Completing a graduate seminary degree requires as much perseverance as intelligence. Most of our graduates had to overcome great obstacles to finish their degrees. Our alumni are business owners, pastors, church staff members, executives of non-profit organizations with numerous ministry and family responsibilities. One of our graduates’ son had an accident and nearly died. Graduates had health issues and lost jobs. The list of challenges is endless. But they also found a way to navigate through the turbulences of life and graduate. How can students efficiently utilize their time and keep their many plates spinning?
- Set goals and Priorities each week for what you want to get done and adjust daily. (Mark McGowan, MDIV 2011) “Consider reducing some of the things you are currently doing that are ‘optional’ to give your studies proper priority.” (Tom Crick, MML 2013)
- Schedule on your calendar when you are going to study. (Terri Baer, MML 2007) Each course requires from 10-17 hrs. per week. Schedule your study times just as you would any other appointment and don’t break that appointment.
- Put due dates into your calendar. Estimate how many hours each assignment will take. “Break tasks into smaller chunks and schedule those in your calendar.” (Tom Crick, MML 2013)
- Post Early and Check Back Often. “It’s much easier to develop a “conversation” when you’re dealing with just a few responses at a time, rather than the whole class in the final days of each week. I tried my best to check in first thing in the morning and last thing at night. (Stacey Manske, MDIV 2013)
- Set aside a place for your studies that is free from distraction. That could be your church office, or a quiet place at home. It could mean coming to work early or staying late after people are gone so that you take minimal class work at home. (Richie Reeder, MDIV 2012) “For me, being at home can be a distraction, so I planned on consistent trips to a public or college library.” (Robbie Johnson, MML 2006)
- Work ahead. “There were weeks I would work ahead with my posts and save them in Word and then they were ready to go on Tuesday.” (Wendy Swaby, MDIV 2014) “If possible, read the textbooks before course begins.” (Randy Grimes, MDIV 2014, DMin Student) Download all of the study questions and as your read, look for the answers (Linda Graber, MML 2008, MDiv Student)
- Ask someone to be your accountability partner. “Find someone who understands the challenges of being a graduate student and juggling various roles in life. This means developing a strategy and timetable.” (Robbie Johnson, MML 2006) “Ask people who know you to help you see your time wasting blind spots.” (Chris Sherwood, MDIV 2013) “If possible, find a person to study with.” (Ellie Edwards, DMS 2009)
- Say “No” more often than you otherwise would. (Chris Sherwood, MDIV 2013) Covey wrote, “You can’t say no unless you have a bigger “yes” burning inside you.” Effective leaders don’t say “yes” to everything. They focus on their goals and are self-disciplined. However, effective leaders say “No” in a way that builds relationships and reputation and not in ways that destroy them.
- Say “Yes” to family. The great thing about online courses is that students can set their own schedule. You can study late after your family has gone to bed, get up early and study, or study during your lunch break. Your family and your health are more important than your studies. Make them a priority.
- Seek help. Don’t be too proud to ask for help from family and friends. Ask others to help with some of your responsibilities so you can study. Solicit ideas from others that are in your same season of life. (Tom Crick, MML 2013)
For the full article with graduates’ tips click this link.