Bethany Emory
Education, Higher education
Material Type:
Curriculum Education
  • EDUC
  • Effective Learning Strategies
  • Student Success
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    Education Standards

    Academic Planning

    Academic Planning


     free digital textbook serves as a companion to EDUC 1300/1200/1100 Learning Framework: Effective Strategies for College Success at Austin Community College. This book is an accessible and relevant way to explore the research and theory in the psychology of learning, cognition, and motivation as well as factors that impact learning, and the presentation of specific learning strategies. This Open Educational Resource was remixed from a previous version found at by Heather Syrett and Laura Lucas.

    Senior Contributing Author and Editor

    Heather Syrett, Associate Professor and Assistant Department Chair

    Student Development and General Studies

    Austin Community College

    Contributing Authors

    Edgar Granillo, Professor and Assistant Department Chair

    Student Development and General Studies

    Austin Community College 

    Laura Lucas, Adjunct Professor

    Student Development and General Studies

    Austin Community College 

    Tobin Quereau, Adjunct Professor

    Student Development and General Studies

    Austin Community College

    It is maintained by Bethany Emory, Dean of teaching and Learning Support at Southwestern Community College. This free digital textbook serves as a companion to ACA-111 in the NCCCS. 

    Exploring An Academic Program and Connecting with Your Advisor

    Planning for Your Career

    Exploring Your Academic Program

    Your acadmic program reporesents an area you plan to specialize in, such as accounting, chemistry, nursing, digital arts, welding, or dance. Within each program is a host of core courses and electives. When you successfully complete the required courses in your major, you qualify for a degree, diploma or certificate (or a combination of these credentials).

    In this section, we look at how to choose a program that clearly aligns with your career goals.  Does your program matter to your career? What happens if you change your program? Does changing your program mean you must change your career? Read on to find out!

    Selecting a Program

    Selecting your program is one of the most exciting tasks (and, to some students, perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking tasks) you are asked to perform in college. So many decisions are tied to it. But if you have good guidance, patience, and enthusiasm, the process is easier. SCC offers a variety of support and resources as you plan your major and career path. 

    Success doesn’t come to you . . . you go to it. —Dr. Marva Collins, civil rights activist and educator

    This quote really sets the stage for the journey you’re on. Your journey may be a straight line that connects the dots between today and your future, or it may resemble a twisted road with curves, bumps, hurdles, and alternate routes.

    To help you navigate your pathway to career success, take advantage of all the resources available to you. Your college, your community, and the wider body of higher-education institutions and organizations have many tools to help you with career development. Be sure to take advantage of the following resources:

    • College course catalog: Course catalogs are typically rich with information that can spark ideas and inspiration for your major and your career.
    • Faculty and academic advisors at your college: Our instructors are often also practitioners in their fields and can share insights with you about related professions.  They also serve as a resource to guide you in your course choices, and to connect you with opportunities that can expand your professional netwirk, even while in college
    • Fellow students: Many of your classmates, may have had experiences that can inform and enlighten you—for instance, an internship with an employer or a job interview with someone who could be contacted for more information.
    • Students who have graduated: Most colleges and universities have active alumni programs with networking resources that can help you make important decisions.
    • Your family and social communities: Contact friends and family members who can weigh in with their thoughts and experience.
    • A career center: Professionals in career centers have a wealth of information to share with you—they’re also very good at listening and can act as a sounding board for you to try out your ideas.

    Program Credentials at SCC

    SCC offers more than 102 credential options in more than 41 programs of study that are designed to suit a wide range of interests.  Generally these credentials are grouped into three broad categories:


    Certificates are short term programs that can often be completed in less than a year. They do not require general courses like a degree does; instead, they requires just the classes and training relating directly to the specific area of study. A certificate doesn’t offer an overview of the area of study like a Diploma program does. Students may choose to complete certificates on the path to completing their degrees to increase employability options.  


    Diplomas are shoreter term programs that can often be completed in a year or less.  These programs are also often more technical. The classes taken in conjunction with earning a Diploma allow you to gain a thorough understanding of your field of study, though you won’t earn a degree upon completion of the program. Diploma programs also provide hands-on experience, so you can learn and practice the skills you will be using on a daily basis. These technical programs specialize in developing career skills and often do not require completion of general education courses.  


