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Lesley Manson of Argosy University/Phoenix plans to finish her five-year PsyD program in less than four years. And while balancing schoolwork and extracurricular activities, the 24-year-old doesn't feel like she's missing out by finishing early.

For Manson, the tricks to trimming time off the program are taking one course more than the recommended course load and taking summer sessions. She admits it takes time-management skills to foresee possible roadblocks to finishing early. "Sometimes you can only take certain classes during a year, so when you work ahead sometimes you get caught," she says.

That's why she advises meeting with professors regularly and making sure they know you. Then, she says, if you get in a jam where a class is full or you need a prerequisite to enter, a professor who knows your capabilities is more apt to let you in the class.

Manson's program requires two years of practicum experience, so she worked to fulfill those requirements while completing her coursework. She finished her dissertation in March; her school requires students to hold off on internship until the dissertation is completed.

Manson also stayed involved in professional activities, working as a teaching assistant and writing tutor, as well as serving on a student council for graduate students and the Arizona Psychological Association, chairing the student affairs committee, and acting as a state advocacy coordinator for the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students.

"Becoming involved made an impact on shortening my doctorate degree because it enabled me to build a network of individuals for consultation, support and encouragement," Manson says. "Once an individual becomes involved, help is always offered and doors open faster-for internship, employment and dissertation."

And, of course, Manson says, coffee helps too!