By Briana Bass
Academic Advisor, American Public University
Planning your courses in advance helps you avoid obstacles as you’re going through an academic program. For example, you might reach the end of your program only to discover you have to complete another course. Another situation you may face is the need to alter your status from full-time to part-time because you need to finish a prerequisite course.
These situations delay your graduation. In addition, they impact your financial aid or your ability to complete your program.
Here are some planning tips to ensure a smooth progression through your program:
1. Register for Low-Level Courses First
Undergraduate degree-seeking students should first take COLL100 and their General Education courses. These foundational courses help you acclimate to online learning and prepare you for the more demanding program-specific upper-level courses.
Some low-level courses are prerequisite courses. For example, MATH110 (College Algebra) must be completed prior to taking MATH302 (Statistics).
Keep in mind that 100- and 200-level courses can also be found in Core, Major and Concentration sections of your academic program. Carefully review each section to determine what courses should be completed first.
2. Review Your Academic Plan Regularly
Courses are sometimes removed from an academic program. This change will be noted on your Academic Plan as “no longer offered.”
You will then be required to take a substitute course in its place. Contact your Academic Advising Team to discuss your substitution options.
As you complete each section of your Academic Plan, check that the total number of hours you have completed matches the total number of hours required for that section. This figure is posted in the top right corner of each section of your Academic Plan. If you notice a discrepancy, contact your Academic Advising team.
Some programs have concentrations or majors that allow you to select courses from a particular list. In these instances, you are not required to complete every course listed in that section. For example, the bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security requires students to select nine courses from a list of 28 course options.
3. Create a Program Completion Plan
Start with a blank calendar. Include any professional or personal obligations that may affect your studies, such as deployments or vacations.
Determine if these events overlap with a course. For example, if you will be out of town the third week of July but have access to a computer, you may still be able to complete your assignments.
Decide if you plan to be a part-time or full-time student. How many courses do you feel comfortable taking at any one time? If you are using financial aid or VA benefits, you may be required to take a certain number of courses to meet the registration requirements for your status.
Starting with any lower-level courses (especially prerequisites), begin placing courses on your calendar. While most courses are only eight weeks long, some classes are offered in both eight-week and 16-week format and other courses are only offered in the 16-week format.
Also, some courses, particularly graduate capstone courses, cannot be taken in conjunction with any other course.
Not all courses are available every month. Some courses might be offered every other month or even every three months. If you are using Federal Student Aid (FSA), the courses you need may not be available within your Academic Year.
Work with Your Academic Advisor
Send your course registration plans to your Academic Advising Team for review. We are always happy to assist and will serve as a resource for you throughout your program. You can reach your Academic Advisors in three ways:
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call 877-755-2787
- Live chat (visit the university’s homepage and click on “CHAT” at the top of your screen
Academic advisors are available Monday — Friday, 8 am — 5 pm ET. For a complete list of university contacts, please reference the Help Center.
We wish you the best as you begin your academic journey. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals!
About the Author
Briana Bass has worked as an Academic Advisor for American Public University for four years. She holds a bachelor’s in English from Manchester College.