Any beginning, returning, or second-chance college student can find the key to academic success on a single 8½ by 11″ sheet of paper.
If you are a concerned parent, you can pack that sheet in with all the other gear your offspring will be carrying away to college within a week or two. This sheet of paper is called a “study budget.”
If you are a student, it is a paper to be filled in by you. And, if followed, it becomes a reliable roadmap to a college diploma.
There may be other students in your class with higher IQs, fatter bank accounts, wider travel experience, and more impressive secondary school credentials than you have, but no one has more days in the week or hours in the day than you. 24/7 means equal opportunity for all!
Once you get your class schedule, fill in those blocks that correspond to class and lab time. That, of course, is time already taken; nothing you can do about it. Next, figure out how many blocks should be blackened out for sleep, meals, extracurriculars, and normal recreation. Then write the letter “S” into a sufficient number of the remaining blocks so that you will have set aside study time for each day beginning with Monday of the first full week of class. Now notice all the white space in the Saturday and Sunday columns and proceed to blacken out some weekend study hours so that they will be “taken,” so to speak, and not available for frisbee, TV-watching, hanging out or roaming off the reservation in response to impulse, invitation, or unanticipated opportunities that would pull you away from the books.
Spend Your Study Time
Then take a long minute to ponder the difference between a money-expenditure budget and a study budget. If you save up your money week by week, you’ll surely have a lot to spend on a future blowout weekend with friends. But you can’t save and accumulate study time. Unlike money, if your study budget isn’t spent every day it won’t be there to be spent at any future date. Understanding that simple truth admits you to the world of the wise.
Now, of course, you have to allow for spontaneity and make allowance for the unexpected. But remember, if you’ve squirreled your study time away by not spending it, you will be in big trouble as early as three or four weeks into your first semester. An additional week or two with no expenditures from your study budget will put you in a hole so deep that you are unlikely ever to return to the land of the academic living.
Once your study budget is complete, take it to a duplicating machine and run off a few copies—one for the folks at home, one for the wall by your desk, and one for a good friend who cares enough about you to introduce you to your better self whenever you deviate from plan. That’s what a study budget is—a plan for academic success. The design-and-build responsibilities are all yours. And so are the good results.