How To Manage Your Time in College (Part One)

College Advice

INtroduction

College students often feel stressed that there is not enough time in the day to do everything they want to do–attend class, study, do extra-curriculars, and hang out with friends.  However, studies routinely show that college students do not, in fact, spend as much time studying as one might think.  In 2014, the average student studied 17 hours a week.  The 2016 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) results indicated that the mean class prep time for first-year students was 13.8 hoursAssuming that the average student spends 15 hours in class, this means that the average first-year student in 2016 spent about 28.8 hours engaged in studying and that the average college student in 2014 spent 32 hours studying.  Though college students are undeniably busy, the math indicates that they are studying less than the 40 hours a week the average person is expected to work.  When we consider that the traditional college student typically does not have a family to care for or other “adult” responsibilities, they should, in theory, have more time than the average adult.

So where is the time going?  Why do students feel so terribly busy?  The answer tends to be two-fold.  First of all, many students mistake optional activities for mandatory activities.  They believe they have to do participate in several athletics and extra-curriculars, that they have to attend every sorority or fraternity event and party, and that they have to participate in college-wide festivities or fundraisers.  Second of all, many students (especially the ones transitioning into college) are using ineffective study strategies and thus overestimate the time they are actually preparing for class. 

You are the Master of Your Own Time

I wish I could say that the solution for stressed college students is easy: time management.  However, time management tends to be difficult for people because it requires us to take responsibility for our own time.  That is, instead of feeling like the clock dictates our lives and that we have to engage in every activity we are invited to, we have to recognize that we have the power to say yes or no.  College students, in my experience, are hesitant to say no because they ascribe equal weight to everything in their schedule.  They often prefer to walk into class with their work undone because it was, frankly, more fun to go that fundraiser that had them dancing past midnight or that sorority party that was “mandatory.”  And they truly believe that their instructors will understand that they had to go to these things.

Instructors, however, do not tend to be sympathetic while listening to these types of stories because they understand full well that an individual controls his or her own time.  When a student walks into class and says, “I didn’t do the work because I was with my fraternity,” the instructor hears, “I value socializing more than I value your class or my own education.”   Any student who is not willing to let go of their defensiveness long enough to recognize this truth is not likely to be successful at time management.

Recognizing the Need for Change

In the same vein, students who feel defensive about the way they study are also less likely to be successful in changing their time management and thus less likely to achieve the grades they desire.  Students can become very vocal about why their study strategies work and why they need to listen to music or watch TV or work in a group to study.  However, the reality is, if they are not achieving the grades they want, if they are reading in front of the TV for five hours only to discover that they have only read a few pages, the strategies are not working.  This is natural.  College courses often require students to learn how to learn in new ways.  But students, perhaps surprisingly, can be very resistant to trying out new strategies.  They would, as a point of pride, prefer to study ineffectively for a longer amount of time rather than effectively for a shorter amount.

In our next post, we will discuss specific strategies that you can try in order to manage and maximize your time.  Some of them may work for you and some may not.  However, being open to changing is the first step to success.

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15 thoughts on “How To Manage Your Time in College (Part One)

  1. Find Me at the Library says:

    I feel like the difference between how someone studies in high school as compared to college also plays into this. In high school, many people can cram the night before and be fine the next day. However, they have also had that instructional period guiding them through the period. In college, studying and learning material is the student’s responsibility, so they have to find the perfect way to do that.

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    • Krysta says:

      That’s an excellent example of how previous successful study strategies might no longer be viable in college! Initially you keep doing it because it’s always worked. But, if it stops working, then you have to switch gears! I think that’s a valuable insight you’ve brought up since it reminds us that not succeeding at first doesn’t mean we’re “stupid” or “just don’t get it” and should give up. It simply means it’s time for a new approach!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Zoie says:

    You made some really good points in this post, especially regarding time 😊 In the past, I was obsessed with my usage of time, outside and inside of school. I felt like school had been taking over my life, and I didn’t have the time I wanted to blog, write, or do other things that I loved. However, after working on solving this panicked attitude towards time, I realized that, in the end, school won’t take over your life if you don’t allow it to. We all can be in charge of time if we believe in our capabilities to do things we love rather than waste time on activities we think we need to do, but can in reality take out of our lives. I’m not in college yet, but I found this post to be relatable 😊👍 — Great post!

