Ah, sweet freedom!
The amount of unstructured time you get in college is by far the biggest adjustment from high school. Instead of having six or seven back-to-back classes with sports or other activities after school, college is a big mishmash of vastly different time slots, four-hour labs, student group meetings, and awkward breaks between classes.
In some ways, this is liberating. No one expects you home by a certain hour, and some days you might only have a class or two. However, it’s much harder to discipline yourself and know where and when to do things.
Here’s where the dreaded Time Management comes in. There are more strategies for how to plan your time than will ever fit in a blog post, but the most important strategy of all is to have some kind of strategy. Here are some of mine:
- Whenever possible, try to schedule classes back to back (with enough time to walk between them) in order to maximize long stretches of time instead of chopping up your day.
- If you do have some time between classes, use it to get homework out of the way. Always carry something you can work on in short periods, like readings or worksheets.
- My RA, Brandon, gave me this advice: Treat schoolwork like a 9-5 job. During the day, work on homework and academics until 5 in the evening. Then do fun things to wind down, instead of waiting until late at night to start working.
- Set aside specific times for different things, for example: chemistry problems from 4:00 to 5:30, then start working on the next sociology paper from 5:45-7:00.
- Create your own study groups. It’s always helpful to talk through material with others, and chances are you’ll remember things better if you’ve explained and repeated them to each other.
- Work on things that are important before things that aren’t urgent.
- Review as much as you can, even daily. College classes move quickly!
Of course, college isn’t just schoolwork.
There are loads of fun things to do, including opportunities to hear guest speakers, going to parties, spending time with friends, and exploring. I have a personal goal of getting off campus once a day, even if it’s just for a short run. This helps me remember that the world does not revolve around Reed, and that there’s much more out there than the next biology test and cafeteria food. Include fun things in your schedule: plan events for yourself or with friends, look up cool things to do or see in your college town, or volunteer in something you find rewarding.
In college, you are free to do whatever, whenever, which makes the biggest challenge figuring out what to do when. If you find yourself overwhelmed and confused, bogged down by piles of work at one in the morning, you’re not alone. Once you do get a handle on how to best do your work, remember that the appeal of spending any extra free time scrolling through blogs or just hanging around wears off quickly. Do a couple things you could never do back in high school. Go exploring. Join teams and groups to find new friends. The only way to get time is to make it.
Your time is yours; make what you spend it on something worth telling people about.