University is a very different experience from high school. No-one's going to make
you do your assignments or turn them in on time. No-one's going to make
you study or nag you if you don't. You will probably have 8-12 hours of classes, plus any labs or recitations, each week. And that's not everything. Each class will require at least 1-2 hours of self-managed reading or homework for the next class. Some classes will need more preparation than others - allow around 2 hours of individual study for each hour in the classroom.
One of the best ways to make sure you do everything, and don't waste time (so you can keep your social life!) is to prepare and use a time schedule. The purpose of the schedule is not to make you a slave to your desk or your planner, but to save you from last-minute cramming, missing class or homework, and having to repeat classes to get the grades you need.
How do I create a schedule?
Creating a schedule for yourself is easier than you think.
Most students find that they use a combination of long- and short-range planning.
For example, you can make a general plan for the semester marking out dates when classes start, last days for add/drop, dates for examinations and quizzes, and when grades are posted. This will help you get a general picture of when you need to complete certain tasks, and make sure you don't miss any academic deadlines. (There are even calculators to help you plan papers, such as this one from the University of Minnesota. It will even email you with reminders!)
Then prepare a more specific plan for either each week, or a general plan per week. This is really a short list of events that week and work that needs to be done. (This can include non-study activities too!)
- Biology paper due Tuesday 2pm
- Finish Calculus homework by Thursday
- Read 3 chapters of history text by Friday
- Blazers football game Monday night
If you want, you can then go on to make a short daily list (either the previous evening or first thing in the morning).
- 8-10am Biology
- Meet friends for lunch
- 2pm finish BY paper
- This evening: do laundry and finish calculus
This has a number of benefits.
Mapping out your day means you're less likely to waste time running errands and forgetting items (and trying to remember them!), and also gives you a real sense of accomplishment.
It's easy to forget how much you do day-to-day, and to think you've not done anything at all. But when you write it down you might be surprised how much you cram into each day.
I want a more detailed schedule - how do I start?
If you prefer having more detail in your plan, you can create a timetable for yourself similar to the one you probably had in high school.
To start, try mapping out your week in hourly intervals (between, for example, 6am and 10pm - we'll assume you sleep between 10pm and 6am).
Now write in the activities which have fixed hours each week and cannot be changed. Classes, recitations, labs; campus dining hours; your job; church; on-campus activities.
Next, schedule your flexible commitments. This includes study sessions. Pick times when you won't be too tired, or when you're not likely to miss them for any reason. Make sure you schedule time for your meals!
Lastly, schedule recreation, time with friends, TV shows and sports. The Rec Center is open from 5.30am till late during the week, so you've got plenty of time to get some exercise!
If you need to vary your schedule occasionally, remember to switch times rather than just take time away from study for something else. If you find yourself switching more often than not, change your schedule so it reflects your activities. You might need to rework it a couple of times before you find a schedule that works for you.
4 more suggestions
- You might find a To-Do list helpful, so keep a list of assignments, and prioritise them. Some will be shorter or easier so plan when you can do the others. Reading can be done almost anywhere, but some types of studying need more concentration.
- Try using a weekly/monthly planner. Write down all your classes, and include your study time for each class. Check your schedule each evening to make sure you're not surprised the next day!
- You can also use month/year planners for long term planning. If you know your instructor always sets a paper every 8th class, write it down so you can prepare!
- Invest in an organizer. This can be paper-based or electronic - the choice is yours. Whichever you pick, use it!