How to Succeed in Class Before it Even Begins

After 50 years of holding professional development courses for adult learners, we’ve noticed that it is rarely the difficulty of the material that presents the greatest challenge to students; it’s time management.

You have made the decision to invest in yourself. We encourage you to make the most of it by being intentional with your time. Some of your most important preparation will take place before class begins. Here are the strategies most often used by students succeeding in our courses:

1.  Check your availability before registering

Get out your calendars: can you make it to most class dates and times? If not, it may serve you better to postpone. If you are on a deadline to prepare for a certification exam and taking the class at a later date isn’t an option, consider taking the course online (they are all recorded).

2. Defend your calendar(s)

Immediately after registering, add all class meeting times to your calendars – both paper and digital. Be sure to add commute times to your digital calendars. (Online learners should give themselves at least 20 minutes to log in.) These blocks of time are now sacred and non-negotiable.

If you are taking an exam prep course, sign up for the certification exam and arrange a date at a testing center. Put that on your schedule.

Once you receive your course syllabus, add assignments, due dates and exam times to your calendars. Also schedule in when you will study and do homework.

3. Get support and accountability partners

Tell family and friends about your commitment. Let them know that you’re “in it to win it” and for the time being, studying for class is a top priority. This may mean that you are not always available. Remind them this is only temporary, and that achieving this goal is important to you.

Make arrangements in advance for childcare, eldercare or pet care. Sometimes, it takes a village to get kids to soccer, check on a parent or make sure your dog gets walked. Ask friends and family to help you, and give them enough time to plan.

To stay on track, arrange to check in with a friend or coach at various points during your class. Who can you count on for some “tough love” to keep you accountable?

4. Get your materials in time for class

Ensure that you can hit the ground running by having your course materials ready. This may mean buying books or setting up online learning systems in time to complete pre-course work.

5. Make time to recharge and celebrate

How will you recharge? Who is most important to you? Schedule something to look forward to every week, like spending time with loved ones, doing something you enjoy, or create some downtime to relax.

Make time to celebrate little victories, such as passing an exam or completing a project. Plan how you will take a victory lap when you complete your class.

If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. By applying these time management strategies, you are setting yourself up for success. Take the time to consider these five tips and make an investment in yourself.


Kim McGaw began teaching for Continuing Studies in 2005 after a career as a professional comedienne. She was selected by audition to train and perform in the conservatory at Chicago’s famed Second City. As Director of Professional Programs for the Glasscock School, she now brings improv games into professional development, both in the classroom and online. In 2016, Ms. McGaw presented at South by Southwest (SXSWedu) and led a skills workshop for the Houston Fulbright Enrichment Seminar. Ms. McGaw is a certified LEGO®SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator and earned a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University.

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