealistic story. Certain classes may only be offered in the spring or fall, and things work out fine for some students if everything goes perfectly and they take the graduation path they worked on with their advisor as a freshman, but what if life intervenes? What if things don’t always go perfectly? We know that sometimes backup plans are needed. Schools with more frequent classes and start times offer courses more often, so even if a class fills up, the next opportunity is likely to be only a month or two away. And they may not offer every single class 12 months out of every year, but non-traditional scheduling means that most classes are going to be offered frequently because there’s no model, perfect plan that everyone is supposed to adhere to. There’s room for flexibility.
Advance Your Degree
Busy students need flexible schooling that meets their needs and helps them achieve their career goals. Frequent start dates help students achieve their educational goals quickly.