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Time Management and Overcommitment

A difficult challenge most students face their first semester is time management. Many Wake Forest students were used to juggling complicated schedules in high school – homweork, extracurricular activities, perhaps a part time job or even test prep classes – all the while trying to enjoy their friends and have some fun.

Many students were used to being able to manage these complex and varying priorities in high school and expect it to be the same for them in college. But one of the surprising realities of college life for most students is that they have to work much harder – and for longer periods of time – on academics. There may be large chapters of a textbook to read between class sessions or even entire novels, long lists of foreign language vocabulary to memorize, etc. These activities all take more time.

Further complicating things, students are used to near-constant multitasking with their computer and cell phones. It seems like a no big deal – a text message here, an instant message chat there – but with a day-long barrage of text messages, instant messages and check ins with friends and loved ones, that can add a substantial amount of time in your student’s day – and interrupt study time.  Today’s students use texting as their social outlet and information source, so it is a constant presence in their lives.  Could your student go 24 hours without texting anyone?  Could he or she even go 6 or 12 hours?  (For that matter, could the rest of us do it?)

If your student confides to you that he/she doesn’t have enough time to accomplish everything, you might offer these suggestions:

  • Schedule study time on his/her calendar. During study time, the student should treat it like an academic class.  In other words, he/she is expected to be studying every Monday-Weds-Friday from 10-11 a.m., in a designated place that does not change (library, dorm room, etc.)
  • Treat that study time as a ‘media free zone’ – no texting, phone calls, instant messaging or internet (unless it is part of class work). Encourage your student to try that for one week and see if it makes a difference.
  • Examine whether his/her study habits are truly effective and make changes where appropriate. Is the student studying in Starbucks and easily distracted by people coming and going? If so, consider moving to a different part of the library. Does he/she study on the bed in his/her room but ends up falling asleep? Try working in the Benson Center or a different location on campus that is less comfortable.

Scheduling study time or homework time also can help foil one of college students’ toughest habits to break: procrastination. By waiting until the last minute to study, complete homework or write a paper, students only add more stress to their lives.  If your student tends to procrastinate, there are some helpful resources online with suggestions on how to break the cycle.

And while most Wake Forest students prefer to be busy and like to have a lot of extracurricular activities in which to participate, it is very helpful (at least for the first semester) to go light on joining groups and clubs. Students all need to find their niche – and the administration certainly encourages them to do so! – but a student might do better to gently ease in to only 1-2 commitments early on and make sure that they can manage their academic load before they try to join many groups.

It is all about balance. Students’ first priority is to manage their academic load and their physical and mental well-being. If your student would like additional assistance with time management, stress, or other issues, they can seek advice from many sources: their RA or academic adviser, the University Counseling Center, the Learning Assistance Center, and more.