College Success Series: Study and Time Management

By Ezra Ekman

How much time do you spend studying? Do you treat studying like a high school class, or do you have a more comprehensive study plan in place?

Most experts agree that study time outside the classroom should be a minimum of twice the number of hours you spend in class. If you’re taking 12 credits this semester, you’re probably spending around 12 to 15 hours in class. This means you should be spending about 24 to 30 hours outside of the classroom studying. Yes, that’s about 40 hours total. Twelve credits are considered full time for a reason!

Unfortunately, many students expect their study time to be like high school homework requirements, perhaps as little as 1 to 2 hours each night. The reality is that students should expect to spend 4 to 6 hours each day outside of class, according to Cornell College.

But just what is “study time”? This doesn’t just include reading textbooks and doing homework. If you attend any study groups or tutoring sessions, meet your instructors outside of class, research your coursework in the library or use the Academic Success Center for assistance, all of this time counts toward “study time”.

Another issue is that students frequently put off their homework until it’s too late to be effective, attempting to cram it all in the night before it’s due, often leading to errors or forgetfulness. In fact, a 2017 scholarly article published by Jaun F. Muñoz-Olano and Camilo Hurtado-Parrado put the number of college students facing challenges with academic procrastination at almost 50 percent. This can negatively impact their studies, their ability to perform well in class and ultimately, their grades.

Aaron Prestwich, the Westminster Campus’ dean of students, understands this struggle well.

“As human beings, we definitely have an issue with procrastination,” said Prestwich. “Procrastination is the number killer of time management. We all avoid things we don’t want to do.”

Rather than time management, Prestwich prefers the term self-management. It puts the responsibility on ourselves.

So, how should you address this? Well, that’s where management comes in. You have a course schedule, and you know when you must be in class each day. Now, what you need to do is set aside time for study. Put time on your calendar each week just for study.

Make sure that all of that study time, when added up, equals roughly twice the number of hours you spend in class. If you spend 12 hours per week in class, make sure you schedule 24 hours each week for study. Try to keep to a routine because that’s the best way to form long-term habits.

Try to schedule time as soon after class is possible while the concepts and material you’ve learned are fresh in your mind. This also has the benefit of getting your assignments out of the way early, allowing you to relax later in the week. If an assignment ends up requiring more time than expected, you have a safety net of time to finish.

Finally, try to spread your study time over the entire week. Studying for three one-hour sessions is more effective (and memorable) than studying once for three hours.

During a 2016 TED Talk, Laura Vanderkam said, “We cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it.”

So the next time you think you don’t have time for studying, instead say, “I’m not going to prioritize this.” If you disagree, it’s time to re-prioritize your homework.

Make sure you schedule time to study and then stick to that schedule. If you prioritize that time for studying, you will have the time.

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