When Felice registered for courses, she was overjoyed that they would only take up 14 hours a week. She had never had so much freedom. She immediately signed up for a dance troupe and an improv group. She got a work-study job for ten hours a week and started trying to find an internship. By mid-terms, she was in trouble. She couldn’t keep up with her coursework. The dance and improv performances were coming up fast, and she didn’t want to let her new friends down. But she also could not bring herself to ask for help with her classes. On the first day of finals, after having been awake for three days cramming, she walked into her adviser’s office, curled up into a ball, and just sobbed.
This is not an unusual scenario. It happens on every college campus multiple times every semester.
Fifty percent of students who graduated from college said they spent too much time socializing and not enough time studying. An equal percentage said they were not used to having so much freedom. It makes sense. High school is a relatively highly structured experience. In college, it’s up to you to give form and shape to your weeks.
Why? Because the week’s class schedule is deceiving. It does not tell you nearly what you need to know. It merely indicates the hours you will sit in a lecture hall, classroom, and lab. What is not visible is the number of hours you will spend on each course outside of those spaces. Think of the initial schedule as a skeletal guide that you will fill out with other meaningful activities.
The national guideline says you should plan to spend three hours a week on work outside of class for every credit. So, if you are taking 15 credits, you should plan for 45 more hours a week on: reading, memorizing, writing, studying alone or in groups, presentation practice, problem sets, talking with the professor after class and in office hours, and meeting with teaching assistants.
To create the true weekly plan:
- Print out your course schedule.
- Add three hours of out-of-classroom work for each credit.
- Calculate the time you need to get to and from classes, and include that.
- Now put in your work-study job, if applicable, and/or an internship, if you have one.
- Next, insert extra-curricular activities, sports, and anything else you have already committed to. Keep in mind that dance and theater organizations will eat up vastly more time every week the closer you get to the performances.
- Add sleep – at least seven hours a night, eight is better.
- Calculate the number of hours left out of 168.
Now you know how much time you have every week for: eating and talking with friends over meals, laundry, showering, dressing, phone calls, running to the store, texting friends, and doing nothing.
The real schedule helps you see how much “freedom” you actually have and can help you avoid being among the fifty percent of your peers who leave college thinking they spent too much time socializing and not enough time studying. In short, planning ahead can help you have a far richer college experience.