Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Importance of Planning Ahead

"A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."

I saw that sign posted in the photocopy services office of the university where I completed my last master's degree. At first I thought its tone was sarcastic, and I felt it was inappropriate to display it publicly. However, after more than seven years as an academic advisor and counselor, I've come to see the simple truth conveyed by that quote.

We humans are free to make our own choices: To be proactive or reactive; to plan ahead or to wait until the last possible moment; to accept the consequences of our choices or to blame others. For some people, planning ahead is a way of life. These are the people who use calendars, planners, PDAs, and so forth to organize their lives, sometimes to the least detail. For others, planning is an excruciatingly painful process that goes against every fiber of their being. They're just not made that way.

To be successful in college, though, planning ahead is vital. Students must exercise foresight and good time management skills in order to achieve their academic goals. This week, many students, both domestic and international, are realizing the unfortunate consequences of a lack of planning. They're arriving on the DVC campus expecting to get into all of the classes that they want to take with no obstacles or barriers. They're discovering, much to their disappointment and frustration, however, that most of DVC's classes are already full, and that it is very unlikely that they will be able to take some classes (especially Math, English, and Sciences) in the Fall semester. This setback might delay their achieving their academic goals by at least one semester, and in some cases, by as much as one year!

In addition, many international students will be compelled to take courses that do not count toward their academic goals because F-1 students must be enrolled in at least twelve units each semester. Because of their lack of planning, they will have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for unrequired classes, and they might have to delay their transfer by up to a year. In most cases, this could have been avoided if the student had read the materials that they received from DVC and arrived earlier in the summer to attend orientation and register for classes.

Of course, life sometimes gets in the way of our plans. Unexpected delays which are beyond our control can occur, and our plans do not unfold according to our expectations, despite our best efforts. But even in cases such as these, we cannot expect the rest of the world to accommodate our individual situations. Successful students are adaptable; they plan in advance, they meet challenges well-equipped with good time management skills and effective coping strategies, and they adapt to unexpected changes by taking personal responsibility for their educational outcomes.

Are you a good manager of your time? Do you plan well in advance for important events? Do you have a back-up plan in case your primary plan fails? Do you take personal responsibility for yourself and your situation? If the answer to all of these questions is "yes," then you will be a successful student. If you need to build skills in academic planning, then consider taking Counseling 120, Student Success. It is transferable to both CSU and UC and counts toward the 60-unit minimum requirement.