How to Prioritize Your College Assignments

by
Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer

You may think you are busy in high school—but it will be even more hectic in college. You will be amazed at how many things there are to do. Some of them involve academics, but lots of them are fun things or other responsibilities. Don't panic! Instead, learn to prioritize.

When you prioritize your college work, you determine the order in which things are to be done. It would be easy if time was the only thing to consider, but it isn’t. You also have to consider the importance of the task, the effort involved, and other factors.

For the most part, important academic events should be near the top of the priority list. That’s because getting an education is the chief reason you are in college. As obvious as this sounds, there will be times when everyone questions this. If your college basketball team is one victory away from qualifying for the NCAA tournament, you may have a difficult time resisting the temptation to attend a game, even though a critical paper is due.

Related: Why Time Management is Your Best Friend in College

Only you can create your college priority list, but you should certainly ask for advice from others when you are having difficulty deciding the order for completing tasks. Not everyone approaches multiple tasks in the same way, but listening to others might give you some insights.

In prioritizing tasks, you should look at the resources needed to accomplish the task and the resources that are available to you. Time is one of these resources, but so are creativity, effort, and motivation. If an assignment will consume a lot of time, like a long research paper, delaying the start actually diminishes the time resource that is available. The effort will stay about the same, but the creativity and motivation will vary, depending on your mental state.

Learning to prioritize takes practice. You may not know about yourself and your personal resources to prioritize well until you are forced to. Rather than taking on college without evaluating your ability to prioritize and practicing, start right now. Try different strategies, talk with friends and family, and discuss your assignments with your teachers. They may have some good ideas. You should also be prepared to evaluate your effort honestly so you can learn what works and what doesn’t. The skill of prioritizing improves with both successes and failures, so be sure to note each.

Most of all, be able to recognize which tasks are “mission critical” and will directly affect your success in college. These tasks will move to the top of the priority list, but you will have to determine how to allocate the resources available to you. Always have a backup plan just in case something goes wrong. Getting a flat tire on the way back to college after a weekend at home may steal two or three hours of the time that you hoped to dedicate to an important assignment. Be sure you know how to make up that time in order to complete the assignment on time and still do a good job.

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