Getting the most value out of your college experience is important to all students, and although college is about more than your studies, at the end of the day, academics always come first. Maintaining grades, keeping up with assignments, and staying on task with studies is the first and foremost concern for all students.
For many students, going to college means managing time on their own, for the first time. Parents, caregivers, coaches and other adult influences take a step back when a high school student first embarks on his or her college experience, and the notion of balancing studies and everything else that comes along with being in college can seem overwhelming. Even graduate, returning education, or non-traditional and part time college students have trouble keeping up no matter how many years experience they have managing their time on their own.
The reason managing time in college can seem so overwhelming is because college is about more than just academics. It’s about personal time, extracurricular activities, gaining experience with an internship, volunteer opportunity or even a job. Some students have family commitments. Some are on a sports team and juggling practices, travel and games. Other students are committed to clubs or societies; they may have social commitments. With so much going on, how can any one student manage it on her own?
True, time management in college a struggle, but with these tips you’ll be able to get organized and feel confident in how you use your precious time. You’ll be on task and ready to make the most of your college experience, no matter what form it takes.
Types of Time to Manage
The three types of time you’ll be managing in college are your academic time, your personal time, and your work time, the latter not being applicable for everyone. Under these three categories falls everything else. If you are part of a sports team or club, this falls under your personal time. If you are taking on an internship for the fall semester, this falls under your work time. Let’s break these sections down below.
- in-class time
- out-of-class, or study, time
- assignments and projects
- clubs or societies
- social activities
- quiet time
- full or part time jobs
- volunteer commitments
Remember that first and foremost, you are in college to learn. So start with managing your academic time.
A good rule of thumb to use is the following formula. For every hour you are in class, you need two hours for out of class study or assignments, or you need to double your in-class time for your out-of-class studies. For example, let’s say you spend a total of three hours in your statistics class each week. This means you need to commit six hours of out-of-class time to studying and completing assignments or projects. Start by assessing how many hours you spend in class to determine how many hours you need to commit out of class for study and completing assignments.
Now that you know how much time you need, one of the most important steps to managing your academic time is to set up a study schedule – and then stick to it as strictly as possible. Go ahead and set aside specific time each day for this. You’ll find that you always have something you can work on academically, even during the ‘slow’ weeks of your semesters.
During this study time you must commit to doing nothing but studying and working on assignments. You’ll want a chunk of time each week that is set aside too for working on big projects and papers or studying for major tests. One additional hour per class is a good place to start, and the beauty of reserving this extra time is if you don’t have any academic commitments, and you’re caught up on everything else, you can reward all your hard work with extra hours of you-time. Catch a movie, see some friends, or take a nap!
It’s easy to get distracted, especially today with the internet, your phone or other device, and all the other outside noise that surrounds our every moment. So make sure your study time is quiet.
Go to the library. Turn off your wifi if you are writing a paper or working on a specific assignment. If you are online, don’t open any tabs or pages that are not directly associated with the assignment you’re working on. Turn off your phone. Again: turn off your phone. Or leave it behind.
According to professor of psychology, Dr. Rosen of California State University, distractions like cell phones and internet surfing, in particular social media, slow down and inhibit study time for all students.
He found that, “across all grade levels, 80% of students reported that they switch between studying and technology somewhat often to very often. Rosen calls this ‘Continuous Partial Attention,’ meaning that most of the time, students are not focused on studying but rather are moving their attention back and forth between studying and various forms of technology.”
Your personal time is just as important as your study and class time in college. Not only do you need personal time to have a social life, make friends, join and enjoy clubs, societies and other campus led programs, but you also need some down time to let your brain and body rest. Without your ‘you’ time, you’ll find yourself quickly overwhelmed and burnt out, unable to keep up with your classes and commitments!
When thinking about your personal time, the best place to start is by considering and carefully choosing your commitments. Do not over-commit yourself.
Take a look at your academic schedule. If you have a full load of classes one semester that requires eighteen hours of in-class time per week, that’s thirty-six hours of out of class study according to our formula above. So, slow down when you’re thinking of joining the women in STEM club and campus men’s leadership society, especially if you’re already on the basketball team and volunteering for a tutoring program.
When you start each semester, look at all the extracurricular activities available to you. Commit to just what you can handle, and make sure you have worked in at least two to four hours of down time for just you each day. Choose your commitments wisely and leave the rest of your time for rest, to go to the movies, see friends, grab a coffee – any leisurely activity you want that can be enjoyed in itself. Remember, not everything you do has to have an end goal. Down time, and your mental health, is just as important as your studies.
Some students are fortunate enough to not have to worry at all about work time. If you are one of those students, be thankful! But you may find you’re taking on an internship or volunteer opportunity one day and these tips will help. If you are working full or part time, you are doing great and balancing your academics and work can be challenging, but it can be done, still leaving time for you.
Make sure that whatever hours you’ve committed to work are not going to press into your academic time. Even if you are working full time, don’t take on more classes or overtime while you’re in session – you’ll find yourself overwhelmed and burn out too quickly. Here are some great tips on how to manage working and attending college at the same time.
Get Help if You Need it
According to the University of Wisconsin at Greenbay, time saving tips are just as important as organizing your time. They suggest you use lists to keep yourself organized. Take advantage of spare moments by resting in your down time, stay off the phone or device and give your brain a rest. Take a look at your habits; do you work well for an hour or two with a break in between, or are you better suited for a long haul of study? Examine how you work best and stick to the patter that suits you.
Remember to study in one place that is as distraction free as possible.
If you’re still having trouble managing your time, know that there are plenty of places on campus where you can get help. If you’re struggling academically, consider utilizing one of your college’s tutoring services, like the writing center, which will help you focus your time to successfully complete academic tasks.
You can even take time to talk to your advisor or professor. If you are falling behind or feeling nervous, here are some tips that will make talking to your professor easier. Know that she is there to help and guide you. Most importantly though, value your time – it is precious and fleeting – use it wisely to make the most of your college experience!