When most people think of going to college, they imagine a huge time drain and hours of studying. While the hours of studying is certainly a truth that can’t be avoided, there are some major benefits to attending college as far as learning to manage time wisely.
In my classes this past semester, I encountered many non-traditional students with families, second jobs, their own businesses and many, many other pursuits. Each of these students also had a full class load. Though the norm for traditional students entering college is to be able to slack off a bit, being able to watch the older students (and some younger ones) juggle a schedule I didn’t think possible was a real learning experience.
So, here are a few things I have learned from watching others that have become masterful at managing their study time:
1. Use those bits of time in between laundry/childcare/runs to the grocery store.
Those small amounts of time between chores may not seem to amount to much, but can really add up. Taking out your notes to review for a few minutes can do a whole lot more good than you would think!
2. Plan ahead. Fastidiously.
A few years ago, my mother went back to school for a short while. To accommodate for the time she spent in school, she would get up at about 4 o’clock every morning to plan her day. This included lesson plans, when would be the best time for her to study that day, dinner plans, etc. While this may seem awfully early, it allowed her to be much less stressed because she knew exactly what she wanted to accomplish for the day.
3. Don’t be afraid to spend time helping other students.
My sister and I are both in college, now, and we have taken some of the same biology classes. Studying with someone that may not be in the exact same class, but in a class on the same subject, can also be valuable. If you are at a more advanced level in the subject than the other student, it can be a good way to reinforce the basic concepts of that subject. I find that when I help another student understand a concept, I remember and understand it much better, myself. This can be especially helpful for studying for a cumulative final that contains elementary information from the beginning of the course, as well as the advanced material from later on.
4. As far as taking notes, experiment with what works best for you.
I’ve heard many people advise against using a laptop to take notes, and many others take the opposite viewpoint. For those that tend to be visual learners, perhaps taking notes by hand would be a better idea. This method allows you to draw your own concept maps more readily than when working from a laptop (depending on your proficiency with your word processor). However, if the text is what is most important for you and you can’t read your own handwriting after taking notes, using technology to help you out wouldn’t be detrimental. Of course, this does depend on your typing speed, but most people that I know type just as efficiently as they write. In some classes, it may also be better to just listen rather than taking lots of notes. I have been told that it is sometimes better to write down key points and just listen attentively. Of course, this depends on the nature of the course. If tests are extremely detailed, you might be better off taking all the notes you can and using a recorder (with the professor’s permission).
5. Identify those courses that are going to be the most difficult and budget time accordingly.
For my first couple of years in college, I really didn’t have this point figured out. I spent an extensive amount of time on every course. Then I learned from watching other students that it is okay to prioritize study time. It is possible to misjudge the time needed for a course, so this hierarchy of importance needs to be flexible, but it is a good thing to know when looking through your course schedule. Often you can judge from the professor’s attitude towards the course how much time you are expected to put into the material. Asking other students that have taken the course is also a good way to get ideas about the time needed for study in the course.