I think college students would agree that everything in our lives thus far has boiled down a series of competitions. And college is no different. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well yeah, I’m competing with my classmates for internships and grades” and while that is true, I’m thinking competition in a different sense.
Let me rephrase it:
It is a brawl. College is a full-fledged, battle-to-the-death, brawl between you, your time and all your activities.
With great freedom comes great responsibility, and the biggest responsibility of all is time management, especially for freshmen. Trying to balance going to class, studying, eating, joining clubs (and other extra curriculars), keeping in contact with your family, and having fun will put you where I am right now: a rising sophomore trying to figure out what just happened in the past 12 months.
Let me back up a little. I arrived at college as a wide-eyed seventeen year old masquerading nerves with excitement. I had no idea what was in store, and if I had, I would’ve been latched onto my parent’s car as they drove away.
While in many ways, college fit all the cliché descriptions, nobody warned me about the full-time task of managing your schedule on your own, the majority of which, in the past, was structured and out of my control. College was about as flexible as anything, (almost more than Elastigirl from The Incredibles, but not quite) and everything was entirely up to me.
For the first few weeks, I loved this. However, after missing class and forgetting to eat a few times, I soon realized I needed to get my act together. I experimented with many different things, but truth be told, it took me an entire semester to get a routine going. Just when I thought I had mastered my time, I realized my schedule was going to completely change the next week with new classes.
However the same techniques for success apply semester to semester. Here are my top tips for time management in college, much of which I learned through trial and a lot of error:
Advice to Freshmen from a College Sophomore
1. Take as many naps as you can. If you have nothing urgent to do and a hole in your schedule, I highly recommend taking naps. Naps helped me through my freshman year, as I didn’t always go to bed as early as I should have. Be cautious with this however, because if you don’t have a reliable alarm, you’ll find yourself in trouble. I used my phone alarm, but sometimes it wasn’t loud enough to get me up.
I recommend a digital desk clock with a built-in alarm. Set it loud and across the room so you have to get up to turn it off. Do not hit snooze, it’s a trap. The guy who invented the snooze alarm had nowhere to be, I am sure of it. It’s important to wake up when you’re supposed to, especially if you have a class to get too, which leads me to my next point:
2. Go to class. I know you are wondering how this is a time-saving tip, but hear me out. If you space your studies out over a semester, it will save you a lot of heartache by the time exams roll around. It’s much easier to learn class material spread out over a few weeks, rather than cram for a few days before being assessed. Skipping class isn’t worth whatever excuse you may have, and it will make life hell in the end. Plus, there will be days when you legitimately can’t go, so you need that cushion. Last year, I got really sick and missed two weeks of class, My professors worked with me because they knew who I was. Help yourself achieve this by following my next point:
3. Go to Bed. Do you know any adults who stay up all night and then get their crap done? Neither do I. We’re trying to mature and act like adults, so follow their lead and get your rest. It’s important to establish your sleep schedule in the beginning of the year. Start small and go to bed early a couple of nights a week and see if you get over the FOMO. It’ll be easier and easier once it’s a habit. Staying up late will most certainly ruin the following day, crushing any chance of productivity or achieving daily goals.
4. Give yourself goals. When I think back to high school, I never had any time. In college I’ve got nothing but time. If I don’t give myself goals every day then time plays tricks on me and soon it’s gone. I’m a big fan of to-do lists, because I like visually checking items off once they’re completed. I use them for all kinds of things, from school work to daily chores. This helps me keep track of all my different activities, even simple things such as selling back my books or working out. To-do lists might not be your thing, but find some way to set goals outside the classroom.
5. Listen. I know you’re like “what?” but yes listen. Listen to a professor if he offers extra help. Listen to friends if they offer advice. Listen to advisors whose sole job it is to guide you. Most of all, listen to your gut. If a class doesn’t feel right, do something immediately. If you feel sick, go to the Health Center instead of waiting it out. You know you better than anyone; just because you are a lowly freshman doesn’t mean you don’t have the experience to keep yourself on track. This isn’t your first rodeo; it’s just your first rodeo in college.
Be true to yourself and utilize everything around you. The campus is chock full of resources so it’s good to familiarize yourself with them early in the year. And if all else fails, mom knows best. I never hesitated to call my mom if I was stuck on something. They know way more than you give them credit for, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think it secretly makes them happy anyway.
If you’re to take anything from this article, it’s this. Save a lot of time and give yourself the lecture your parents are sure to give you when lack of time management translates to failure. That reality check may be the best time-saving tip of all.