Time Management: A College Student’s Perspective

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As an intern in the Marketing Department, I work 40 hours per week. At any given moment, I know almost exactly how much longer I will be in the office. I also know that the only tasks I will have in the evening or on weekends are those my parents give me.

But the idea that my work cuts off at a certain time is very bizarre to me. I’m more accustomed to a college schedule, which involves a 45-60 hour workweek for a typical 15-credit schedule and plenty of assignments to do on weekends. I’m used to staying up past midnight, only sleeping when I’ve finished my Intro to Ethics reading or edited my history paper.

It may sound like I put in a lot more work at school; however, the long hours I put in are interspersed with time spent socializing, playing Tetris, or maybe just napping. Depending on my schedule, I may only complete assignments for two classes each day. Even when they demand the same amount of work, a job and a class schedule require very different time management skills.

A typical office job is a sprint: complete these tasks in this number of hours with limited disruption or distraction, and you will have your evenings and weekends to yourself (granted, many people put in overtime). College teaches you to work like Forrest Gump running across the country: take your time to eat, sleep, and chat when you want to, but don’t expect to finish that paper before dinner.

Most importantly, it teaches you to recognize when you can’t afford distractions. While a typical schedule contains a rather homogenous mixture of working and socializing, students do spend a few hours per week isolated in the library or their rooms, pull the occasional all-nighter, or become hermits during finals.

I have become much more efficient here at work because I don’t have a Facebook tab open, and because no one’s going to start a spontaneous game of Catchphrase. However, I’m sure that at school I complete the same amount of, if not more, work per week because I am able to distribute it differently. College certainly does teach people to manage their time and be careful with distractions,but these skills are quite different from those needed in an office setting.

For those of you who have already graduated, how hard did you find the adjustment from the work-at-your-own-pace college lifestyle to the rigors of corporate America?

37 thoughts on “Time Management: A College Student’s Perspective”

  1. For me, college has never been work at your own pace kind of thing, Your assignments had to be done at a specific time within parameters set by the professor, not for grade but for aquiring knowledge. I have worked and gone to school at the same time and just gone to school. On Time Delivery, quality above specs, and quanity deliverable. That what I was all about in manufactoring and production and IT. The difference today is so many employers expect a 12 shift after that some saying manditory overtime sifts or asking for voluntaires. With that knid of prolonged scheduled quality will eventually go do ’cause folks need for there body to rest. But…too… need to meet the needs of there families. As I said in the beginning neither are work at your own pace or discression. That depends on what you want folks to see or remember you as.

    1. I wasn’t trying to imply that kids these days hand things in when it’s convenient for them; many professors refuse to accept late work, and those who do require a lot of notice and a very good reason. My point was simply that if it’s Monday and you have a paper due at 2:00 on Wednesday, most people will not complete it all in one go. They have to finish it on time, but that doesn’t mean they will forgo relaxation and socialization in order to finish the paper sooner…until a few hours before the due date, at which point desperation sets in amongst those unable to manage their time effectively.

  2. I think that this is starting to change – companies tend to be less concerned with when you are working rather than how much work you are getting done, although it depends on the manager. Flextime is on the rise, except for positions that demand you be available during core business hours or for set appointments, such as sales or customer service roles. The hardest part of the transition for me was getting used to all the meetings – which sometimes seems like people are having meetings about meetings!

    You bring up a good point though – the reason that many managers want an applicant to have a college degree isn’t because it teaches them the technical job skills; but because it teaches them time management and how to learn.

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