Beginning college after high school or returning to college as an adult can present challenges in managing time effectively. Outside activities, family obligations, and job responsibilities often fill students' days, leaving them little time to study. Thus, it is important to prioritize activities weekly, and understand that temporary sacrifices lead to long term benefits.
Create a Weekly Calendar
While having a daily schedule is important for remembering appointments and meetings, Credit: By Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon [LGPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html)], via Wikimedia Commonscreating a weekly calendar can help students identify gaps in their schedules where they can study. Students may notice that a two hour block of free time on Wednesday afternoon can be used to write the essay for their class on Friday, or that the one hour piano lesson for their child on Thursday can be the perfect time to read an assigned chapter in their texbook.
Gaps of time are often more useful than setting aside one hour before or after work, as students often need more time in one sitting. In addition, students may realize that Monday evenings are very busy with work demands or extra-curricular activities, but Tuesdays are quieter and thus schedule more study time that day.
Adult students returning to school while having a family and a full time job may be overwhelmed with responsibilities. Adding school to the schedule may seem impossible unless they delegate some tasks to others. Seeking the help of a high school student to watch children in the afternoons so there is more study time, or working with a partner to adjust household responsibilities can be important strategies during the college years. Likewise, it is a good idea to discuss the decision to return to school with one's employer so that necessary adjustments can be made to the work schedule.
Using technology effectively can enable students to maximize their time. A digital recording of an instructor's lecture can be replaid on the commute home. A smart phone can be used to log in to an online class and participate in an asynchronous discussion while running errands or while on vacation. A small laptop computer or netbook with access to the internet via an air card or tethered to a smart phone means an easy way to access online courses or conduct internet research.
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Reviewing a syllabus at the beginning of class means that important deadlines can be added to the weekly or monthly calendar, and assignments can be assessed for importance. Working backwards from the due dates, students can determine the number of days or study times needed to complete a project or prepare for a test and mark study times on a calendar.
Saving references used for term papers or research projects means that they do not need to be reformatted. Use a master list of references by topic and save in a word processing file. When a topic is discussed in a future class (as often happens when students are in their courses for their major), the student will have easy access to relevant sources.
Likewise, save useful search terms. Finding a search term that provides quality sources within a university's online library or within a search engine online can be valuable. Use a master list of strong search terms and phrases by topic and save in a word processing file for future use.
Accept the Sacrifice
Completing college or graduate school requires tremendous dedication and some sacrifice. However, it is important to remember that it is only temporary sacrifice. Students may need to forego their weekly outing with their friends, or decide that a full time job is not possible while enrolled in college. Accept that there will be sacrifices, yet consider them temporary ones for a larger payoff after graduation.