In high school, everything was easy. I floated by, never studied, and aced the classes at my small, rural high school. When I got to Northwestern, I had no idea what to expect from my classes, and I failed to form any sort of plan to budget my time. That’s why it took until the spring of my second year before I felt like I had control of my schedule and was able to budget my time effectively.
Don’t make the same mistake I did! Give yourself time to think about how you want to structure your schedule and carefully select the commitments you want to make. Here are some best practices that I came to rely on – they might work for you too!
Realize that your classes will actually take effort. If your high school lacked rigorous courses, you need to be mentally prepared to actually put time and energy into your classes, especially as a freshman. You might have been president of four clubs in high school, but it’s okay to slowly ease into extracurricular activities now. Make sure you have a solid handle on your academics first.
Figure out a calendar. Everyone seems to be switching over to Google Calendars now, which makes it easy to track everything across your devices. But if a large paper calendar or a small planner works better for you – go for it! Whatever the case, be sure to transfer all the deadlines from your syllabi to your calendar at the beginning of the term.
Keep working in between classes. When you have a break between classes, it can be easy to accidently waste that time surfing the web. Instead, find a quiet spot and catch up on emails, work on a problem set, or brainstorm ideas for a paper. This will free up time later in the day so you don’t have to pull unnecessary all-nighters.
Block distracting websites. If you’re anything like me, you quickly find yourself on Facebook, Reddit, or The New York Times when you’re attempting to study. Use the Self Control (ironic, I know) app for Mac to block the internet, certain websites, or only allow access to specific websites.
Don’t fall asleep in the library. As soon as you fall asleep in a study spot, it becomes ‘okay’ to sleep there again. Save at least one spot (library, or another favorite), as your ‘serious’ study place. And then vow to never sleep there.
Everyone has different styles, so maybe not all of these tips will work for you. Regardless, I would encourage you take a moment at the beginning of each term to reevaluate how you budget your time. Remember, better budgeting means more time to relax, hang out with friends, and dive into those student groups you’ve always been interested in.
— by Erin Turner, Quest Staff and Quest Scholar alum, Northwestern ’14