Pre- requisite: Successful Time Management

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Finally, the ability to make your own schedule, to stay up as late as you want, to eat or not to eat, to sleep or to stay up all night. These are the freedoms along with the responsibility of academics that are suddenly thrust into the hands of college freshmen. With parents no longer making sure that when the alarm goes off someone actually gets up and out of the bed, the responsibility of being accountable now sits in the hands of the college freshman. In order to successfully navigate the demands of social freedom and to perform academically as expected, being a capable student of time-management is essential. Although time management is not a required freshman course, college campuses and universities should address it to ensure that new students are equipped for successful integration into college life that supports academics. In addition, students should take advantage of available resources to help make the transition from high school to college a rewarding one.

Even though students have been informed while in high-school that college will be different, it is not until they are actually attending a college or university do they fully understand the scope of what this means to them individually. Being unprepared mentally, socially and academically as a freshman student is a problem noted in several studies. Unpreparedness significantly impacts their ability to perform academically. Time management and study habits are directly linked to how well a student performs in school (Talib, 2012). The consideration then for colleges and universities, is on which shoulder does the responsibility lie of helping first-year students be successful? (van der Meer, 2010). All involved are responsible; the student, the academic institution, and the parent. All have the same goal, to prepare the next generation of graduates to transition into successful leaders.

Inherent to being a successful student is to have a handle on how to manage time. How does a college freshman make the management of time one of their first accomplishments? Van de Meer and colleagues discussed why students have challenges with managing their time, especially during their first year. They concluded that academic institutions had no predictors of what students actually believed the first year of college would be like, nor were the institutions aware if students were prepared to meet the challenges of entering college for the first time (van der Meer, 2010). Therefore, the assumption is, that colleges and universities play a significant role in helping college freshmen understand some of the demands that school will place on them, and how to adopt certain behaviors that will help to make the transition easier. In addition, the connection between good study habits and how students are able to manage their time should be a clear and distinct message from their academic institution.

Van de Meer’s article defines several different aspects of what first-year students struggle with. The dynamics of a university environment demands teaching from several different instructors, each one having their own unique course requirements. Even though a syllabus is provided, students unfamiliar with using this as a tool to keep track of assignments and due dates are often overwhelmed. It is sometimes difficult to gauge how long different assignments will take, and the specifics of what, when and how to study critically. Moreover, in an unfamiliar environment, understanding the expectations of each instructor for some is a daunting task (van der Meer, 2010). “Students also experienced more specific challenges related to workload expectations. Students’ awareness that they had to do a lot of work did not necessarily translate into knowing how to approach the study load” (p. 784) van der Meer noted.

In another study done by Balduf examines academically gifted high school seniors and explains why their success in high school did not translate into college. The findings in this article stated that “Several other aspects of participants’ experiences contributed to their college underachievement: inadequate study skills, poor time management, and internal versus external motivation” (p. 275). These were high achieving students whose learned study habits and time management assets worked well for them at the high school level. Therefore, the evidence supports that the success of first-year college students is somewhat in the hands of academia. This responsibility is theirs whether it is facilitated or not.

Although the evidence supports that college and universities accept their role in helping students manage time and self-study habits, students also must take responsibility for their education as well. Balduf looks at how peers influence one another, being considered as the smart one is a label most would like to shed (Balduf, 2009). These students would much rather like to be labeled as popular, rather than as an academic whiz. Students that take the time to meet with instructors outside of class, and participate in other activities that are geared toward academic success usually are rewarded with better grades. However, students that focus more on the social aspects of college life, especially with overuse of social media, usually their grades suffer as a result (Balduf, 2009). How serious a student is about his or her education will go a long way in developing good study habits, and managing their time effectively.

