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 hours. Assuming 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.