How To Survive College: How To Make A Studying Schedule

As you may or may not know (if you don’t: where have you been all this time?!?): I’m a college student. And because I do take on quite an extra load of work (extra courses, a job, extracurricular activities) and still do manage to get quite good marks (in general, there’s exceptions to every rule), I have been told that I’m pretty good at the whole studying thing.
What’s more, I have been asked how exactly I do it, and seeing how as “no sleep, no life” apparently wasn’t a sufficient answer, I figured I’d write some of my tips down here!
I sincerely doubt anybody wants to read this anymore, but still, here it is, yet again: exams are stressful, and one of the best ways to keep those stress levels down as much as possible, is to get organised. Now, so far, most of what I discussed, you could use both during term and during your exams, and as such, you can basically do whenever you please. However, once exams come around, it’s quite easy to get lots in the sheer magnitude of all that you have to do, so it’s (again) really important to, at least to some extent, plan what you want to do when – so let’s get started on that!


First of all, yet again, there are 2 things that are different for everybody.

On the one hand: what do you plan?
Do you schedule how much time you want to spend studying a day, per course, per week, or do you plan what content you want to get done?

On the other hand: when are you most productive? Do you prefer to work 5 hours at a time and then do nothing for the rest of the day, or do you prefer to study for short periods of time, take a 5-minute break, and get back to it?
A lot of people can do only one – either they study from 9a.m. till 2p.m., or they study all day but with a lot of breaks; either they study exactly 2 hours, but no more and no less, or they just continue until they’ve managed to finish that one chapter, and then do with their time what they want.
It’s really important to figure out which one you are, because trying to force yourself into the other mould won’t get you anything except for a headache and bad grades – neither of which will do you any good…. And you can just apply those 2 items to all the below!

Anyways, as for the actual planning: first things first: look up what you have to know. There’s nothing worse than discovering, 5 minutes before that you forgot to study an entire chapter – or worse: that you studied a whole chapter which you didn’t even actually have to know!

This doesn’t have to be anything fancy or complicated, you’re literally just trying to get on paper what every professor expects of you – do they have some set exam questions? Do you need to write a paper? Are there any deadlines? When’s your actual exam?

As I said – nothing fancy… But it does prepare you for the next step: once you know what exactly you need to do, you can figure out how much time you’re gonna need to do it.
For example, I have 9 courses total, for 5 of them I have to write a paper, for 5 of them I have a ‘regular’ exam – and yes, I said that right, one particular course asks me to both write a paper, and take an exam.
Next thing you want to do – now that you actually know what you’re supposed to do, figure out how much time you’re going to need to do it – personally, I prefer to work in days: for example: I have 9 courses, 5 of which have a paper-deadline the second or third week of January – I know I need approximately 3 days to get a paper written once I’ve done the research, and I prefer to leave some time to double check my spelling, my logic, my sources, etc.

In other words, I’m going to have to see how many days I think I’ll need to write each paper, how much time I need to study those first two exams, ànd check how many days I have in total – and trust me on this one, it can take a couple of tries before you get something that seems both realistic and sufficient.
It doesn’t really matter whether you work in days, 3-hour sections, or whatever, as long as you find some sort of “unit” that works for you, and will allow you to easily divide your courses.

On my first try, I ended up with a schedule that didn’t have enough place for everything, I had to rework everything 3 times ’cause I kept running out of days to put my studying time on, and eventually I got so frustrated that I just tossed it – this is my second attempt:

As you can see, this one is slightly (well, quite a bit, actually, but still) more neat than my first version, but it still just wasn’t in any way clear – that’s what happens when you have 3 paper deadlines ànd 2 exams, all within the span of 2 days, apparently…  Anyways, I finally realised that, because I’m taking so many courses this term, there was just no way I would a sufficient amount of days fit onto one page, so I just sort of gave in – and ended up with this:

And yes, those are two very, very filled pages. Basically, I always start from the last day of exams – because I just know that, otherwise, I ‘m somehow going to end up with all of 1 day that doesn’t fit anymore – and fill in all the dates. In this case, I chose to go from the last week of January (when I have my last two exams) to the first days of December (as I mentioned in the first post of this series, I’ve had a ton of deadlines the last couple of days, with more to come, so it really was quite useful to be able to plan these weeks as well).

Next step: write down all the important data – in my case: exams, paper deadlines, and “fun activities”, be they New Year’s Eve, a friends Birthday Party, or just plain old having a friend come over and going to the Christmas Market together – you need those moments as well!

Then, I just fill in the easy dates: the last couple of days right before an exam are dedicated to that course – always. That gave me, for most courses at least, a starting point of 2 or 3 days per course.

After that, it was just a point of adding the other dates: for papers, I prefer one day of preparation, a couple of days for actual writing and one day for checking and double checking.
For most exams, I need (at the very least) 4 or 5 days, so I took that as a starting point: I have 5 exams within 3 weeks, or 21 days, which seems plenty of time.
I actually kinda lucked out, as I only have to deal with consecutive days of  exams once, but as those are the heaviest days (papers! all the papers!) of my entire exams, It’s still going to be pretty tough to get everything done – especially as 2 of those papers are being written in group, and as such we have to meet up in that week as well.

Either way, that’s basically my entire last week before my exams officially start filled in. As our exams fall a week after Christmas break, that leaves  about 2 weeks to be planned out – a period during which, as I already mentioned, I not only have to write all the other papers and get some actual studying done, but I’m also supposed to celebrate Christmas, and the New Year, and my bf’s birthday (just rude, to be born in that period :p ).
However, that’s where the “this list starts at the beginning of December”-bit comes in. I realised I wouldn’t have enough days and I somehow managed to find some moments to actually get started on all of my papers already – even if it’s just by deciding which subject I’m going to be writing about.

Either way, I managed to fill out all the days, which left me with all of 3 things to do.
First: highlight any fun activities – I know you have exams, but if you don’t get to relax every once in a while, or take half a day off, you’re going to be an absolute wreck before your exams have even actually started!

Second, and this is completely non-obligatory, but I find it very useful, write the info down on top: which courses you have, what day the exam is, and how many days you’ve planned for them in total – you’ll be surprised to see how many days you actually found (somehow, who knows where they’ve been hiding all term) to study. If nothing else, this allows for an easy overview if you think you planned a couple of days too much or too little for one course or another. Of course, if you just add a whole other month, you get to add one extra day to each course, which makes it feel a little more secure.

Third, and final point: if you think this necessary, write down what exactly you want to do – I don’t actually do this any more, because I’ve found it just stresses me out if I can’t get it done, but for many people it’s really useful to see in writing that they need to get page 1 till 100 done on day 1, page 101 to 200 on day 2, etc. – if you want to do your research and write your introduction on your first day of “paper-ing”, get it on paper. It’s always good to give yourself smaller, more do-able goals, if only so the coursework doesn’t seem quite as massive.

So there you have it, some of my tips on how to make a studying schedule! Do you have to make one? Absolutely not! But if you’re struggling to get everything done in time, or if you always end up with way more than you expected 2 days before your exam, resulting in a major breakdown? This might just be a simple way to help yourself move forward! Be sure to let me know below if you’ll try any of these tips, and don’t forget to check out the other posts in this series!

-Saar