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Monday, April 13, 2015

Mastering An Overloaded College Schedule

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It's a story I'm not completely sure I went over in any detail on this blog so far. I was a couple semesters into college. I had studying down to a fine art by that time. I was able to get most of my studying done in less than 20 minutes a day. (I hadn't made it quite into the perfect habit I would have liked. I took some days off completely.) Suddenly, I had plenty of extra time in my day.

At that time, I had a part time job for a little under 20 hours a week. I had a full load of classes in college too. To make it a little tougher, I had to bike or walk 5 miles in each direction to get to class and work. (I also ate crappy. It's amazing how resilient the body is to complete collapse.) After getting my studying down to less than 20 minutes a day, I realized that I still had a good 2 or 3 hours free everyday. I, being the maniac I am, decided that would be the perfect time to double my course load.

Yes, I ended up taking another class or two every single day in a relatively pointless effort to finish college a semester or two early. That, obviously, introduced a few new challenges that I got to learn from.

After a question from a reader. I thought it would be a good opportunity to share what I learned from that experience.

The Teacher Lottery

One of the most important factors in surviving, thriving, or failing in any class is the teacher.

There are some teachers that you can show up to class for and virtually always pass the class. They're so generous with points that the slightest bit of effort will make you a successful student. There are some teachers that require you put hours of studying and working in every night. These are teachers that give highly weighted busy work that makes loading up your schedule almost impossible.

In college, try to learn about teachers for classes before you actually sign up for the class. You can ask friends about the teachers or even look online for some colleges. While you can't always pick the winners, this should increase your odds significantly. One of the best things about college is that you get to try your teachers out for a few days before getting stuck with them for the semester. It's usually blatantly obvious whether a teacher is going to require loads of busy work.

Specifically, just look at the syllabus for a general idea. If the teacher provides the formula used to calculate grades (f/e 10% homework, 80% test, etc.) then look for obvious opportunities. Also, in the first class, you can usually ask the teacher how much homework (excluding studying, add that to clarify, and make it sound like you study. Teachers like that,) is assigned.

If you're planning on adding more than the usual class load or concerned about how difficult your class load will be then this it is absolutely fundamental. If you get a bad teacher or two, to look for better ones and switch classes.

After a few classes, you can even find students in other teachers first classes. Then ask them if you can check out their syllabus. You can quickly rule out some of your options. Pick the right teacher and most of the rest of your problems will solve themselves.

Prioritization Comes First

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For the most part, I was able to keep up with a double course load relatively easily. It was busy but it didn't offer any serious challenges. That being said, I did struggle during finals. Suddenly, every class was offering it's hardest (and often slowest) work at the same time and studying was essential. That meant that I had to make some sacrifices.

When you have a ton of work that needs to get done, you need to accept that some of it might not get done. Instead of staying up all night trying to prevent that, plan in advance to make it as small a problem as possible.

Some classes have work that almost completely doesn't affect your final grade. (If homework is 10% of your grade but you have tons of homework, skipping one day will barely change your final grade.) Use this to your advantage. While it can feel a little weird at first, getting comfortable with skipping work will help all your grades.

Sure, you could probably rush everything you have to get done but all of it will be crappy quality (including the things that really matter for your grade.) That means you may be sacrificing final grade points in exchange for not skipping a paper. It can be a tough choice but make the right one.

I survived finals only because I got comfortable ignoring busy work until I wasn't actually busy.

Effective Studying

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You need to have your study habit in pretty good shape to survive an overloaded schedule. If you don't then you're either going to get it in shape at that point, or you’ll fail miserably.

If you spend an hour a night studying for your classes then you're going to be getting miserable results for your time invested. By learning how to study as outlined in this blog, (or plenty of other resources) you can study in less than 15 minutes a night getting similar results. It's all a matter of perfecting the little things and ensuring your studying becomes a strong habit.

Unless you're particularly gifted or lucky, you're not going to be able to study for finals in extra classes effectively without managing this.

While I can't give you the information outlined throughout the pages of articles on this blog, here are the key concepts to consider in your study routine:

Short study sessions significantly increase your recall percentage.

Focus significantly increases your recall.

Habits can help you keep your study sessions short and increase your focus daily.

Learn these and you'll be able to handle just about any schedule you're stuck with. For more details be sure to read the archives of this blog.

Do you want to study in less than 15 minutes a night (while scoring higher than ever?) That's what this blog is all about. Be sure to follow and check out the archives. Also, there are some ebooks in the sidebar that might help.

Do you want to learn the secrets about studying that the mainstream educators wont tell you? Follow this blog.

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