Laura’s note: This week, I’m answering some of my Frequently Asked Questions — questions that I often hear from readers. As I email my answers, I sometimes think, hey, that would make a reasonable blog post! So here we go. If you have a question to add to the series, please email me at lvanderkam at yahoo dot com.
Q. Most of your books are aimed at people who are working and have kids. I’m a 20-year-old college student. Do you have any time management advice for people like me?
A. I do! Here are some discoveries that I think can help students make the most of the college years.
1. A good rule of thumb: plan to study roughly 2 hours for every 1 hour of class. Calculate this on a weekly basis. Studying more at the beginning of the semester will keep you from having to cram at the end of the semester.
2. Block in times to study. For instance, if you have sports practice or other activities after classes, and then eat dinner, you could plan to settle in around 7:30. Work from 7:30-11:30 (it’s college!) four weeknights per week, and you’ve got 3 off to party or do other activities. Do 2 90-minute blocks on each of your lighter days of classes, and 2 4-hour sessions on weekends, and that’s 30 hours of studying right there with no all-nighters required. If you’ve got a lighter schedule, you won’t need that.
3. If you get a part-time job, aim for one that lets you use that time to study. I worked in a cafe from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. some nights, and traffic was light enough that I could get work done. I also worked at the front desk at the student center for a while, and that was perfect for reading or writing papers. I had a newspaper delivery job early on in school that (clearly) did not allow me to study — and I got rid of that one as soon as I could.
4. Getting up on time on weekends gives you all sorts of extra hours. I don’t mean the crack of dawn. Even just waking up at 9 a.m., as opposed to noon, is like manufacturing time. By the time your classmates roll out of bed around lunch, your study hour quota could be done for the day.
5. Your professors most likely have office hours. Go visit every professor at least once. The ability to get to know them is at least part of what your tuition is paying for. Or just ask them to do stuff with you. A friend and I once wound up having drinks with our econ professor, just because we bumped into her at a show, and my friend asked.
6. Avail yourself of random opportunities. If your university is like mine, famous people come speak and they’ll be talking to a half-full auditorium. They have nothing to do afterwards and would be happy to chat with students. Go!
7. Make time to get to know classmates. Take the long view. If people are weird and cliquey, understand that in 3 more years, none of that will matter. You’ll all be thrust out into the real world and the fact that you have any connection to each other whatsoever will be enough to make friendships possible.
8. Spend some time figuring out how to position yourself for future career opportunities. If you already know what you want to do, great. If you don’t, work on figuring out what you like and what you don’t, and how people make a living doing whatever it is you like. If you have an alumni office, check in and see who works in your areas of interest. People love to help college students. Take advantage of this fact.
9. If you’re into a creative field, work on building up a portfolio. I cannot emphasize this enough. You can get professionals on your campus to critique you, and one way or another (loans, parents, part-time job) you’ve already figured out a way not to be homeless. This is not guaranteed afterwards. So build up some work you’re proud of now and start showing it to people. If you’re a dancer, choreograph some dances and tape the performances. It will be really, really hard to get a great troop of dancers to perform your works on a whim after you graduate.
10. Make time to grow your mind. Study things you find fascinating. Take courses just because the books look incredible at the student book store. Study the great books and great works of art. My favorite classes from college were on art and music history, and a class on the Bible in western cultural tradition. You’ll spend your life mastering useful skills. Some things are worth studying for beauty alone.
What advice would you add to this list for students?
Photo courtesy flickr user faeryhedgehog