While going to school and learning is second nature to most students graduating high school, there are many new things about college life that can make even the most studious learners feel overwhelmed with their school coursework. To manage the academic load, many students find it helpful to create a study schedule to keep them on track and meet their scholastic milestones.
A study plan is essentially a detailed schedule that outlines a student’s learning intentions according to a prescribed curriculum for each semester. College life presents most freshman more opportunity for social and extracurricular activities and distraction than they’ve ever experienced before so seeing their social, athletic, and academic requirements mapped out visually often helps to focus their studying efforts.
The first step to creating any study plan is to review the syllabus for each course in great detail. Understanding what your professors will expect from you and what their grading criteria are is the surest way to earn the highest grades. Within a syllabus, each instructor will map out what they will be teaching during each week of the semester, and what coursework and assignments accompany their classroom instruction. Further, the grading rubrics for each student deliverable spell out in great detail exactly what the requirements of each assignment are, and how a student’s work will be graded. Your syllabi will form the core outline of your study schedule.
To be clear, your study schedule need not be mapped out in an elaborate or complicated manner. It could be something as simple as printing out a calendar and blocking off a few hours each day to study or work on each class’s assignments. It could also be something that you maintain on your computer or phone calendar along with scheduled alerts to remind you of pending assignments and upcoming exams.
There is no right or wrong way to set up your study schedule, but the best way is a readily available visual reminder. There are several apps such as MyStudyLife and MySQA as well as hundreds of templates available online that you can experiment with to see which works best for you.
After thoroughly reviewing your syllabi, sit down with your blank schedule and plot out all your current commitments, including work, classroom time, exercise, social events, and any other obligation that fills your time. After you complete that step you’ll be able to see what time is left for studying – and now that you can see it, you can start dividing it accordingly amongst your class requirements.
The first academic items that you should pencil in are the due dates for each assignment identified in your syllabi. Once that is done, you can backward plan each milestone leading up to project completion. Backward planning just means that you’ll estimate how long it will take you to complete each step of an assignment before its due date.
Pro Tip: Breaking big projects down into smaller, more manageable chunks makes it much easier to complete on time.
So, for example, if you have a term paper due in one month, backward planning means that you’ll estimate how long it will take you to complete each section of the paper. Sections such as the abstract, introduction, conclusion, etc. can then be plugged into your study schedule for each week leading up to the project’s due date.
At the end of the day, a study schedule can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. The bottom line, however, is that it should accurately reflect all of your time-consuming commitments so that you can effectively plan to meet each of your academic requirements without having to cram at the last minute.