Updated: Dec 2, 2021
The MOST COMMON challenge that new college students face is how to manage their time. In fact, the most common question I'm asked by parents of high school and college students is "How can I teach my student to better manage their time?"
Every aspect of a high school student's day is planned and structured - class time, appointments with guidance counselors, lunch and structured time within class to start their homework. When students go home, parents provide structure for available free time - when to eat dinner, when to start homework, time for sports' practices, when students are allowed to see friends, etc.
Are you seeing a pattern?
High school provides structure, structure, structure!
So when students enter a college environment, the new flexibility and lack of structure can be hard to navigate.
College students may have 2 classes per day (about 3 hours in the classroom) and "see" the remaining 21 hours as free time. Parents and educators know that these 21 unstructured hours should be spent in productive ways. But students have trouble visualizing 21 hours and breaking that block of time into smaller time slots of potential productivity.
Why is it hard to "see" unstructured time?
Once reason is that students did not have practice scheduling their time in high school.
When students' days are pre-structured they don't know the process, or practice, of creating a schedule themselves.
Here's a silly analogy - Have you ever bought pre-cut pineapple in the grocery store? I love doing this because it's so easy and convenient! But what would happen if I ever need to buy a whole pineapple and cut it myself? I would have no idea what to do! If I only buy the convenient pre-sliced pineapple I miss out on the opportunity of learning for myself. This is a silly example, but it applies perfectly to the idea of time management!
We need to teach our students HOW to make their own schedule and HOW to schedule their free time. If we don't teach them these skills, they will head off unprepared to a college environment. So what can you do now?
HERE IS THE SOLUTION!
Whether your student is in high school or college, have them practice creating a weekly block schedule. This is a VERY important tool in helping your student become aware of their time.
Practice creating a visual weekly schedule that is color coded, shading in blocks of time that your student is in class, eating meals, walking to/from classes, meeting with their advisor/therapist/professors, exercising, in sports practice, etc.
A great tool that I use with all of my coaching students is this one. Students can create a schedule, save it as an image (jpeg) and email the image to themselves. It is easy and fast to create (I've created a schedule with a student in 15 minutes).
Once the schedule is created, have your student do these 4 steps:
Email it to themselves
Take a picture of it with their phone and save it in their photos
Print it out to hang on a bedroom / dorm room wall
Print it out and put copies in binders or homework planners
This picture above is from one of my college coaching students. She hung up the weekly schedule we created in her dorm room - Time management is so important to student success that I create a schedule with EVERY student!
Creating a visual, block weekly schedule is the easiest and quickest way to help ANY high school or college student. manage their time and move them toward college success.
If you're interested in other strategies to help your student build time management, organization or executive functioning skills, this blog post has more great tips and tools.
If you're interested in executive functioning skill building for your high school or college student, reach out to me. I'd love to learn more about your student and how I may be able to help!