As USC has mostly transitioned to an in-person learning format, the struggle to adjust from over a year of online and remote learning to in-person is well felt within the student body. One of the hardest adjustments for myself and other students I have talked to is time management. While time management during remote learning was a struggle and adjustment, time management for in-person classes has always been a struggle and an especially big adjustment for freshmen and other first-year students. I’m going to share some tips for time management that I find helpful and hope they either can be of use to you or serve as a source of inspiration to form your own time management habits.
Taking a bit of time to thoroughly plan my days out as much as I can has served me well when it comes to exams, assignments, club and organizational activities, and other deadlines that I have to meet. I usually do this by making to-do lists on my phone notes app and calendar, putting down the time and length for each task (emails, homework, study, etc). I even put planning and random tasks such as grocery shopping and grabbing a coffee, which I find to be super helpful.
While taking the extra bit of time to thoroughly plan out your daily school and extracurricular activities can be extremely beneficial, this will not get you very far if you are unable to stay focused. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about attaining an all-day hours on end laser focus; everyone has different attention spans, so it’s about getting to know your own attention span and things that help keep your focus. For me, I usually like to get my work done in my room or if I do have to be on campus, I usually try to find a quiet place outside or in classroom halls (still hesitant to use the libraries due to COVID). I also find that I usually have to take short breaks in between studying and working. Other things that help my focus include pairing tasks with a particular time of day. For instance, I prefer to study for exams or complete assignments first thing in the morning or late at night. During the afternoon time, I find I am more productive at emails and extracurricular work. I also find that music helps me attain my focus, particularly pop and rock music.
Depending on where you went to high school and how academically challenging it was, you will either be super prepared for the amount of homework the average college student has or you will be overwhelmed by the first week and spend the rest of the semester playing catch-up with your assignments. I was definitely the second type. My high school did not prepare me at all for the amount of work college would give me and I spent my entire first semester trying to adjust. Now that I’ve gone through two full semesters at USC, I’ve learned some helpful tips on how to stay on top of my work. If you are also struggling with balancing your workload, keep reading for some studying methods that might make your academic life a little easier.
The first tip I have is to get your sleep schedule back on track. It is common to stay up late one night to work on a paper and then end up falling asleep in class the next day. Unfortunately, this causes you to have even more work to do. This forces you to stay up late again and before you know it, your sleep schedule is backward. Establishing a regular sleep schedule will not only help you feel more like a human again but will also improve your productivity in the long run because you will have more energy and be able to absorb information better. It might seem impossible with all the work you have but trust me, it is possible and will make you feel a million times better.
The second tip I have is to split your free time into just working or just relaxing. For example, you have two hours in between classes. You can either work during those two hours or relax, but only choose one. If you choose to work, silence your phone and devote the entire time to just working. If you choose to relax, find a stress-free activity to do and let your mind relax. Instead of having your work open in front of you but not actually doing any of it, choosing either to work or relax allows you to devote your entire focus on one action and boost productivity. However, it is important to make sure that your choice to work and to relax is balanced, or that can result in other problems.
Coming to a new place and figuring out how to survive classes is a challenge that all incoming college students face. It involves having to adjust to different teaching styles and the various contents of whatever classes you sign up for. You might also have to get over a couple of months of not using your brain nearly as much because you were on summer break. Classes can be hard, but they are something we’re all used to. Even if the environment is new, school is something familiar to all of us. Living in a new place, however, and learning how to coexist with people other than your family is a wholly different challenge.
Roommates in college can either be a great adjustment or a significant challenge. If you’re not used to living with people outside of your family or you are accustomed to living by yourself (which is true for most people), there might be a few moments of rude awakening for everyone involved as people figure out how to be functional individuals in an environment with more than one person.
Many people find lifelong friends in the people they end up being roommates with. I have personally heard wonderful stories about people who get randomly assigned to roommates. Those people didn’t know anyone that they might want to room with and ended up forming extremely strong bonds with their roommate. In some cases, roommates can coexist without bonding or disliking each other, and in some other cases, roommate pairs end up with stress and disaster. So how do you find that seemingly all too common best friend that many find in their college roommate? If you are randomly assigned a roommate, you can’t necessarily control if you will “click” with that person, but there are plenty of ways to foster a relationship in order to prevent the worst-case scenarios we all hope to avoid. I have listed some tips below that you can use to establish a good connection with your new roommate:
Reach out on social media. If you have never said hello to your roommate before you meet them in person, chances are you aren’t going to be very close with them.
Be open. If you go into living with an entirely new person with a ton of expectations, you set yourself up for disappointment and frustration.
Communicate with your roommate about the things that concern you. If there is something bothering you, say it. The roommates who become really good friends are the ones who can talk to each other about issues in a respectful manner and work on them together. Do not let things that bother you fester up inside of you or you will start to feel resentment rather than a growing friendship.
Be considerate. Be aware that you and your roommate might come from very different backgrounds, and respect each other’s boundaries. Maybe even make an effort to explore each other’s cultural differences and perspectives if there are any.
Do fun things together every once in a while. No relationship, friend or otherwise, will work if you never do anything fun together. Go to Disneyland or Chinatown or see a movie. There are plenty of things you can find to do that will help you and your roommate share happy and fun memories to build that close bond.