Creating a study plan that works for you is key is having a good balance between your studies and your social life as well as getting you on track and prepared for all of your assessments and exams. Trying to put together a plan can be a little tricky at first so keep reading to find out more about study plans, why they are so useful and how to create your own personalised plan!
What actually is a study plan?
A study plan is an organised schedule that specifies study times alongside your social calendar whether this be drinks with your friends, your sports classes or both. University students usually create a study plan that includes dedicated study time each week so that they know they can cover everything before the exam. This schedule should include things like quizzes, tests, and exam deadlines, as well as end of year project deadlines. This gives you an overview of your whole year to make sure you are prepared, and nothing creeps up on you!
Your tutors will direct you to important resources such as reading lists, online support and past exam papers if your module is exam-based so your study plan is where you can keep all of this information in one place.
The ideal way to start your study plan is by going through each chapter and making a note of how many topics need to be covered. The next thing to do is to check if any additional work needs doing such as pre-work, homework or reading. Make sure to look up the readings online or any additional work to see how extensive they are and how much time this would take you. Next, figure out what you’re supposed to do for your exams, look up how long they are and if you know the topics that will be covered. This is a great place to start to create a basic work plan – write your exam dates and plan backwards from any deadlines.
Why is a study plan important
A study plan can help you navigate your university (or college) education while also holding you accountable for your own learning outcomes. It also allows you to take time for yourself!
Time management can be difficult. Aside from your classes, you’re probably involved in extracurricular activities such as societies and sports clubs, you may even have a part-time job or other work, and lastly, you will spend time catching up with friends and your family. A study plan allows you to see how you spend your time and ensures that you are devoting enough time outside of class to complete homework assignments or pre-work, study for tests, and review and retain the information you are learning.
Study plans are especially important for online students or for those still learning with practises put into place during COVID because they require your full attention to complete their studies without the constant reminders of an instructor in person.
Benefits of a study plan:
There are many benefits to a study plan, the main ones include:
This is one of the most important things that people forget but it is what helps the most! Creating a schedule also means you have a daily to-so list. There will be other jobs you need to get done during each day alongside your studies, so you need to prioritise to make your to-do list easier.
A helpful thing I found to do is to section your jobs into the morning and afternoon. The jobs that are most important is something you get done in the morning. Whereas, if you have a job that can roll over to the next day then pop this into your afternoon to-do list so you are aware that if some jobs take longer than expected, you can roll the lower priority jobs onto the following day.
Determine how much time you can devote to studying each day. Create a weekly diary to help you spread out your time throughout the day, of course, things change so make sure your calendar is editable to account for this. Sticking to your plan is key for working on your time management. A good idea is to allow slightly more time for each activity in case you run over. Also schedule in breaks to keep your productivity up. Self-evaluate at the end of the week to see if you are meeting your goals and expectations, if your plan is too overwhelming and you cannot stick to your time limited then switch it up and try again.
Make adjustments for things that require more attention by allocating more time on days when you have fewer social obligations. If mornings are your best time of day, consider more demanding tasks that require maximum concentration. Find a way that works for you!
How to create a study plan:
Sitting down to create your plan can be hard at first but here’s how you can tackle that task. Write down on a piece of paper some notes following these few headings before putting it all together:
The first thing you need to do is note down your deadlines as these are the most important dates and it gives your plan a starting point. Also, make a note of the times of your weekly classes as this is built in and something you can’t change around.
The next thing I would recommend doing is filling in any weekly social activities you have. Or block out time to arrange social time with friends.
As mentioned earlier, if you have any little jobs you need doing each day then put them in order of priority. These jobs for now will be things you know you need to do such as go to the gym, or make dinner on Friday nights, etc.
Current study methods
Whilst creating your schedule, consider what works and what doesn’t for you so far. For example, are you able to study for long periods of time once or twice a week, or is it more effective to study for thirty minutes every morning after your run? Is there a time of day when you are more productive, or a day where you just won’t be able to get anything done? Do you retain more information if you study a subject right after class, or do you need a break first so that you are more productive when you come back to it?
Set time for each module and plan out each topic
Some universities go by the rule that you need to do double the amount of work you do in class at home. So if you have 12 hours of classes a week you should be doing 24 hours of work outside of class. This may work for some, but for others it may go horribly wrong! If your university had given you guidance on how much work you should be doing, then try to follow this in your study plan. However, if it is too much or too little, then make it fit your own needs.
Find templates online
If you struggle with being creative then take a look online and find some templates of yearly, monthly, weekly and daily timetables and lists to help you out. Personally I recommend using Microsoft excel and using the different spreadsheets to plan your different months out and then another sheet to plan your daily to-do lists.
Write it down or create it online
Sometimes online can be easier as you can edit it more frequently. If keeping a paper and pen schedule isn’t for you, think about other ways to stay on track with your studies. You can use a calendar app to set reminders for when to begin and end your study session or simply use a timer so that you don’t run over and you can stick to your schedule.
How to stick to your plan
Sticking to a study plan can be hard if you are not the best at time keeping.
If your schedule includes long, multi-hour study sessions, take short breaks to stretch, hydrate, and rest your mind. Try going for a walk or meeting friends to take your mind away from your work. This will keep your mind clear and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Prioritise social time
By maintaining a balanced schedule, your mind will be more receptive during study time. If you plan several long days of studying in a row, you will become discouraged and tempted to give up. Planning social time into your calendar is not a bad thing that takes you away from study time, it helps your mind take a break from your work which is helpful when you come back to it!
At the start of each week, decide what you need to study and what you hope to get done each week. Adjust your study plan as needed to meet your weekly goals and get the most out of your time. While it is tempting to skip your revision sessions when there isn’t a test looming, you will reduce your future test preparation time by reading ahead and preparing for lectures. So keep up with your schedule and re-evaluate it each week. If you need more social time then move some sessions around to make it work.
Study plans are most definitely a big help for university students whether you have coursework monthly or exams at the end of the year. The great thing is you can tailor it to how you work best and for your specific deadlines!