At the beginning of each semester, your teachers or professors should give you a course outline, which is a list of what is expected of you over the course of the class, from beginning to end. It will list the textbooks you will be expected to read, any additional reading materials, any papers that have to be written, and any other projects, as well as the dates of exams. You are going to take this course outline and turn it into a road map for getting an A in the class by using it to build a class completion plan. You will do this for every class you are taking. These will be some of the most important tools in your time management tool kit, as you will build your daily and weekly planners from the information in these course completion plans.
A course completion plan is not complicated; with word processing software and printers, it is very simple to draw one up. At the top you will put the name of the class, and underneath that you will put three columns. You will need a row of three columns for every week of the semester or quarter. In the first column, you will list the reading that you will need to do for the week in order to stay on schedule, any additional class requirements, as well as any tests to be given that week. In the next column, you will put the amount of time you estimate it will take you to complete the week’s coursework. In the third column, you will have a blank box, which you will check off as you complete each week’s work.
Once you have printed out all your class completion plans, you should sit down as soon as possible and start filling in your daily and weekly planners. This will take a few hours, but you will only do it once a semester. Since this is the foundation of your time management plan, it is a couple of hours well spent. It is not hard, just a bit tedious filling in all the blanks spaces on your daily and weekly planners for the semester.
For example, if you estimate you will need five hours a week to read two chapters of your statistics textbook to stay on schedule for that class, then you will need to pencil in an hour a day of study for statistics on your daily planner for each day of the semester. If another class requires only three hours of work, you can block off 40 minutes a day or one hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays or whatever other time breakdown that works best for you. When you get done, you will know exactly how much time you will need to spend on schoolwork each day, and then you can begin scheduling lower priority activities. Your weekly planner will be simpler; you will just list what you need to accomplish for each class that week. Your planner might, for example, say, “Read the 5th and 6th chapters of stats textbook, write a 500 word paper on Emily Dickinson for English Lit, lab test in chemistry class,” etc. If you find that some classes are easier while others require more study time, you can always go back and adjust your allotted time for each one. Always draw up your class completion plan as soon as possible for each class, and get right to work on your daily and weekly planners.
Test out of as Many Classes as You Can
One superbly effective time management technique that many students overlook is testing out of classes. In fact, Advanced Placement and CLEP tests are a way of effectively managing not just your hours and days and shaving entire months off of your academic career. Some students have actually reduced the time needed to get their bachelor’s degree to fewer than three years through testing out of classes. In addition to the time saved, the money saved on paying for your college or university education can be substantial. As tuition costs continue to skyrocket, testing out of classes makes more and more economic sense, with the potential to save a student thousands of dollars.
For any bright college freshman, testing out of basic courses like English and U.S. History should be no problem. The freshman classes in these courses are usually little more than refresher courses covering what you have already mastered in high school. Other students will be able to tackle favorite subjects that they have done well in, such as Spanish, French or World History. In addition to the ones mentioned above, there are a wide variety of subjects which have Advanced Placement tests, , such as Art History, Biology, Calculus, Advanced Calculus, Chemistry, Chinese Language and Culture, Computer Science, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, English Literature, Environmental Science, European History, German, Comparative Government, US Government, Geography, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin, Music Theory, Physics, Advanced Physics, Psychology, Spanish Lit, Statistics, Studio Art, and World History. The CLEP program offers even more choices.
There are bound to be at least a couple courses on that list that you could probably test out of without any study. However, do not write off some courses because you do not feel like you are up to speed on the subject. There are some very good AP and CLEP study guides available which can give you enough knowledge to pass many of the other tests that you are not so familiar with. It will take a few dollars to buy the book and several hours of reading and study to feel confident enough to take the test if it is not one of your favorite subjects, but that is much better than spending an entire semester and hundreds of dollars in tuition to learn the same material. Obviously, there are some subjects which might be important enough to your major that you would be better off taking the real class, but in many cases a better option would be to pass the corresponding AP or CLEP test and then enroll in courses that are more interesting or more relevant to your postgraduate plans.
Admit Mistakes, Face Problems, and Correct Them Right Away
Even while using effective time management techniques, from time to time you will find that you have made a serious mistake, or you will face some kind problem. Though you know a mistake or problem needs to be corrected or addressed right away, you might find yourself putting off dealing with it because it is complicated or unpleasant. This is a recipe for disaster. What starts off as an unpleasant but manageable situation can quickly escalate and become a huge problem. You should never procrastinate when it comes to dealing with problems or obstacles you face. You have got to tackle them right away before they get out of hand. This applies to all areas of life, not just your academic studies.
It might be a problem with one of your classes. Maybe you just do not understand Statistics, Physics, or some other difficult class. You have tried your best, but you are still struggling. As soon as you realize this, you should approach the teacher or professor and let them know you are struggling. Ask for extra help. Most teachers and professors want to see their students succeed, and they may be able to help get you past your difficulties. If that does not work, seek out a classmate who might be able to help your, or look into hiring a tutor. Whatever you do, do not wait until it is too late to address the problem, because it can have a serious negative impact on your grade point average.
Maybe you realize your driver’s license is about to expire, but you are very busy, the DMV is all the way across town, and there is always a long line there. You will “get around” to renewing your license when it is more convenient, or so you tell yourself. Since you put it off, it is too easy to forget about it-until you get pulled over and a police officer gives you a ticket for driving with an expired license. Now you are looking at a hefty fine, as well as a court date and court fees, all of which could have been avoided if you had taken care of your business ahead of time.
These are just two examples of how a relatively small problem can get out of hand if it is not addressed as soon as possible. There are all sorts of similar situations and scenarios that any high school or college student might face. Get in the habit of dealing with them head on and doing what is necessary to deal with them right away. Doing so will save you not only massive amounts of time, but also a whole lot of frustration.