All students need a bit of guidance to optimize time in a way that doesn’t interfere with their social life, yet brings out their full potential. It might seem fairly obvious, but learning how to schedule before you even start the school year is essential to your overall success in college. It can either help you prioritize and maintain a healthy balance between studying and relaxing or contribute to a quick burn out and subsequent poor academic results. It is easy to get overwhelmed and side-tracked when you don’t have a plan, so here’s a list of simple do’s and don’t’s that will help you establish, and more importantly stick to, a routine.
- Check the course program before the start of the semester and familiarize yourself with the subjects, duration, required credits and class options. You can even consider doing an online background check of your professors to form an idea of what they might expect from their students (to be proactive in class; write long footnotes on their papers, etc).
- Include a mix of classes as uniformity doesn’t lead to growth. Signing up for a number of classes in the same discipline shows a lack of imagination and, what’s worse – motivation. The point of college is not to choose the path of least resistance, but to try out new things and stretch your limits to gain new skills.
- Meet regularly with your advisor as he or she will have invaluable insight into what awaits you during the next four years and will be able to give you pointers to gain the most from this experience. Ask questions and seek assistance proactively with anything you feel unsure about.
- Have a back-up plan in case your first choice of classes falls through. Especially as underclassman, you may not have scheduling priority, so you might want to scout a few classes you can fall back on in the event that you can’t sign up for the ones you initially intended.
- Leave time for some rest. If 12 credit hours is considered a full load, don’t assume you can handle the maximum of 20 because that’s what your friends at other schools are taking. Of course, everyone can handle a different pace, but first-year students should try to keep their schedules towards the lighter end of full-time, because you’ll discover most classes require serious out-of-class dedication.
- Postpone your core classes as the material tends to add up throughout the semester and you might be faced with an unbearable load of work. Ideally you want to get the hardest classes out of the way early on when you’re still fresh and relaxed.
- Overlapping classes without knowing how much time you’ll need to make your way from one classroom to the other. Remember – it’s going to take you a while to get used to navigating on campus, and the last thing you need when you’re new is to rush stressed through the corridors, trying to make your next class on time.
- Overlook your natural routine. For example, if you’re not a morning person – scheduling your classes as early as 8 A.M. is a bad idea as you probably won’t be able to concentrate and remember what you’re taught. Likewise, later in the day you may still be tired and unable to reach your full efficiency. Be wary of stress and exhaustion as they tend to add up pretty quickly, so listen to your body and make sure you do things at your own pace.
- Opt for all classes that are relatively difficult or easy. In the first case you will burn yourself out pretty quickly and in the latter there won’t be anything to motivate you. The best balance comes from a combination of hard and easy classes as this makes for an environment where you feel challenged, but not pressured.
- Overlook the readily available resources on campus, such as libraries and writing centers. Sure, the Internet is pretty much the place to find all types of information these days, but don’t underestimate good, old-fashioned academic books when you’re doing your term research. There is a reason these libraries exist, not to mention the valuable help the librarians can offer you when you’re stuck.
As with every other aspect in your life, college requires the discipline to plan and implement a routine to help manage your time and resources, and guide your efforts in a constructive way.