    Associate’s degrees are degrees you can earn in about two years, and require the completion of general education courses to help provide a well-rounded education.  

    SCC offers AAS (Associuate in Applied Science) degrees designed to assist students in transitioning directly into the workforce following graduation.  These programs include degree in Career and Technical programs as well as the Health Sciences.  Although AAS degrees are not designed specifically for transfer, some programs have been established to assist AAS degreed students in transferring effectively to a four year institution.  Should you be considering a four year degree following your work at SCC, be sure to discuss this goal with your faculty advisior as soon as possible to ensure your courses transfer as seamlessly as possible.

    In addition, the college offers AA (Associate in Arts), AS (Associate in Science) and AFA (Associate of Fine Arts) degrees designed to prepare students to transfer directly to four year universities. 

    Working with an Acadmic Advisor

    So what excatly is an acadmic advisor?  When should you plan on meeting with them?  Do you have to meet with them? 

    Consider first the goal of acdemic advising as presented in this video from Arizona State University:

    What is an Academic Advisor?

    SCC partners each student with a program advisor to help you successfully manage your college career, by planing, preparing and problem solving to help you succeed. Advisors can assist students stay on track to graduate, navigate changing programs and help you to discover ways to become involved in extracurricular activities along the way. Consider the following tips that  can assist you in developing the most effective relationship with your program advisor:

    • Build a Relationship with your Advisor - Advisors are advocates and referral sources. It is important to meet with your advisor early and often throughout your college career.  SCC will require you to meet with your academic advisor at least once per semester, either in person, on the phone or via email. The better your advisor knows you, the better they will be able to connect you to resources and opportunities for your specific needs. 
    • When in Doubt, Come See Your Advisor - If you feel you need more clarity and understanding about something, don't wait until you feel completely cornered. That feeling can result in rash decisions and can put you behind in the future. Instead, ask your advisor for help! Although they may not know the answer to every question, they can connect you to the right person and help you find solutions.
    • Be Specific - When contacting your advisor, be specific. Don't just email your advisor with a request like, "can you add me to the ECON class?". A detailed message of the problem or concern you are facing allows for water resolution. 
    • MySCC - MySCC's Self Service allows you to conduct a degree audit of all the courses you have completed at SCC, as well as work transferred from other regionally accredited institutions. Use it to help to target classes for an upcoming semester or check your progress toward graduation. 
    • Read Emails - It may seem tedious to check and read your emails, but just do it! Emails are one of the main resources that advisors use to reach out and communicate with you. Important information is communicated in the emails they send. Perhaps devote a certain amount of time each day to look through your email so you can stay up-to-date on important information and solve problems before they arise.
    • Be Prepared - When you schedule an appointment with your advisor, be prepared. Do as much as you can beforehand to ensure you get the most out of it. This could include writing down questions, looking through your catalog, and exploring opportunities such as Work Based Learning.

    Consider this video from Boston University about preparing to meet with an acadmic advisor.  

    How to Prepare for an Academic Advising Appointment



    • Use a systematic approach to narrow down your career interests and to select a major.
    • Your academic advisor is a key element to both succeeding in college and succeeding in your chosen career

    Developing Inside and Outside of Class

    Hard and Soft Skills

    If you lived and worked in colonial times in the United States, what skills would you need to be gainfully employed? And how different would your skills and aptitudes be then, compared to today? Many industries that developed during the 1600–1700’s, such as healthcare, publishing, manufacturing, construction, finance, and farming, are still with us today. And the original professional abilities, aptitudes, and values required in those industries are many of the same ones employers seek today. For example, in the healthcare field then, just like today, employers looked for professionals with scientific acumen, active listening skills, a service orientation, oral comprehension abilities, and teamwork skills.

    Why is it that with the passage of time and all the changes in the work world, some skills remain unchanged (or little changed)? The answer might lie in the fact there are are two main types of skills that employers look for: hard skills and soft skills.

