Higher education provides students with more freedom than they’ve probably experienced up to that point. The impetus is on college students to make and keep their own schedules, and that transition can be difficult for some. When learners struggle to manage their time, they can find themselves overwhelmed by the rigors of college, especially if they also need to earn income while they are there. Time management is a skill that needs to be practiced. If it’s not, students may find themselves behind on their studies, experiencing mental and emotional stress or even at risk of failing.

Lower Academic Performance

In addition to flexibility, college life also offers students plenty of distractions, especially those living on campus and not at home with their families. Study and homework may be put off until the last minute to make room for activities, socializing, work, or just relaxing. Also, students who are intimidated by their workload may cope by avoiding it for as long as possible. Chronic procrastination can lead to poor academic performance: missing assignments, scoring low on exams or turning in sub-par work. Falling behind on classwork may lead to a student dropping a class or two every semester. And if that pattern continues, that student may not graduate on time. Other risks include being put on academic probation, losing scholarships and even dropping out.

Heightened Stress

Students may already be feeling more pressure to perform well in college than they did in high school. Poor time management can add to that pressure. If a student feels as if they are constantly playing catch up with academic work, they may exhibit signs of stress including headaches, anxiousness and disturbed sleep. Sleep is a valuable commodity in college and is often shunned in favor of finishing up that paper due the next day or cramming for an exam. Time management stress and its symptoms can be aggravated by not getting enough sleep as well as by drugs or alcohol.

Coping Strategies

The good news is that there are practices that college students can adopt to stay on task and use their time wisely. One suggestion is to look at the tasks that need to be accomplished for the week and work backwards. Try to estimate how many hours you’ll need to spend on a project or preparing for a quiz and split that time over the entire week. Schedule in sleep, self-care and time with friends so that you don’t feel deprived of human contact and can give your brain a rest. Use your phone’s calendar or a physical planner to keep track of your responsibilities; this will also prevent you from double-booking yourself.

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