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Dont Have The Time

There are only twenty-four hours in a day. If you are a typical college student, you have more obligations and plans than you can fit in. You have classes, a job, studying, family responsibilities, friends, e-mail, a game, a music lesson, rehearsal, a relationship, shopping, a film you want to see, a paper due next week, AN EXAM TOMORROW MORNING! "Help," you scream, "what am I going to do?"

Think ahead, so that this is not a self-portrait. Learn how to manage each twenty-four hour day so that you are not in this position and don't have to panic.

Going to college is not simply a matter a taking 128 credits while putting the rest of your life on a shelf. You need to live and take care of other interests and responsibilities while you go to college, so you need to start by learning to manage your time. Breathe deeply and let's start.

Time Management is an art in itself. If you are a list-maker you already have some of the basic skills. A list-maker begins each day by itemizing everything that needs to get done. Some list-makers prioritize, organize a mini-calendar of the day's planned events, plotting a sequence of what has to be done and when. The old fashioned list-maker uses a pencil and paper and gains tremendous satisfaction from crossing off everything as it is accomplished. The computer age list-maker has an electronic organizer to record all of the day's planned activities. The idea is the same. Making a list makes you conscious of what needs to be done and helps you organize your time so that you can fit everything in.

Of course, at the end of the day, you may still find things you never succeeded in doing. List-makers put them on the next page, carry them along as items to remember for tomorrow. Remaining constantly aware of what you need to do will help you know how much you can actually get done. Get into the habit of making lists.

If you know you have a busy day, you will need to wake up early. This is a problem for many college students, who work or play late at night and have a hard time facing a.m. classes or jobs. Know your own habits and metabolism. If you have always been a night owl, don't schedule early classes or take a morning job. If know that your night owl habits are incompatible with your obligations (you must take an 8 am History section or get to work by 9), then you need to change your lifestyle so that you don't fail the course or lose the job.

This means that you have to prioritize. If you are a full-time college student, then you have every reason to regard going to college as your principle job. Therefore college is your number one priority. You may be getting scholarship money to support your education. Certainly you or your family are paying a good bit of money in order for you to get a degree. Without the degree you will not be able to get a job or go to graduate school, so completing college successfully must be your number one priority. In order to succeed, you need to study and earn good grades, so studying should become your number two priority.

Here are some tips to help you place yourself on a study schedule. Studying regularly and gradually is far better than cramming just before exams.

After you do your reading and homework, review your class notes and study a little for each course every day. That way your learning will be cumulative, and you will not have to stay up all night to study for exams when they come up.

When papers are assigned, begin research right away. A term paper, as its name suggests, implies a project that will take many weeks. Even a paper for which you are given a few weeks or a month requires extended research, writing and revision time.

Always dig in when a paper is assigned, and work steadily toward the deadline. Try to have a rough draft completed well in advance so that you can refine your writing before you hand in the finished copy. Create a schedule of work due, and try to make steady progress in completing the work.

When outside reading is assigned, begin reading right away, and add the book to your schedule of work in progress.

Yes, college is one kind of work, but, you also have to work at a job in order to help pay for college, and your boss wants you to work longer hours every month. You don't want to lose the job, but you have to negotiate. Since the job can only be priority number three at best, your boss needs to understand that you have to go to classes and study. You can help yourself by working only a few days a week. If you work Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, you could arrange your classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Or you could limit work to mornings or evenings. Be sure to schedule fewer hours during mid-term and final periods, etc. Talk to your employer and try to work out a suitable balance. Most researchers agree that a full-time college student cannot work more than twenty hours per week without having difficulty maintaining respectable grades. Make twenty hours your limit during the school term.

What about family and friends?

During your first semester at college, family and friends need to understand the change in your lifestyle. You may not be free evenings or weekends in the same way that you used to be. That doesn't mean you need to become a hermit. Nor does it mean you care about your family and friends any less. By all means, enjoy dinner with your family and time out with your friends. Enjoy special occasions and holidays. If you have family chores or obligations, work them into your schedule. Just be conscious that you have a schedule and that college is your first priority.

Families and friends sometime have crises and need your help--a medical emergency, an emotional or financial problem. In a crisis you need to be there, and your schedule might have to be thrown out the window. With any luck at all, this is a temporary situation and you can catch up. But if a family or personal crisis begins to impact seriously on your attendance or performance in a class, you should seek help from an advisor. At school you can talk to Dr. Digby or your academic advisor. You might also want to make an appointment at the Student Health Center, where professional counselors familiar with student/family problems are ready to help you. Your professors would also be glad to speak with you; so would your academic advisor as well as the campus ministers. Don't try to handle a crisis alone. There is a great deal of support that can help you get back on track.

The same kind of help is available if you simply have a problem of your own.

The first year of college is very difficult, and if you are also living in the dorm and experiencing freedom for the first time, keeping your priorities straight can be hard.

The dorm is noisy; there are distractions, parties--you name it, anything but quiet study time, and you can't fight it. But you have to! Unless you keep to your schedule, you will find yourself doing poorly and flunking out, just like the group that is creating all the distractions! People who are going downhill like others to slide down with them. Be strong and be smart. Find a quiet place to study away from the dorm. Don't tell others that you are going off to study. Just do it. Face the reality. You won't get that competitive Wall Street job with a transcript full of Incompletes. You won't get into medical school with a D in Organic Chemistry. The future depends on what you accomplish NOW! Forget the party. Get to know other students in your classes and dorms who also have set high academic goals for themselves, and influence each other positively. You might even discover that you have a lot in common and want to enjoy getting together in free time.

Build free time into your schedule. You have to eat, and you have to enjoy some down time. You have to fulfill some of your talents--like sports or music or acting or painting. Finally, you have to rest and you have to sleep. College students in general don't get enough sleep, and many come down with chronic illnesses as a result. Taking care of yourself should be priority number three, but since you have put your job there, then we will have to call it priority number four! Indeed, you might want to rearrange your priorities at this point. Good for you! Since getting through college is your number one priority, taking care of yourself might be number two. If you don't eat right, sleep enough and feel fulfilled, then you will be in no condition either to study or to work!

See, you have already learned the principles of Time Management. They begin with knowing yourself and understanding your goals in going to college. After all, this is your time, your set of priorities, your plan for success. Now, get a calendar or date book and put your plan down on paper. The more carefully you plan, the more efficiently you will budget your time.

Still, it may be that you are doing too much. Perhaps you can't take 18 credits, write for The Pioneer, run cross country and sing in the chorus on evenings when you are not waiting tables or ushering at Tillis Center. Yes, you may be doing too much. In that case, you will have to let go of something or many things. Again, prioritize! Decide what is most important and save the other activities for another semester. You have the rest of your life to learn and enjoy. Pace yourself.