Time Management Tips for Students to Prepare for College

In college, you will have 24 hours a day to decide what you want to do. Your classes will take up anywhere from 0-6 hours a day, but even there, you will get to choose which times you are in class.

For me, I spent far too many hours my freshman year eating food, laying out on the grass, and sitting on my friends’ beds chatting saving my homework and essays until everyone else was asleep. My first semester’s grades reflected that.

Over the holiday break, I reflected on why a good student like me was doing poorly. Why did I feel like I never had enough time? Well, because I wasn’t managing it.

College Time

When you get to college you'll find no one has mapped out your schedule. You have to learn how to do it yourself.

When you get to college you'll find no one has mapped out your schedule. You have to learn how to do it yourself.

Time management in college is very different than high school. In high school, you have from when you wake up to when you get out of school, or sports, planned for you. All you need to do is make sure you finish most of your homework, feed yourself, and sleep. The time you manage is only a couple of hours.

In college, you choose your schedule: you can put all of your classes at the beginning of the day or just on Tuesday and Thursdays. You are free to sleep all day, skip your classes, never leave the dining hall, or stay cooped up in the library. You have 168 hours a week to do with as you’d like.

To manage your time well in college, you need a system. You will need to build a routine with set times you spend in class, doing homework, extracurriculars, and with friends.

By my second semester in college, I had a weekly planner with large chunks for each day but an entire week on a two-page spread. When I got each of my syllabi, I would write down each assignment on its due date and on my to-dos for two class days before. If it was a big assignment (more than 2 pages), I would write it two weeks out. This system helped me know what was coming down the pipeline homework-wise and get a head start on my to-dos.

Managing What You Have Left

If creating and following a planner makes you squeamish, there are other ways to do this that fit your personality better. Some students use google calendar or make to-do lists to check off. Having your schedule and assignments written down means less to remember and keep track of in your head, and will allow you more freedom.

Here are some additional tips to manage your time well...

1. Do It Yourself

First and foremost, you need to start to gain your independence. You should be responsible for your laundry, wake up, meal prep, homework, schedule, dishes, etc. If your parents are still doing this for you, talk to them about taking over some household chores so you can get the hang of it. I promise they won’t be mad. Cut back on your TV or video game time and spend time getting stuff done. It feels good and this habit in itself will make you a more productive college student (and you will have more fun because of it).

2. Take Hard Classes

In your senior year, take harder classes that you are interested in or have a good teacher. Wait, what? Why would anyone tell you to take harder classes when they barely matter and it’s your senior year?!

For me, taking 2 AP courses I was interested in helped me be more invested in my grades and taught me a work ethic I did not have previously. Without that preparation, I could have failed some of my college classes. Hard classes challenge you, interest makes you commit, and good teachers help you retain.

Senior year should challenge you, contrary to popular belief. If senior year is a breeze, college will be really hard. For your hard classes, my only words of advice are to work hard, do the homework, and plan out your study time.

3. Schedule Your Time

Lastly, but most importantly, start to track your daily schedule. Use it as a planning tool to know where you need to be: school, work, home, sports, or driving siblings.

Try different methods of tracking and planning for about a month each to see which works best for you and your life. Use your parents, teachers, and other adult mentors to figure out what works for them and how they manage their time.

Planning your time out and sticking to it is a hard task, but it is possible. Many adults have trouble providing themselves with a structure for their days and sticking to their plans. I find the best way to view it is as a journey towards ultimate balance. We all are testing new methods to help us accomplish all of our goals and balance all portions of our life. Make sure you are proud of the work you are putting into managing your life and remember that you’re working hard now so it is easier later! 

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