LAS seeks to equip all students with the tools, strategies, and resources required to flourish during their time at Wheaton College (IL). Our areas of expertise are in time management, study strategies, and academic accountability. Here are some key resources and information for you below. If you are seeking content or course-specific support or tutoring, please contact the relevant academic department for more information.
Student life has a tendency to get packed. We often hear students say they need help with time management due to many competing priorities, activities, or just plain demotivation. You don't have to have a fancy planner to organize your time - the best tools are actually quite simple. You just have to find what works best for YOU. Here are the critical components to managing your time as a college student:
- Semester Calendar. This is the big picture/birds-eye-view level of time management. You can't keep it all in your head or rely on your course management software to tell you when assignments are due. You need a semester calendar to capture all the big assignments, exams, projects, and any due dates your professors indicate on course syllabi. Please take a few minutes at the start of the semester to fill this out and put it on your wall (don't put it away in a folder!):
- Weekly Schedule. Your life as a college student ought to be fairly repetitive from week to week. Take time to set your repeating weekly schedule which will help you combat the tendency to waste precious unstructured time. Structure it now before it's too late! We encourage students to start with your courses, then block out the following: sleep, meal times, other weekly activities/meetings/appointments, work shifts, church/spiritual development, exercise or other forms of self care. Then examine what time is left as unstructured blocks which can be scheduled as study time. Be specific as to the location and what work/course you will typically focus on during that time. Color-coding is also encouraged!
- Daily To-Do List. If you find you need a daily list of to-dos, this is the third level of time management which can be implemented. Just be sure that they are specific tasks which are time-bound and can be completed in a short time period. If you find that something on your to-do list is not getting done day after day, ask yourself why and try to delegate, ask for help, or problem solve a way to hold yourself accountable to getting it done.
- Students like the Microsoft To-Do List app. It makes a satisfying "ding!" when you check off a task.
If you find yourself saying, "I just don't have enough time!" or "I don't know where all my time goes!" we strongly suggest completing a time journal for one week as a first step. Here is a tool that you can use: 168 Hour Challenge
These are some key academic skill areas that every college student needs in order to flourish academically. You may be navigating new challenges in these areas which IS A GOOD THING. It means you are learning. New challenges may require new strategies, and that's where we come in!
- Reading. What you think about and what you do before, during, and after reading will ensure you are making the best use of your time on a text.
- Before: Think about the topic, recall what you've discussed in class, consider what the professor wants you to focus on or get out of this particular reading
- During: Make meaningful decisions about what to highlight or note, ask "How might I use/apply this information?", make note of items that you have questions about or you want to follow up on in class. Your reading should facilitate your engagement and participation in class.
- After: Ask yourself, "What did I understand or learn?" Test that out by explaining it to yourself outloud or to a friend over a meal. Are you able to teach someone else about the topic? Make connections to your life or content in other classes (this deepens the learning). Prepare for the ways that you will engage in the class around the text or complete any post-reading assignments, journals, blog posts, if relevant.
- Writing. Scaffolding your writing assignments and breaking them down into smaller parts is a critical skill for any student. Your professor may not always do this for you, so you need to be prepared to do it yourself.
- Read the assignment several times.
- Highlight any due dates along the way.
- Write down any questions. Seek clarity from your professor.
- Start to break down the assignment into smaller steps.
- Example #1 Annotated bibliography
- Research and form topic (2-4 days)
- Read and annotate sources (2-3 days for 7 sources)
- Write the summaries (1 day)
- Edit and format citations (1 day)
- Example #1 Annotated bibliography
- Work those steps into your calendar. "Ok, based on the break down above, I need to start 9 days before the annontated bib is due).
- Example #2 Entire research paper
- Find sources, make bibliography (this helps to solidify topic)
- Write thesis/intro paragraph
- Write outline/start draft
- Rough draft
- Final edits
- Example #2 Entire research paper
- If you get stuck at any point in the writing process, reach out to the Writing Center
- Notetaking. Notetaking is not writing down as much as possible. You must be actively engaged while notetaking so that it is meaningful and useful to refer back to. Here are some things to focus on:
- Summarize key ideas, noting what your professor emphasizes in class
- Actively organize, review, and think about your notes in real time
- Use visual cues that will be helpful when you look back at your notes
- Review your notes after class to ensure that they will be useful to you when preparing for an assessment or assignment. Clarify or reorganize, if needed.
