Time Management Tips for College-Bound High School Students

High school students planning to attend college can look forward to spending less time in class. But they ought to understand that academics are often more demanding in college than in high school.

“In high school, students are expected to be in class for 35 hours per week, and do approximately 15 hours of homework per week,” Dave Ebert, a mathematics teacher at Oregon High School in Wisconsin, wrote in an email. “In college, students are in class for only about 15 hours per week, and then are expected to have approximately 35 hours of work outside of class per week.”

Since college students must do much of their schoolwork independently, they need strong time management skills. Here are seven tips to begin developing these skills before college:


  • Get ahead.
  • Use a calendar.
  • Find a routine.
  • Be responsible with technology.
  • Learn how to study effectively.
  • Schedule study breaks.
  • Know your limits.

Get Ahead

Students can expect to be tasked with more major assignments, like research papers, in college. While you’re still in high school, make a habit of starting these bigger projects well ahead of due dates rather than cramming to finish them at the last minute, experts recommend. The same applies to studying for tests that are scheduled in advance.

“If you have a research paper due in two weeks, find your research within the first two or three days, then work on reading it for the next four or five days, and then write the paper,” says Jodi Bahr, a science teacher at Harvard Middle School and Harvard High School in Nebraska – also known as Harvard Public School – and high school science teaching division director for the National Science Teaching Association.

Use a Calendar

With so much work to complete outside of the classroom, it can be easy for college students to forget about assignments. Instead of relying on memory alone, experts advise keeping track of due dates on a calendar.

“Find a planner,” Bahr says. “That may be something as simple as a piece of paper, or a physical planner from a store, or even a free app.”

Find a Routine

Since students will usually spend only a few hours in class per weekday once they get to college, they’ll have more flexibility to decide when they want to study and get their work done. Trying out different strategies in high school can help you find a procrastination-proof regimen, experts say.

“Figure out how, when and where you do your best work,” says Harris Cooper, a psychology and neuroscience professor at Duke University in North Carolina.

Be Responsible With Technology

Students tend to do schoolwork on computers that are filled with games and websites that can be distracting. Those who leave home for college won’t have guardians monitoring their phone, TV and video game usage. So, while still in high school, it’s wise to learn to enjoy nonacademic screen time in moderation, experts say.

Bahr also encourages students to set daily time limits for social media apps on their phone, adding that putting away cellphones while doing homework can help students stay on task.

Learn How to Study Effectively

There are only 24 hours in a day. Busy college students need to be efficient in the time that they devote to studying, and they are likely to be behind the curve if their study habits were poor in high school.

Lisa Fulton, a school counselor at Eastern Lebanon County High School in Pennsylvania, encourages students to practice “active studying.”

“A lot of students think that just looking at notes is studying. That’s not really studying; that’s what you should be doing all the time,” says Fulton, who is also assistant chair of the American School Counselor Association board. “You really need to be making flashcards, or having someone quizzing you, or quizzing yourself.”

Schedule Study Breaks

Even the most diligent students need some relaxation time to refresh during seemingly endless hours of schoolwork, experts say. But students should take break time in moderation so that they complete assignments. Bahr suggests timed breaks of reasonable length to avoid unplanned overindulgence in leisure activities.

“You can set a timer and give yourself 15 minutes to socialize,” she says. “But then, when that timer goes off, you need to know to redirect back to studying.”

Know Your Limits

Some students have to juggle their education with other commitments, such as family obligations or jobs. Many voluntarily add more extracurricular activities to their plate of responsibilities.

Experts encourage well-roundedness, but warn students of all ages against overloading themselves.

“Yes, it’s great to be involved, but your priority has to be school,” Fulton says. “It’s better to do a few things really well than to do a lot of things not so well.”

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