Courtney's week was typical. Sunday night found her cramming for a Monday test and writing a paper that had been due the Friday before. On Monday morning after the test, she had two free hours between classes, so she did a little shopping in the campus bookstore and had coffee with a friend. In the afternoon, Courtney did her laundry and talked with friends until dinner. The evening was disrupted by a long phone call, a brief committee meeting and several people who stopped by her room. She finally began studying at 9 p.m. but quit at 10:30 since no pressing assignments were due the next day.
Although she slept through her first class on Tuesday, she did manage to get to her 10 a.m. class. At noon she went to a Bible study and then stayed to talk until her lab at 2. She studied long after dinner.
Wednesday was much like Monday.
On Thursday Courtney panicked. A paper was due the next day. She also had quizzes in her two most difficult subjects. She studied two hours between classes and skipped lunch. Because the paper took longer than expected, Courtney had no time to study that evening for her two quizzes on Friday. She finished at midnight.
She frantically reviewed between classes on Friday for the two quizzes, and with a sense of relief, she took Friday evening off.
On Saturday she slept until noon, went to a basketball game in the afternoon, and managed to get in an hour of study before an evening meeting.
Sunday was another day of cramming. After church she studied most of the afternoon. Since she had already promised to spend time with friends that evening, she found herself, once again, studying late into the night to prepare for Monday's new set of assignments.
It had been a busy week. Courtney was discouraged by how little she accomplished. And she had not even started the term paper that was due in three weeks.
This is the life lived by far too many college students. And while it's impossible to avoid all last-minute frustrations and panic, a decent study strategy and schedule can prevent many problems. It can also keep you from burning out before the first semester ends.
Week by Week
Your first priority each term should be to make a basic weekly plan. A monthly plan is too long, and planning only for the day lacks a broader weekly perspective.
As soon as you know your class schedule, make a master weekly planning chart of mandatory and important activities on a sheet of paper with the days of the week divided into one-hour blocks. Include such things as devotional time, church, classes, labs and your work schedule (if you have a job). After charting your typical week, make enough copies to get you through the semester. (Also, it might not hurt to invest in a day plannera handy and organized way to chart your schedule. Check out scheduling tools online or look for them at your campus bookstore.)
At the beginning of each week (Sunday night or Monday morning), add any additional activities for the coming week to your master schedule. List important study priorities if you know them.
Your schedule for a particular week might include an exam, a club or ministry meeting, a basketball game, an appointment with your adviser and a class field trip. Include blocks of study time if you wish, but specific study schedules will be planned daily. This weekly plan will be the general guide for a more specific daily plan.
How Much Study Time?
Most of us study far less than we think we do. Days can easily slip by with much intended but little accomplished. Even when we feel we have studied hard, we might only be fooling ourselves. Time in study should not be measured by whether we "feel" we have done enough. Rather, we must set some goals to guide us in figuring out how to best use our time.
The general rule-of-thumb is one-and-a-half hours of study outside of class for every hour spent in class. If you have, say, a 16-hour class load, you'd have 24 hours of study time per week. Add that to 16 hours in the classroom and you come up with a total of 40 hours committed to your studies. To be honest, some courses will require only one hour of study time, while others will require two or more. But the one-and-a-half-hour "rule" is a pretty good average to follow.