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Avoid Beginning of the Semester Panic: Six Scheduling Tips for the Already Over-scheduled, by Gina Hiatt, Ph.D.

Avoid Beginning of the Semester Panic: Six Scheduling Tips for the Already Overscheduled

For those of you who have just made it through the first, overwhelming week of school, congratulations!  It gets better.  For those who are about to head into a new term, hang in there.  I know this is a busy time for all of us, and it's easy to fall into the trap of giving up our writing completely as we settle into our semester routines.  Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the effects of the whirlwind.  Get your calendars and your timers ready, and think about your goals for the term as you read these tips: 

Schedule all appointments directly into your calendar.  

This includes grading, teaching prep, research time and writing.  I know many people who write down their schedules and their to-do list for the week or day and think they've done enough to plan.  While some planning is better than no planning, unless you have a reality check with your calendar, 
you may tend to overbook.  You may want to use an electronic calendar for this, although paper daytimers can work well too.  The important thing is that you are actually writing down the task within the block of time that it will take to do it.

Be realistic about how much time a task will take.

If you know that it's going to take five to seven hours to grade your 35 essays, for instance, there is no point pretending that you'll "just get them done" in two or three.  Most project managers will tell you to estimate the time a task will take and then double it -- yes, that may sound scary at first, but by doubling the time, you will prevent your teaching and other obligations from creeping into your scheduled research and writing time.  And if you finish a task early -- that's great!  Then you can either take a break or use the extra time to get ahead on other things.

Refrain from spending too much time on teaching and service obligations. 

This is a difficult one, especially for TAs and new faculty. Just remember that, as Robert Boice says in his now classic Advice to New Faculty, you can limit the time you spend grading and prepping for teaching. Use a timer for both and try relegating these sorts of tasks to the spare moments you have throughout the day.  These little bits and pieces of time will add up, and by not doing all of the prep and grading at once, you'll likely be a better teacher too.

Write in brief, structured periods of time and with carefully defined goals.  

This is another instance where a timer can help - -remember to make use of those pomodoros (Italian for tomato, a timer technique widely used by writers)! Remember that even 15 minutes a day will accumulate over the course of a week, and you might be surprised at how much you will get done.

Make use of your office hours, especially early in the term.

Early in the term, students aren't as likely to come to your office hours, so make good use of them.  This is a good time for those tedious tasks like making copies or setting up your gradebook as well as for getting ahead in your grading.  If you can do your research or writing during this time, even better, but if you are worried you'll be interrupted, try scheduling in tasks that take less mental energy.

Be conscious of your semester and long-term goals.  

Finally, remember to streamline your schedule as much as you can and to say no to things that will not help you.  Every Friday afternoon or Sunday evening, you may want to sit down with your calendar and make sure that you have a good plan for the next week, and that your plan is in accordance with your goals and values.

If you set yourself up well while it’s still early in the semester, you will be able to pick up momentum in your writing and research and be less stressed as you go through the weeks to come.  The life of academics is never easy, but with some thoughtful planning and scheduling, you can release yourself from a perpetual state of being overwhelmed.

posted by Gina Hiatt, Ph.D. @ 5:56 PM   0 comments links

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How Much Education Is Enough? 5 Shocking Facts About Your Post-Grad Job Prospects

How Much Education Is Enough? 5 Shocking Facts About Your Post-Grad Job Prospects


From my junior year of high school through the moment we all threw our tasseled mortar boards triumphantly in the air, the buzz was about what college we would attend. For the majority of my friends, college was a given. I was the first person in my family to graduate college, but that’s not to say my family isn’t successful. We’ve got auto mechanics that own their own shops, a taxidermist, a carpenter and a couple of postal workers among my parent’s generation that have done well for themselves. My dad and now my brother are elevator mechanics – this is a very high paying union protected job. My nephew is following in their footsteps and at 19 has bought his first home and is financially stable with no educational debt. My niece though is happily ensconced in a bachelor’s pre-med program, thrilled to be fulfilling her dream.
Associates and bachelors degree earnings

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So my question is, how much education is enough? Do all high school graduates need to go to college? Are we over-educating ourselves and can we continue to afford to do so? With a trillion dollars in student debt outstanding and half of that deferred or delinquent, have we overextended ourselves to buy education we may not need? Here are 5 shocking facts that address these questions and will hopefully get you thinking about how our educational system works:
#1 There Are Not Enough Jobs for College Graduates
A recent study by non-profit Center for College Affordability and Productivity says there are far less jobs available that require college degrees than there are college graduates seeking employment. Labor Department data used by the study showed 28.6 million jobs available that required a college degree and 41.7 million degreed professionals available to fill them. That means that unless something changes, some 13 million workers are not getting their money’s worth out of their education.
Affordability of college

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#2 Many College Graduates Are Working in Jobs That Require a High School Diploma (or less)
Not only are 13 million degreed workers not going to land in a job that makes use of their bachelor’s or master’s degree, many will work in jobs where a high school diploma is likely optional. 15% of taxi drivers have college degrees, 25% of retail clerks have graduated college and 5% of janitors are college alumni. Study author Richard Vedder says, “There are going to be an awful lot of disappointed people because a lot of them are going to end up as janitors.” Wow!
Decline in earnings for degreed workers

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#3 You May Be Able to Make As Much Or More As a Skilled Laborer
There are over 500,000 manufacturing jobs across the US sitting open and hundreds of thousands more skilled labor positions. These require on-the-job training rather than any formal education and experts predict this job segment will be booming over the next decade. The age of the average skilled manufacturing worker is 56, so within the next decade, this generation will phase into retirement, leaving a huge skills gap. Skilled jobs like these pay an average wage of around $25 per hour which equates to about $50,000 per year. Average wages for someone with a bachelor’s working in their field are just $59,000. And manufacturing jobs often come with union protection, great benefits and no student loan debt!
#4 You May Be Able to Make as Much or More With an Associate’s Degree
While the cost of four year colleges and universities has been on the rise, community college and trade school tuition have remained low cost alternatives. The highest earning careers you can launch with an associate’s degree are in healthcare, occupational trades and technology. A good indicator of the earning potential of a career path is how much science and math are involved in the program. Nurses, respiratory and radiation therapists, engineering and aviation jobs are among the high earning jobs you can get with just two years of school.
Student loan debt as percent of income

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#5 The More Debt You Graduate With, The Less Your Effective Earnings Are
Bachelor’s degree graduates average $20,000 in student loan debt. At 6.8% interest, paying back over 10 years, the monthly payments would be $230. That’s $2,760 per year less in your pocket. When you are job hunting fresh out of university, the impact of your student loan debt is important to bear in mind. To optimize your debt and ensure you are paying in the most effective manner, consider consulting a student loan expert. Trade school and community college graduates emerge with drastically less debt, often just a few thousand dollars. Your wages will be effectively higher if you owe less debt!

If you’re in college or are excited about launching into your bachelor’s program, consider looking at ways to minimize your post-college debt such as making payments while in school, consolidating loans and looking for jobs (such as public service and high-need jobs) that offer debt forgiveness. But if you’re uncertain about what you would do with a four year degree, don’t assume you have to bend to academic protocol. An associate’s degree or skilled trade training can be very rewarding and are growth industry.

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