However, the ability to set priorities as a first-year college student may be one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome. This is where the foundation for time-management is set. There are some common sense and foundational things to do in order to better manage time and to stay a few steps ahead of expected assignments and exams. Use a calendar; in today’s technology where cell phones are a must, they are also perfect tools to set-up reminders as needed. Do not be isolated. Establish relationships with one or two students per class. There is usually a student who echoes the instructor and will repeat almost everything he or she says, this is the student to befriend. Ask for conferences with instructors. At Dartmouth College located in Hanover, New Hampshire has an on-line Academic Skills Center which has helps with time management. Some of the things they focus on are scheduling tools, a list of 30 time management tips, the current semester’s calendar, sample planners, videos to watch, and helpful links to other websites (Managing Your Time, 2014). This is an excellent example of a school taking responsibility and understanding that there are other criteria for academic success.

College freshmen usually have a specific curriculum to follow. Often instructors teach the same classes year after year. This is an excellent opportunity to add another layer of help and instructions for a college freshman. In van der Meer’s article, some students were unaware that reminders, as they pertained to quizzes, exams, and assignments, would not be reiterated at some point during the semester. Learning in this new environment is easy to simply forget a paper that is due or an upcoming test. Differences in teaching methods are based on the instructor. Some are inclined to help new students with reminders and more directed study, and others are not. However, there are students who are accepting responsibility for their actions, and admitting that in some way they are at fault (van der Meer, 2010). Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for instructors to implement a unified message of accountability.

Van der Meer in his study discussed interviews with students who at the beginning of the semester were confident that they could keep up with their reading assignments. However, when re-approached near the end of the semester, their confidence level fell significantly. As a result, van der Meer (2010) wrote, “This, Maguire says, suggests that these students ‘need to adopt a more strategic approach to learning tasks, with an emphasis on time management and effective reading strategies, in order to succeed’” (p. 788). When faced with extensive reading assignments from more than one instructor can feel overwhelming. The challenge is that students, at the freshman level, have not adapted enough creative ways in their approach to reading methods. This is not taught in class; this is a learned behavior.

Talib and Sansgiry reiterate in their findings that successful academic performance is linked to serious time management and how efficiently students incorporate study time into their schedule. The findings also emphasize the ability to prioritize and to stay focused on the right things and also being able to actively follow a schedule keeping in mind the tasks that are more important than others (Talib, 2012). However, for first-time students, this might be asking a bit much. Most would like to believe that keeping a 4.0 GPA is at the forefront for most freshmen, but realistically this mindset is only unique to a small percentage of students. The average student whether living on campus and attending school full-time, or commuting daily to school from their parents' home, or living off-campus and working part-time, the entry into college is intimidating and guidance is critical for some in order to be successful. Tabib and Sansbiry (2012) note “For successful implementation of such a strategy one has to be careful about the planning, scheduling and then seriously following the plan” (p. 267).

In order to address the problem of time management for college freshmen, one has to address that it does exist. Authors Talib and Sansgiry, (2012) looked at how “time management and strategic study” (P. 267) are important for helping to ensure academic accomplishment; van der Meer’s study emphasizes the importance of universities being the catalyst in helping students adopt excellent time management and study skills (van der Meer, 2010); and Balduf’s study noted that even the brightest students will need assistance as college freshman and that foundational to this assistance is time management (Balduf, 2009). All are in agreement that time management to also include proficient study habits and skills are what a college freshman should consider tools of the trade. However, the added benefits to adopting these skills are that they not only help develop academically healthy college freshmen but also are the springboard to becoming successful in chosen career paths and can transition to a valuable life asset.

References

Balduf, M. (2009). Underachievement Among College Students. Journal Of Advanced Academics, 274-294.

(2014). Managing Your Time. Retrieved from Dartmouth College: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/time.html

Talib, N., Sansgiry, S. S. (2012). Determinants of Academic Performance of University Students. Pakistan Journal Of Psychological Research, 265-278.

van der Meer, J. J. (2010). 'It's almost a mindset that teachers need to change': first-year students' need to be inducted into time management. Studies In Higher Education, 777-791.