Paul is a consulting systems engineer who supports infrastructures for nationwide wireless networks. He lives in Snoqualmie, Wash. He’s soft-spoken, self-effacing, and often uses the word “efficient.”
The first step, he said, is to find the right major. “You should spend a lot of up-front time figuring this out,” he advised, “because if you change it later on, it will cost you time.”
Paul decided WSU’s online business degree would best provide relevant skills and career advancement: “Getting my degree is something that I’d overlooked,” he said, “but others don’t.”More...
He examined WSU’s management information systems major, but determined that attending just one college would take too long—“I wanted to be efficient,” he said—so he enrolled at both WSU Global Campus and Bellevue College. Last summer, he was simultaneously taking six accelerated six-week courses, three from each institution. “I don’t ever want to do that again,” he said. “It was nuts.”
Paul also earned 15 credits through proficiency tests called CLEP exams. But Paul used CLEP only for what he calls “the easy stuff,” like math, English and psychology. “I went to school for the more business-centric material,” he said. “The process of learning should be longer for things you need to spend more time on.”
How did he find that time? One strategy is “grouping” the courses: He takes classes with similar curriculums so he can apply concepts learned in one class to another. He also tries to find courses in which the due dates don’t conflict.
To stay organized, he lists all due dates in an Excel spreadsheet. At the end of each week, he reviews his spreadsheet to ensure he’s on track. “You never want to be behind,” he said. “If you get a little behind, you have to work so much harder to get caught up.”
Paul also uses a separate color-coded spreadsheet (see sample) to organize his waking hours. That spreadsheet—which includes work, learning and family—is based on more than efficiency: “You’ve got to have family in there,” he said. “Otherwise my wife would kill me.”