There's a world of difference between academics in high school and college, and you may quickly find that the same tactics that once worked for you now lead to exhaustion and overwork. Take advantage of the blank slate offered by colleges and choose to put your best foot forward. Here are five tips for prioritizing instead of procrastinating.
1. Identify Your Academic Priorities
Everyone's priorities are different, so the first thing you need to do is determine what you want to get out of your college career — that is, what's most important to you right now? (You may find that your goals will change over time, and that's okay!) If you want to double major, write an honors thesis or study abroad, you need to make sure you take prerequisites, get into the right classes, or submit the right applications in a timely fashion. You can't just roll out of bed one morning and expect to be on the Dean's List. Take actionable steps to get you there; for instance, do research ahead of time about the various majors being offered.
2. Figure out How Much Time You Have
It's simple math: There are only 24 hours in a day, and hopefully you're putting some of that toward sleep. Classes are going to obviously eat up some of that time, but you'll need to stay aware of all the homework and studying that comes with each new course. As you sign up and look through syllabi, get a realistic idea — with some wiggle room — of what obligations you'll have and whether that means you'll have to spend less time eating or socializing to make room for those scholastic pursuits.
3. Clarify and Classify Tasks
Once you know how much time you have, get a sense of the scope of your work. Whenever you get an assignment, begin it by carefully reading the directions (and rubric, if provided) and ask your professor any questions up front. Use those requirements to sort tasks by due date and percentage of grade. Categorizing by urgency will allow you to track all of your projects and get the biggest stressors out of the way first. It will also help you to set short-term goals that will help you through you academic aspirations.
4. Set Deadlines
With your available time in mind and your tasks sorted, it's time to pull out your planner. Record your due dates for weekly, monthly and long-term semester projects. Do any of your dates overlap? Think about how much time you need to complete your research paper versus writing a response in the class message board and allocate your free time accordingly. Set deadlines for yourself so you can focus on projects as they become more urgent. Keep being honest with how much time you need and track your progress in the manner that works best with your learning and organizational style. You've got this!
5. Be Flexible
Things rarely go as planned, so keep your head up and be flexible. You can't control the impact of something like a global pandemic, but good organizational skills can help you adapt and reevaluate your priorities. Whether your priority is no longer an option or it has just changed course, it's important to learn from the experience and move forward.
Getting your academic priorities in line is a huge undertaking, and it's normal to feel unsure if you're doing it right. Be kind to yourself as you form this new habit and be proud of the steps you're taking to reach your academic goals. For more strategies to help you do your best in college, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, where we post new content daily.