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    • Briana says:

      I tried to take a healthy approach to studying in college. It can be really easy to spend all your time studying (and that gets even worse when you THINK you’re spending all your time studying, but you actually spent half the time texting or getting lost reading some random article on the Internet). But I basically decided that I really wanted to manage my time well, and I was ok with good grades but not perfect ones. If the difference between getting an A- and an A is the difference between going to sleep or pulling an all-nighter, I was willing to take the A- and move on with life. My roommate would spend HOURS studying to get like a 95 on a test instead of a 90, like spending 5 hours a day for a week studying for one econ exam. I’m not sure it was the best use of her time, though I admired her dedication.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zoie says:

        That’s a really healthy mentality to have — the small difference of an A- compared to an A shouldn’t be the main reason someone should sacrifice their health, but I do think that the dedication counts if someone is doing it for what I consider to be the right, or most worthwhile reasons. If someone is studying because they are genuinely passionate about the subject, then of course! Go for it! But if it’s truly just for the grade, then perhaps it would be better to stick with the A- and spend time on something they genuinely love doing. I think it’s easy to get caught up on just thinking about grades when you’re in school, but the reality is, time is limited, and you’ll want to spend as much of it on things you love instead of getting a grade that really won’t define you or how good of a person you are for the rest of your life. Good points, Briana! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Grab the Lapels says:

    This is a great post that I’m going to share to my professor Twitter account. At the end of the term students fill out instructor feedback surveys. Some schools ask how long students felt they studied for each individual course. I’ve heard students say, “I’m ALWAYS studying!” That’s not possible.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I fear too many people “study” with Netflix on. You literally can’t study and watch television at the same time, but most people I’ve told this to insist that they are the scientific exception. But it does give you the sense that you’ve studied “hard” because after three hours you haven’t gotten anywhere. It looks like you’re going really in-depth when in fact your attention has been on the screen.

      I have noticed, though, that many people aren’t really aware of what they’re doing with their time. I’ll have people tell me they only missed two days of class when I know for certain they’ve missed eight. And it happens all the time. It’s not just one person who, for whatever reason, doesn’t know where they’ve spent a week of their time.

      I don’t want to be harsh on students. I think we all tend to believe we have a firmer grasp on our time than we actually do. I know that I certainly get distracted by the Internet when I’m trying to complete certain tasks. I have to be careful or I wander off without noticing and then an hour has passed!

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      • Grab the Lapels says:

        Ah, headphones! Students at my college love headphones ALL THE TIME.

        Also, on Friday I shared in an updates post an article that states how many hours people spend watching TV or on social media. I’ve found that removing the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone has made a big difference. They’re not my go-to place during downtime anymore. I have a book of poems on my phone, and that’s where I go now.

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        • Krysta says:

          Not the headphones! Those drive me crazy. Whenever I try to talk to someone with headphones on, they look like I’m annoying them and then yell “What?!” at me like they can’t believe I have the nerve to address them. Even though they came up to me first! Take the headphones off if you want to ask me a question, and we will all be much happier because I won’t have to repeat myself three times while you become increasingly agitated. 😦

          I can’t find the number right now, but I remember reading that teens essentially spend all their waking hours (if we take out school–which, I know, I know, they’re on social media there, too) on social media. People tend to complain about other people always being on their phones, but it’s harder to recognize when it’s you who has the problem. I think that taking away the temptation altogether is the most effective route. I don’t even keep my phone on me most of the time. And it’s completely freeing because I can concentrate fully on whatever else I’m doing.

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          • Grab the Lapels says:

            I’m not sure how old you are, but I’m actually old enough to remember when iPods were suddenly a “thing” and everyone on my college campus just shut down. No one talked to anyone. We didn’t really use our phones that much then because they still had slide-out keyboards (if you were cool). Then again, kids in the 80s were given just as much crap for their Walk Man. I try to keep perspective, but it’s hard. At least they have noise-cancelling headphones these days, which is saving some ears.

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            • Briana says:

              My current job has a rule that we can listen to something with headphones if only one earbud is in so “we can hear if people have questions.” Yeah, since I’m new, I’ve been asking a lot of questions, and every single one has been followed by the person looking startled, pulling out their single earbud, and going “WHAT?!” I think we need to ditch the headphones if we’re actually supposed to be able to hear and talk to other people…

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            • Grab the Lapels says:

              There is a student who stops by my office a lot to chat (I hope he has friends), and he always leaves his headphones in, but turns off the music. The other day I reached over and grabbed the cord so the ear bud fell out. I can’t believe I did that, but ever since then, he takes out his headphones when he stops by.

              Like

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