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So, there you are…your first full week of classes, and homework assignments. How are you ever going to get through it all and still have time to socialize with your friends, or make friends, or just hang out?
There are lots of solutions that will have varying degrees of success including the:
“Dorm Hermit” This solution involves you only leaving the dorms for meals and class, with the bulk of your time spent studying and completing assignments.
1. Is it an effective use of your time? Absolutely!
2. Is it an efficient use of your time? Without a doubt!
3. Is it the best use of your time? Probably not so much.
Another solution is to become:
“Too Cool for School” This solution encourages you to enroll in the minimum classes required, ensure that the classes require minimal effort, then blow them off when something more interesting comes along.
1. Is it an effective use of your time? If your goal is to ease through the semester them probably yes.
2. Is it an efficient use of your time? If you want to complete a 4yr degree in 4yrs, then probably not?
3. Is it the best use of your time? If you’re goal is to be the social center then absolutely!
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While these two solutions represent the extremes, it is interesting to note how often students feel they are trapped between one choice or the other when a win/win solution is just a strategic plan away! The first thing you need is a calendar. Whether paper-based or digital is not as important as actually disciplining yourself to use it.
College classes are unique in that you receive a syllabus at the beginning of class which lets you know when significant events are due; quizzes, exams, assignments, etc.
Using the syllabus simply note in the calendar tool what activity and when it is due. Next estimate when you would need to begin working on the project in order to have it turned in on time, if you only worked on it for 15 -20 minutes per day. Here is where your smartphone becomes your smart
This is where the Distributed Practice of studying comes into play. Rather than cram for a test, or pull an all nighter for a project/assignment, distribute the assignment over the course of the week. Normally 15-20 minutes per day is sufficient to complete most assignments over the course of a week. Of course more detailed assignments including readings or research may take more time, but you can judge your progress as you go.
After you’ve expended your allotted time on a particular assignment, take a 10 -15 minute break, get up, move around and breathe. Then return and start in on your next assignment for the next class. Setting an alarm on your mobile device is a great way to coach yourself.
With regard to still having a life – if you follow the tact of identifying when assignments are due and adding the distributed practice of studying to your calendar, then when your friends are planning a social event, you’ll know what you need to accomplish before you can participate. No guilt, no worries, just a strategic plan!
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The simple strategy is to “do a little over the long haul” rather than trying to do it all in one setting.
A frequently asked question is, “do cram sessions work?” Unfortunately there have been inconsistent and mixed results. However, distributed practice has earned its place in the pool methods for improving student learning, has sound research results to support it, and is quickly developing a proven track record in academia.
If you truly want to achieve academic success and still have a life in college, the best solution is to apply this, or some other similar form of distributed practice for studying.
After all, there is more to college than the classroom and the dorms.
Dr. Eugene Matthews