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Time Management: Balancing Academics, Social Life, and Extracurricular Activities

Tuesday | March 29, 2016 | by Sanghamitra Dutta

International student studying

Time management is one of the most crucial aspects of graduate life in U.S. and plays a significant role in academic success. A graduate student’s life is hectic with upcoming deadlines, assignments, and submissions throughout the semester, which can be quite different from the education system international students are used to.

Whereas the education system in most Asian countries is teacher-centered, the system of education in the U.S. is learner-centered. In a teacher-centered classroom, the teacher delivers lectures and evaluates the performance of the students based on examinations.

However, in a learner-centered classroom, the process of evaluation is based on overall performance of the student throughout the year in examinations, projects, class presentations, and participation. While many international students are used to just studying for exams in a teacher-centered education system, in the U.S., it is essential for everyone to participate in the class throughout the year. Hence, it is important to have a proper balance between academics, your social life, and extracurricular activities.

Find a Balance

It is never a good idea to only focus on one particular area. Try to find a healthy balance between your academic workload, participating in social and extracurricular activities, and giving yourself time to relax. Put yourself on a schedule, but do not make it so strict that you never have time to unwind. Having this balance will help with your time management.

Study with a Group

One of the best ways to manage your time is to study in groups. Study groups not only distribute your studying efforts, but they also help you make new social and professional connections.

Maintain a Consistent Schedule

It is important to find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Skipping meals or having random sleep cycles is not effective in the long run. Eat well, exercise regularly, and be sure to get a good night of sleep. Instead of getting involved in multiple activities, stick to just a few that you are really passionate about.

Balance Coursework

It is important to balance your effort in different classes based on their importance. For example, if a course places a higher grade emphasis on projects than written tests, then it is more important to devote more of your time to toward projects than preparing for exams. Sometimes I see people skipping lectures to make time for other assignments, hoping to study those topics later. I would never recommend this, as attending classes makes the topic much simpler to study.

Have the Right Attitude

Most importantly, it is essential to believe that you can manage your time and be optimistic. Push yourself rather than giving up most activities without exploring. Procrastination and pessimism are the biggest hurdles to becoming effective at time management.

Sanghamitra Dutta

Sanghamitra Dutta is a Graduate Research Assistant at Carnegie Mellon University.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).