As you might have read in some of my other blogs, I went to college straight after my high school graduation. I was in my late teens and early twenties, going to classes during the week and working as a cashier in a grocery store on the weekends. Considering that I only worked on Saturdays or Sundays when school was in session, all that I had to worry about during the week was attending my classes, going to any necessary meetings, and doing homework.
Now that I’m a little older, I look back and laugh at myself when I remember how I always complained about being busy. Sure, I was a full-time college student taking fifteen or even eighteen credit hours per semester, but in actuality that meant I sat in classes for four or five hours a day and had a lot of free time on my hands. I was busy, I went to class and had to study, but my daily routine also included a lot of television and napping.
One of the biggest problems facing non-traditional (adult) college students is time.
When I returned to college as a non-traditional student at age twenty-nine, I was in a different boat than most of the younger people at school because of time constraints. Sure, we were all there to learn, but I was also married, working, and taking care of my daughter in addition to attending classes and studying.
Working a full-time job, taking care of a family, and dealing with other obligations is a handful for most people, and if you’re also a student that has to throw a class or two (or three!) on top of that, things are probably feeling really hectic. You might not have very many hours of actual classes each week, but you will still have to spend plenty of time studying and completing homework or projects for them. You might feel overwhelmed and wonder if if you’ll ever have enough time to get everything done, but it is possible!
A few weeks ago I went out for breakfast and I overheard a young man telling his companion that he was a student and he took most of his classes online from home. The person he was with said, “Oh well that’s not too bad then, it shouldn’t take too much time to take classes that way, right?” That’s the assumption many people have. Online classes definitely save you a drive back and forth to campus, but they are still classes that consume your time.
When I was in school the first time around, online college courses weren’t as readily available as they are today, but I took three different ones during my second stint with school. Yes, they were taken from my home computer, but they still involved a lot of reading, research, and time. They actually took a lot more time than I thought they would, since I initially had that “online classes are easier” assumption, too.
Whether you decide to take classes at a physical college campus or online – or both – you’ll need to figure out a way to budget your time wisely. Things have a way of snowballing if you wind up falling even just a little bit behind, so it’s best to stay on top of your schedule if you can.
I’m not Superwoman, but I managed to figure out a few things on my own as far as time-management goes:
1. Don’t overextend yourself. You’re already going to be busier than usual since you have a job and a class schedule, so make things a little easier on yourself by being realistic. Don’t sign up for four classes when you know that you can realistically only handle two. If you do that, you might even wind up failing classes, which could cause even bigger problems for you down the road.
2. Stay organized. Get yourself a few different notebooks or folders, and keep the paperwork for each class in its own place. If you have your things in order, it’s easier to have what you need handy when it comes time to go to class or study, especially if you’re heading to school straight from work. You might feel like you’re living out of your car on “school days” so having things in order will make things a little easier on you.
3. Keep a calendar. This definitely coincides with my advice to “stay organized” but a calendar will help you out more than you ever thought possible. Buy yourself a student planner or use your Blackberry or iPhone if you prefer, but have some sort of schedule for yourself where you can keep track of appointments, meetings, due dates, your children’s soccer games or school plays, etc. Be sure to note as many things as you can, and this way nothing will show up as a shock.
4. Tell people that you are busy. Something I found that works for me is remembering it’s OK to tell people “no” if you have to. If you’re invited to a party on a weeknight and you have a mid-term exam after work the next day, it really is OK to turn down the invitation. Your friends will understand (or they should be, anyway). I’m not suggesting that you skip a family member’s wedding, but if something is not critical, it’s OK to skip it.
5. Enjoy yourself! You’re going to school a little later in life than some people, but you’re doing it for you. Have fun while you learn. You might be a little more stressed out than you’d hoped, and that’s ok. Things will balance out, and you’ll be proud of yourself as you accomplish each milestone along the way.
For more information about time management, you can check out this Time Management Tool from Collegeboard.com
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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