Every college student is different. I mean that. I am one of the crazy few that has my day-to-day, hour-by-hour planned before the week even begins. It is not that I want my schedule that way, it is just that I have very little room for error and if I miss something, there is a very small chance I will remember later. For scheduling alone, I have three calendars: my assignment notebook, my Outlook calendar, and the OH SHIT notebook.
My assignment notebook is set up in a weekly view and color-coded by highlighters. Yellow means “do tonight”, pink means “do later”, and blue means “complete.” It is the simplest form of calendar I have. I will also use the margins for reminders, appointments, deadlines, and test reminders.
My Outlook calendar actually started as a work calendar that escalated very quickly. I needed to be able to map out where I would be throughout the day for my student position on campus, but once I started adding things, I never stopped. I now list events, appointments, work, and big projects coming up on it. I can also share it with other people so they know where I am and what I am doing in case they get a hold of me. Upon seeing it for the first time, a close friend of mine said, “That is a clusterfuck.” I have to agree and that is my day-to-day schedule.
The “OH SHIT notebook” is for emergency weeks. Instead of being a lined, dated book, it looks like a smaller sketchbook. Only it is not for sketching, it is for prioritizing. Whenever I have an especially busy week, I need to be able to map out assignments and tests by priority, length, and difficulty. I will literally list out the same day in four different ways to be able to squeeze assignments in at different parts of the day. I do not use the OH SHIT notebook daily. The notebook’s primary use is for when I feel like my life is falling apart and I need some way to pick it up, reorganize it, and then put it back together.
My daily schedule is a hot mess. I usually go to bed at midnight, wake up at seven, have breakfast around eight, and go to class at nine in the morning. I usually have class until three in the afternoon with a few fifteen-minute breaks and an hour lunch break. Some days I have an hour of work in between classes. Other days, I just have work after class. Depending on what day it is, I work until eight in the evening or have dinner at six. Last semester I had an evening class that went until eight at night. That meant I work going from seven AM to eight PM five days a week on a concrete schedule. I would then do my homework for four hours until I went to sleep.
On Saturday, I started sleeping until noon to make up the sleep I was missing. Saturday is now the one day a week I do not answer to anyone. I avoid scheduling anything over Saturdays because I know they are a sacred day to me. They are about fun, reconstructing, and sleep. I need to relax so I do not lose my mind.
Sunday has become big project day/homework/prepare for the week coming day. Sunday became the day I hated and loved, all rolled into one. I still wake up later, but once I do, it is back to scheduling for the week that is coming.
Homework in college is an essential part of the process. The lecture is the learning portion, but homework has become application. One skill is required in class, but another outside of class. When it comes to the test, it is important to have both. In my experience, teachers build homework into the structure of the class so well that it can make or break a grade.
My advice for homework?
JUST DO IT.
It is okay for your schedule to get hectic in college. Trust me when I say it happens to everyone. The sink or swim that comes into play is when you start to lose control. I remember crying on my dorm room floor for an hour during finals week because I did not know what to study, when, and how to study it. I would burn myself out. Time management kept me alive. I knew that by blocking off time, I would at least have the time to invest into studying. I am not going to lie, there were times I caved and spent the time labeled for “studying” doing something that was definitely not studying. When your feel the burnout coming, sometimes all you can do is anything else besides what you need to do. I usually freaked out about it later and went crying to somebody’s office, but I dealt with it.
My worst experience from last semester was having three papers due on the same Friday. As an English Major, I can say that in my experience it is essential to get a paper approved by the instructor before moving forward with it. I had two English papers and one long History research paper all due, one of which I had all semester to do. For the History paper, I cranked out half at the beginning, realized I had a strong start, and put it away for four months. When the other two papers materialized and I realized hell on Earth was approaching, I spent most of my time on the other two papers before finally sitting down with the last paper for History. I finished it, twelve pages of glory, and went to meet with each of my instructors individually. One English professor was rough with corrections he wanted, the other English professor thought I was doing great and just wanted it cleaned up, and my History professor sat me down, gave me a long speech on how beautiful it was, but that he wanted an idea added that was another three-to-five pages of investment.
A few small tears turned into a full-blown waterfall.
I am not ashamed to admit I cried in his office. I had three papers due the next day and a list of corrections for all three, but I mentally had not been ready for such a huge change to a paper I saw as whole. He did not want me to scrap the paper; he just wanted a bit more “controversy” as he put it. My paper was too clean cut for his liking. He gave me a few gentle pointers, I thanked him for his time, and turned in the paper the next day with an added four and a half pages. I received a 100% and then I cried for two days. Stress kept me going, but once I got the grade, I needed some time to recover from the burnout. I treated myself to ice cream, Taco Bell, and hours of sleep.
Embrace time management, planning, and self-love when it comes to college and things will be smoother. If it becomes too much, lower your hours of work or drop a class. Next semester, I will be taking only 15 credit hours instead of 18.5 credit hours. I also recommend talking to your advisor. My advisor repeatedly said I could do it, which made me believe I could, too. If the stress overcomes your day-to-day life, I recommend counseling services. Most colleges in the United States offer services free to their students. If you are struggling, always seek help. It might be scary or intimidating at first, but your body and stress level with thank you in the end. College is a stressful time. Take it one day at a time.