By Gehazi Whitehurst
Coming to college can be a culture shock to many.
As students leave the environment they once knew, it’s no surprise that they struggle to adjust to their newfound independence — some take more time to get acquainted to the college experience than others.
Everyone who gets to college needs to realize that everything they do involves a budget. For some, this can mean how they allocate their finances, but for others, it can involve how they use their other resources. I know that for me, it wasn’t necessarily money that I had difficulty financing. What I had to learn was how to appropriately budget another crucial resource: my time.
Now, it is important to realize that time is always something you must manage, but once you get to college, the freedoms that you have make the constraints on time far more ambiguous. In high school, a regular weekly schedule makes time easier to manage. You wake up, go to school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., maybe you are involved in an extracurricular activity a few hours after school, you go home, do homework, and repeat.
The huge difference is that in college, every day is going to be different. There are spaces of time between classes. You might have a job, be involved in other activities, and of course, you are going to want to make time for friends.
Some weeks you are going to have to do more than others. With all that goes on in college, budgeting time can be puzzling. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “on an average weekday, full-time university and college students spent 3.5 hours engaged in educational activities, 2.3 hours working, 8.8 hours sleeping, and spend 4.0 hours in leisure and sports activities.”
While you must first realize that everybody’s time can be spent differently, this is a good place to start. The largest chunk of time for students is spent sleeping, which is important to take into consideration.
You could spend less of your time sleeping, perhaps devoting a far smaller chunk to time in bed. However, doing this comes at a cost to your mental and physical health. In fact, according to Affordable Colleges Online, “College students…should get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep.”
I know that for me, whenever I decided to pull the infamous all-nighters, or just chose to get less sleep, my body felt like it was attacking me. Since every person’s schedule is different in school, it doesn’t mean that you need a specific time to go to bed every single night, but it’s vital that in your schedule you set at a good amount of time to sleep.
For example, if you know you have an 8 a.m. class, then maybe going out with your friends until 2 a.m. isn’t the best choice. Again, you just have to ask yourself of the consequences that will occur if you decide to make these kinds of choices. Also, just think of the benefits (including better grades) that you will receive when you get the proper amount of rest.
Figuring out how to spend the rest of your time is more challenging, and I can’t say the perfect schedule for every person. What I can do though, is provide you with tips on how to spend your time the most effectively. Since each week can vary for a college student, it’s first good to set up a weekly schedule.
This simply entails planning out what things you need to get done for the week, and one reason this can be beneficial is because according to Weekdone, “Planning your time effectively means you can plan more free time as well.” Among other benefits of a weekly plan, Weekdone also explains that creating a plan tells you what works and doesn’t work for your overall success. And personally, I just feel more positive about my weeks when I lay out what needs to get done.
Once you’ve established your needs for the week, you can see how much is left to satisfy the wants you have, such as alone time, hanging out with friends, or going to events. The key here is that there has to be a balance with your time. You need to find where your needs and wants intersect to balance a good amount of time for each.
Everyone will be different with how many hours you study, go to work, or spend time with your friends, but once you achieve that perfect balance, you will thrive so much more in college. Sometimes, you will have to find a new balance when your needs or wants shift, such as if you take on a part-time job to make ends meet.
It took me a whole semester in college before I discovered how to appropriately budget my time, but I can promise that the payoff for doing this is worth it.
Whitehurst is a sophomore at the University of Missouri, majoring in journalism.