By Katie Azevedo, M.Ed.
Back-to-school tips for college students go beyond the back-to-school tips for high school students that I write about in this post here. While those high school tips certainly apply to college students too, older students have different needs – which I cover with the strategies below.
Back-to-school tips for college students
1. Master using Google Calendar for time management
We are all notoriously bad at overestimating how much time we have, but college students take the prize. Time is invisible (look how science-y I am), which makes it difficult to track, so the key to time management is to make time visible. Google Calendar does exactly this. Here are the basics of getting started with Google Calendar if you’re a college student (you can see it all put together in the image below):
- Enter all of your classes for the semester. Use one color for all your classes. Use the “repeat” feature for quick entry.
- Enter buffer time for each of your classes. Make this another color. Unless your class is online, it will take you a certain number of minutes to walk or drive to your class. Considering buffer / commute time is an essential time-management pillar. Again, use the “repeat” feature for quick entry.
- Enter all other standing commitments for the semester in another color, such as sports practices, games, advisor meetings, etc.
- If you’re a human, you need to eat. While you may not eat at the same time each day, your meals still take up a decent amount of time. Enter your meals (it’s okay to be general and use a loose time frame here) so you can see a more realistic assessment of your free time.
- Enter your approximate bedtime in another color.
- Look at your calendar and see how much free time remains each day. There may not be much. Whatever time you have left is what’s available for studying and homework. On average, you will have at least 45 – 60 minutes of homework per day per class. If you’re taking 4 classes, that’s … a whole lot of time.
2. Begin a Sunday routine
Sunday routines are essential for college students. Here are the exact steps for creating an optimal Sunday routine – I highly suggest you get started right away.
3. Budget time for reading and studying
When many of us hear “homework,” we think of essays, worksheets, comprehension questions, and other assignments that are submittable. But in college, the majority of your homework is reading and studying – two activities that are a little more abstract and hard to manage. A critical back-to-school tip for college students is to get serious about the amount of time reading and studying actually consume. When you’re filling out your Google Calendar (tip #1) and going through your weekly planning part of your Sunday routine (tip #3), factor in sufficient time to read and study for each of your classes. Here are more tips for planning reading / study time.
4. Use your class syllabi strategically
One difference between high school and college is that college classes closely follow a syllabus, and rarely do professors stray from this outline. Your class syllabi are roadmaps for knowing what’s due and when, and too few college students take advantage of this information! Here are some tips for using your syllabi strategically:
- At the beginning of the year, enter all major due dates into your Google Calendar. Sure, these might change a bit, but cross that bridge when you get there.
- On slow homework weeks, look at your syllabus and see what the next assignment or reading is. Do it ahead of time when you don’t have a lot on your calendar.
- If you have a slow homework night, look ahead at the topic of tomorrow’s class and do the reading before the class. This is called priming. Priming (preparing your brain for information ahead of time) enables you to retain SO much more during your lectures.
5. Form relationships with your professors
When you’re in college, you don’t see your professors as regularly as you see your high school teachers. In some cases, you might only see a professor once a week. Therefore, it’s important that you take deliberate measures to connect with your professors so that they know who you are and can better serve you as a result. Here are some ideas to form meaningful relationships with your college professors:
- Participate in class
- Take advantage of volunteer opportunities
- Sit in a visible location
- Stay after class for extra help
- Arrive 5 min early to class to seize an opportunity for spontaneous casual conversation
- Email your professor when you will be absent or late
- Say hello to your professor when you see him or her around campus
As I wrote at the beginning of this tutorial, back-to-school tips for college students are unique. With that said, I have tons of back-to-school tips that might be exactly what you need to start your year off right. Here are a few more resources that are full of tips to help you out: