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Making Time to Study

by Jacqueline West

The phone is on its fourth ring, the dog is pawing hopefully at your leg, something is boiling over on the stove, and your son or daughter is calling to you from the kitchen in an increasingly desperate voice. Glancing back down at your textbook, you realize that you've re-read the same sentence seven times - and your typed two-page response to the chapter is due tomorrow. Sound familiar?

For most of us who have returned to college as adults, the challenge of balancing our "real world" responsibilities with academic work is the toughest thing to master. Careers, family, community activities, and housework all compete for our time, and the longer we've been out of school, the tougher it is to get back into our old study habits. Integrating college back into a full adult life will probably never feel easy, but there are several strategies you can practice to make the balancing act as simple as possible.

Set a Schedule
Sure, not everything in life is predictable. Flat tires and the stomach flu are almost guaranteed to happen when you least expect them. However, most parts of your schedule can be planned ahead, and if you give your academic work the same consideration that you give your other activities, you might just be able to make space for it in your weekly routine.

First, figure out how much study time you need. (A formula from DePaul University is to study two hours per credit hour in an easy class, three hours per credit hour for an average class, and four hours per credit hour in a difficult class. ) After you've calculated your required work time, choose the time of day that works best for you. If you do your best work in the mornings, try waking up just half an hour earlier to get a jump on studying while you sip your first cup of coffee. If you prefer working in the evenings, try setting aside the hour after dinner, when the daily chores are done and family members are busy with hobbies and homework. Even a lunch break in the middle of the workday can be a time to give academics your full concentration.

If it still seems like your schedule is too hectic for quality study time, take a look at your weeknights and weekends. What jobs can be simplified, dropped, or delegated? For example, if you pare your grocery shopping and other errands down to one trip per week, you could avoid some emergency runs to the store. Instead of taking care of laundry whenever it comes to mind, plan on doing it all on one evening.

Once you've allotted time for study, stick to it. If you occasionally have more time than you need for your assignments, try working ahead. Get a jump on a paper or on the next chapter of the textbook - you'll thank yourself later. Sure, you may need to adjust for the surprises, both good and bad, that pop up in all of our lives. But if you've made a place in your schedule for your school work, you won't have to face the stress of rearranging your activities at the last minute.

Finally, a consistent study schedule will make things easier on family and friends. If you make your homework plans clear, the other people in your life will know exactly when you are available to give them your time.


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