Finishing Your Degree: Tips for Taking a Full-Time Course Load


Studying for online classes at Granite State College.

Once you commit to finishing your degree, you’ll be faced with the decision to attend part-time or full-time. For some people, part-time works better due to family and financial commitments. However, for many others, full-time study is the key to achieving their education and career goals faster.

As a full-time student (eight credits or more each term), you’ll finish your degree faster and be ready to work in your chosen career field sooner (and on the path to earning a higher salary). But there are other financial advantages to studying full-time that you may not have considered. If you need student loans, a full-time course load will allow you to graduate much earlier than a part-time schedule would allow, so less interest will accrue over the course of the loan. This will directly and instantly benefit your wallet: with less accrued interest to pay back, you end up saving money.

These benefits make a full-time schedule financially compelling. Now, let’s explore tips and strategies for achieving success.

Meet with Your Advisor and Pick the Right Classes

When you take courses at a more aggressive pace, you need to make sure you make the right selections, and that’s where your academic advisor can help. There are certain upper-level courses that aren’t offered every term and if they have prerequisite requirements, you’ll need to have completed the required classes before you can enroll when the course is available. Your advisor can help you build long-term, streamlined course plans so you can finish your degree at an efficient pace without any gaps between terms. It also means you won’t spend money on courses that aren’t part of your program.

Enhance Your Time Management Skills

As a full-time student, managing your time is critical and it takes dedication and a positive spirit to stay on track with a full course load. Stay organized by keeping a “master calendar” that incorporates dates and deadlines at home, at work, and in your classes. Set aside time for updating the calendar so you can proactively work toward checking off everything on your to-do list and avoid missing important items. It might be helpful to group tasks, so you can more easily manage your to-do list. This process not only keeps you organized, but it also let’s you see your progress, which is a key to keeping your motivation up.

Curb your perfectionist tendencies—they can stop you from completing assignments in a reasonable amount of time. It’s important to type your ideas as they flow from you and edit them later. Too much fine-tuning early on might get you stuck.

Although you may be taking all online courses from home, you’ll still have to work on forum posts, assignments, quizzes, and reading, which are due at regular intervals. Carve out time each day that is generally devoted to classwork but be realistic because interruptions are inevitable. Eventually, this will all become a habit, and you’ll be on your way. It’s important to reward yourself for your accomplishments. That kind of self-affirmation goes a long way.

Create a Productive Study Space

For most, we’re constantly multitasking, so it’s easy to get distracted when you open up your laptop to do homework. Between incoming emails, social media notifications, and checking in on your favorite websites, there’s always something competing for your attention.

Here are a few simple ways to limit the distractions in your study space. First, get in the habit of putting your cellphone in airplane mode when you want to focus solely on your assignments. Next, use websites or download plug-ins for your browser that block the websites that cause you to inadvertently waste time. Examples include: Cold Turkey (for Windows and macOS), StayFocusd (Google Chrome browser extension), and LeechBlock (Firefox browser add-on).

With these two quick fixes, you’ll get a huge productivity boost!

Manage Your Stress: Use Student Resources

Life happens, and there may be moments when you feel stressed out. That’s normal. Don’t let it set you back. Instead, make a plan to confront these situations head-on using our free student resources. Here are three major causes of student stress and ways we can help you manage them.

Academic Stress
Tutoring is offered 100% online. The online system not only provides homework help, but also a writing lab so you can get a valuable second set of eyes on a research paper.

Career Stress
Maybe you’re second guessing your professional goals or need help aligning coursework to your career goals. No problem. Career Advising is another free benefit for students and alumni. They will customize an advising session around your specific questions or objectives. They have various assessment tools to help you determine if your dream job is everything it seems to be.

Life Stress
It happens to us all, especially with the added pressure of being a student as an adult. That’s why we offer free and confidential counseling to our students. Whether you’d like an outside perspective to discuss a specific concern or want support handling negative feelings like anxiety or depression, you have an open (and completely anonymous) door available for you to get support.


Finding success strategies is especially important for full-time students who have a very targeted graduation date in mind. Use these tips to help keep yourself on track and remember: if life happens and you need to scale back your course load, you’ll always have that option. Your advisor can help you map out a schedule and pace that meets your goals, so don’t hesitate to ask for their guidance if your plans shift.

Learn how you can finish your degree. Download our guide!


This blog was originally published in April 2018 and was updated to reflect emerging trends and best practices.