How to Succeed in College: Time Management Tips

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: December 5, 2013

The life and schedule of a college student in the U.S. has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. A 2010 study published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) showed modern college students studied an average of 10 fewer hours per week than students in 1961. One would guess the growth of technology over the past 50 years has played a role in reducing study time. But, the study showed tech had little to do with it. As it turns out, today's college students have more on their plates, meaning less time for studying and a greater need for time management.

Break Things Down

Time management requires you to look at the big picture. Get a grip on your schedule by breaking it down by the day, the week, the month and the semester. The University of Wisconsin Green Bay's tutoring services recommends creating a monthly calendar you can look at to see when papers are due and when tests are scheduled. Most courses give you a syllabus at the start including due dates and a general plan for the semester.

When plotting out your semester, list the times when you are committed to an activity, whether it's going to class, work or an extracurricular club. Also include time for meals, sleep and down time in your semester plan. You'll need to allot time for studying, as well. The University of Wisconsin recommends two hours of study time per hour of class. The AEI study found the average student studied just 14 hours per week.

Make Time for Breaks

Setting aside time for rest and relaxation is as important as setting aside time for studying in college. Better memory and better performance is associated with taking time for breaks.

Choose an enjoyable activity that relaxes you for your break. For example, you might decide to read quietly or knit. If you like to watch TV, consider various cable packages to make the most of your downtime. You can either watch shows on cable to relax or pick your favorites from your streaming service to watch online.

Don't Overbook

It's essential you set clear beginning and end times for both work and school-related activities and for downtime. Learn the value of saying "no" to certain things. For example, if you have a test in two days, you should turn down your friend's invitation to a party the night before. Record clear beginning and ending times for each activity on your calendar to help you stick with your schedule. When first getting used to your schedule, set an alarm to go off at the end of each study session, meal or TV-watching session.


Prioritize your activities so that you know what things to tackle first and what things you can put off if time is short. Any projects due within the week should be categorized as 1, meaning both urgent and important. Activities or projects categorized as 3 or 4, meaning not urgent or not important, can be held off until you've completed the more pressing projects.

Topics: Study Tips College Planning Educational Consulting


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