    • Hard skills are concrete or objective abilities that you learn and perhaps have mastered. They are skills you can easily quantify, like using a computer, speaking a foreign language, or operating a machine. You might earn a certificate, a college degree, or other credentials that attest to your hard-skill competencies. Obviously, because of changes in technology, the hard skills required by industries today are vastly different from those required centuries ago.
    • Soft skills, on the other hand, are subjective skills that have changed very little over time. Such skills might pertain to the way you relate to people, or the way you think, or the ways in which you behave—for example, listening attentively, working well in groups, and speaking clearly. Soft skills are sometimes also called “transferable skills” because you can easily transfer them from job to job or profession to profession without much training. Indeed, if you had a time machine, you could probably transfer your soft skills from one time period to another!

    Skills Worth Developing

    As you develop as a student or an emplyee. it helps to have both the necessary hard and soft skills to do the job well and adapt to changes. Soft skills may be especially in demand today because employers are generally equipped to train new employees in a hard skill—by training them to use new computer software, for instance—but it’s much more difficult to teach an employee a soft skill such as developing rapport with coworkers or knowing how to manage conflict. An employer might rather hire an inexperienced worker who can pay close attention to details than an experienced worker who might cause problems on a work team. 

    A skill is something you can do, say, or think right now. It’s what an employer expects you to bring to the workplace to improve the overall operations of the organization, or the knowledge your instructors will expect you to develop or bring to the classes you take.

    Transferable (soft) skills may be used in multiple professions. They include, but are by no means limited to, skills listed below:

    • Dependable and punctual (showing up on time, ready to work, not being a liability)
    • Self-motivated
    • Enthusiastic
    • Committed
    • Adaptable (willing to change and take on new challenges)
    • Problem-solving
    • A team player
    • Positive attitude
    • Essential work skills (following instructions, possessing critical thinking skills, knowing limits)
    • Communication skills
    • Customer service
    • Willing to learn (lifelong learner)
    • Able to accept constructive criticism
    • Honest and ethical
    • Safety conscious
    • Strong in time management

    These skills are transferable because they are positive attributes that are invaluable in practically any kind of work. They also do not require much training from an employer—you have them already and take them with you wherever you go. Soft skills are a big part of your “total me” package.  The following video further explores what soft skills are and why they are essential to the modern workplace, regardless of your specific career:

    What Are Soft Skills?


    “Lifelong learning” is a buzz phrase in the twentieth-first century because we are awash in new technology and information all the time, and those who know how to learn continuously are in the best position to keep up and take advantage of these changes. Think of all the information resources around you: colleges and universities, libraries, the Internet, videos, games, books, films—the list goes on.

    With these resources at your disposal, how can you best position yourself for lifelong learning and a strong, viable career? Which hard and soft skills are most important? What are employers really looking for? The following list was inspired by the remarks of Mark Atwood, director of open-source engagement at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. It contains excellent practical advice.

    • Learn how to write clearly. After you’ve written something, have people edit it. Then rewrite it, taking into account the feedback you received. Write all the time.
    • Be reachable. Publish your email so that people can contact you. 
    • Learn about computers and computing, even if you aren’t gearing for a career in information technology.
    • Learn something entirely new every six to twelve months.
    • Build relationships within your community. Use tools like and search for clubs at local schools, libraries, and centers. Then, seek out remote people around the country and world. Learn about them and their projects first by searching the Internet.
    • Attend conferences and events. This is a great way to network with people and meet them face-to-face.
    • Find a project and get involved. Start reading questions and answers, then start answering questions.
    • Collaborate with people all over the world.
    • Keep your LinkedIn profile and social media profiles up-to-date. Be findable.
    • Keep learning. Skills will often beat smarts. Be sure to schedule time for learning and having fun!

    The video below, from Stephen F. Austin State University, provides great insight into how being involved while in college can help you develop these critical skills and into determining what level of involvement may be right for you.

    Why Involvement in College Matters

    As you can see, being deeply involved with at least one organization while in college creates the perfect opportunity to hone some soft skills.


    • For your career path, you will need both career-specific hard skills and soft skills that are transferable because they are desirable in any field. Use your college career to help develop both.
    • Take advantage of available resources and get involved in college organizations or activities to acquire the necessary skills, both in and out of class, for your career goals.


    Licenses and Attributions



    • Planning for Your Career. Authored by: Laura Lucas and Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicenseCC BY-NC-SA-4.0
    • Get to Know Yourself. Authored by: Heather Syrett. Provided by: Austin Community College. LicensePublic Domain: No Known Copyright