Objective: The student will develop a schedule that demonstrates an effective balance of academic and social life in the college setting, including class time, study time, and budgeted time for social, health/wellness, and daily living priorities.
This lesson is designed to help you maintain a focus on academic priorities. Academic work is a top priority for successful first-year college students. This module will ask how to consider 4 goal areas – academic, social, health/wellness, and daily living. Although each of these areas is important, not all “pieces of the pie” should receive equal amounts of time.Estimated time 30-45 minutes
This section corresponds with Module 2 Lesson 2 in the College Bound Transition curriculum resources.
Take out your goal setting sheets that you started in Module 2, Part 1. What goals did you set for yourself?
You have set goals in four different categories:
Do you have more goals in one category than in the others? Which one?
Which category do you think will require more goals for college students?
You will probably have many more NON‐academic goals than academic goals. The goal‐setting worksheet places equal emphasis on each of the four types of goals so that you realize that you need to set goals in every area of your life, not just the academic area. However, in this lesson, you will be guided to understand that for successful college students, academics are generally the biggest “piece of the pie,” so to speak. You will learn to create a balanced schedule that includes time for all areas, but focuses on academic priorities.
Research shows that students who are involved in more than academics do better in their classes, feel more connected to the college community, and are more likely to stay and graduate. Engaging in the college community is important to do during the 1st year. So, do get involved!
However, with all the opportunities available on a college campus, it will be easy for you to unintentionally shift priorities and lose focus on the fundamental reason for attending college, which is to get an education.
Thus, in the first year of college, especially during the first semester, it’s not necessary (and it’s generally not beneficial) to dive directly into the “full” college experience.
It is much more important for you to focus on establishing a solid academic foundation. The idea is to build a strong academic foundation the first year in order to be able to stay in college long enough to enjoy the full college experience. You’ll need to develop a clear understanding of how to navigate the academic expectations and supports of college. After establishing that solid academic foundation, you can branch out more and get involved in different ways in subsequent semesters.
Let’s review Rob’s plan – He may want to attend the meetings of a student organization in the fine arts department, and maybe even join the organization. However, he would probably want to hold off on making commitments of involvement beyond what would be expected of the general membership, such as running for office or organizing a fundraiser, etc. Increased involvement, including possibly a leadership position, can come later, after he has established a solid academic foundation.
For students with disabilities, this is particularly important. Have you found that often you must work harder and longer in order to achieve the same academic results as your peers? Just as in high school, this will be true in college. Even if you didn’t require extensive assistance in high school you will probably find that your college work requires a significant increase in focus and dedication in order to achieve your goals!
It can be difficult for new college students to know how much time they should be spending on academics in order to create a balanced schedule. Because high school students spend more time in class than college students and many high school courses require minimal studying and preparation outside of the classroom, lots of students don’t have a feel for the time commitment required for successful college academics.
Time commitments will vary by student, college, major, etc., but the general “rule of thumb” is that you should be spending approximately 3 hours each week on coursework outside of class for every semester hour of your schedule. So a 3 semester hour class would require 9 hours of outside work each week (preparation, reading, studying, homework, etc.) in addition to the 3 hours spent in class!
If you’re taking a minimum course load of 12 semester hours you should be spending about 36 hours per week on schoolwork, in addition to the 12 hours you spend in class. It’s like a full time job! Keep in mind that most college students take more than 12 hours each semester, so the total time should increase accordingly.
Keep in mind:
Because students spend less time in class, first year college students often feel like they have a great deal of “free time” on their hands. However, all that “free time” passes very quickly, and without good time management skills, students often end up not having adequately prepared for class. In order to succeed, you must harness all that unstructured time by creating and sticking with a weekly/daily schedule.
When creating your schedule, you need to be sure that your time is spent on accomplishing your goals and priorities in a balanced schedule. For college students, this may mean prioritizing academics over extra-curricular activities.
Some students legitimately prefer to study at night, but that can lead to sleeping too much during the day. Dorms are typically not the best place to study. Also, chances to take part in recreational and social activities will often come up in the evening. Therefore, using your daylight hours to complete most study activities will leave you with “guilt-free” time to do other things.
Click the link for the sample schedule below. Notice that:
Before you leave for college if you start out with this expectation (that academics are going to take up the largest chunk of your time, and that other pursuits are generally going to be lower priorities than schoolwork) and commit to maintaining that balance, this will go a long way toward having the necessary self-discipline to manage your time effectively once you’re actually on campus.
Now let’s look at Annie’s schedule below.
When students don’t establish a solid academic foundation at the very beginning of their college career, they are going to spend the rest of their time playing catch‐up and worrying about whether they can make grades high enough to keep progressing through their curriculum.
When students work to develop a strong GPA “cushion” the student can explore more time intensive non-academic activities (i.e. work, leadership, fun, etc.).
In order for Annie to declare her major, she will have to earn a 3.6 while taking 15 semester hours. If Annie only takes 12 hours per semester (which is what she did freshman year), she will not be able to earn a high enough GPA to declare the major at the end of this semester. (It would have to be a 4.5 with 12 hours…not going to happen on a 4.0 scale.)
In addition to worrying about whether she can declare her major, Annie needs to consider whether she will be put on academic probation if she doesn’t improve her grades. All universities have minimum GPA requirements – if a student’s grades fall below the minimum requirement, the student takes a “mandatory vacation” from school for at least one semester. This is probably a new concept for you, as most high schools do not suspend students due to low grades.
Because Annie’s grades are so low, she won’t even be allowed to stay in school unless she earns a 3.0 in 12 semester hours. (If she takes 15 hours this semester, she only needs to make a 2.8.)
If Annie had established even a slightly more solid academic foundation last year (raising 2 grades from D’s to C’s) then she would not need to work quite as hard this semester. But because she earned a 1.5, she now has to work harder this semester in order to achieve the same results.
Objective: The student will develop a schedule that demonstrates an effective balance of his/her academic and social life in the college setting, including class time, study time, and budgeted time for social, health/wellness, and daily living priorities.
If so, congratulations!
If not, review the sample balanced schedule and revise the schedule for Annie to reflect a balance of activities. Have your parent review this with you. Also work on revising your schedule for the upcoming week to reflect a balance of activities.