- Metacognition. One of the greatest predictors of student success is the accuracy of their metacognition. What is metacognition and why is it important?
- Metacognition is a student's awareness of their level of understanding of a topic
- Accurate Metacognition is when a student is able to accurately assess what they've learned. This often translates into something like, "I took the exam and I think I got a B" and the student actually gets a B. That reflects accurate metacognition.
- Inaccurate Metacognition is when students think they are prepared and understand a topic deeply, but they actually aren't. This often translates into something like, "How did I fail this quiz?? I studied so hard for it!"
- Here are some tips for promoting your own accurate metacognition:
- Engage in deep processing and practice retrieval strategies (see Study Strategies for more information.)
- Take time to reflect throughout your semester and test your metacognition. You can always predict your grade before you take an exam and then see how accurate you were. Or, use this Metacognition Tool - Word document that we developed.
Figuring out how we learn best is a lifelong journey. Learning should be effortful, so if you are finding yourself working hard to study, that is a good thing. You are also not alone! Here are some high-impact strategies to try out if you have not yet:
- Spaced repetition. Research shows that short, more frequent study sessions are more effective than longer, less frequent sessions. For example, 3-4 one hour study sessions for a course sprinkled throughout the week is more effective than sitting down for 4 hours on a Saturday to study for that one course. The Pomodoro technique recommends starting with 15 minutes of study and a 1-2 minute break. Gradually work up to 20-, 25-, 30- minute stretches.
- Environment. Know yourself and what environment works best for you. If you are someone that likes to study in a more busy enviornment (like Lower Beamer) or with music on, that is great! But be sure you are paying attention to what actually works for you. Also, once you are preparing for a specific exam, be sure to practice retrieval of information in a setting that simulates the exam setting as much as possible. (You don't want the first time you are trying to retrieve information in a quiet, timed setting to be when you are actually taking the exam.) Some questions to consider:
- Do I get easily distracted if others are around?
- How can I make a tech/phone-free environment when studying?
- What time of day am I most effective/alert?
- Retrieval. The learning process is encoding, storage, and retrieval. You should pay close attention to how much of your study time is spent on encoding/storage versus on retrieval or, in other words, input versus output. You should be moving through the learning process so that, especially prior to an assessment, you have spent a decent amount of time already in retrieval, testing yourself and seeing what you know, what you don't, filling in the gaps, and then testing yourself again. Here are some tips for retrieval:
- Close your book/notes
- Make a concept map of ideas and associations
- Take a timed practice test in a setting similar to an exam setting
- If you don't have a practice test, make one yourself!
- Give yourself or a friend a presentation on the topic
- Study like you are preparing for a presentation. When we know we have to present to an audience on a topic, we inherently hold ourselves to a higher standard of internalizing content. We can't present on a topic genuinely if we don't understand it deeply. Try to approach your studies like you are preparing for a presentation and have to internalize the information to then explain it to an audience and potentially answer their questions. If you know that your exam is going to contain certain cues (like key terms, for example), you can use those cues as cue cards for your presentation. Just turning on your video camera for your "presentation" can be a very effective tool to see what you really know and what you really don't.
LAS may have coined the term "academic accountability" but it's because we see how often this is the key ingredient to students' academic success. You may be able to make a perfect plan for yourself, but how are you going to make yourself do it? Sometimes internal motivation is hard to come by and, in those cases, we want you to try creating some external accountability to keep you moving forward toward your goals. Here are some great options:
- Meet with a professor/TA and tell them ahead of time what work you will have to show them or something specific that you will have finished by that meeting
- Schedule an appt with LAS or a Peer Coach to report on what your goal is and how you are going to keep moving ahead on it
- Consider if there is a friend who can hold you accountable by helping to check in with you on your specific goal
- Make an appointment with the Writing Center or a Subject Librarian to hold yourself accountable to progressing through stages in your research or writing process
- What motivates you? Create a system of rewards that may be effective to "celebrate" when you do the hard thing.
Wonder and awe are critical to deep understanding and engagement. Try to cultivate wonder and awe as much as possible throughout your learning process and even during your individual study sessions. If you are taking a break during your studies, consider turning to something that sparks wonder instead of social media apps. Research shows that exposing yourself to wonder will up your engagement and open up avenues for deep processing. What sparks wonder for you? Here are some ideas:
- NASA Images (be sure to click on "Most Popular")
If you have a contribution to our Wonder Box, please send them to email@example.com