Even if you don’t know any college students personally, you probably have some inkling of what a typical day on campus is like: attend classes, do some homework, spend time in the library, eat in the dining hall, and maybe go to a party if it’s the weekend (or go to parties all the time, if your exposure to college life is purely through movies like 21 & Over and Animal House). Of course, that’s just the beginning. You need to throw in extracurricular activities, internships, part-time work, and maybe—just maybe—exercising.
If you’re wondering what your time on college schedule might look like, you’ve come to the right place. We asked a few students to share their schedules and stories so you can get a glimpse of what juggling classes, homework, internships, practices, etc. is really like. And after you check out the student schedules, keep reading for tips on how they learned to fit everything in!
Real-world college student schedules
So what does a day in the life of a college student really look like, hour by hour? Here you’ll find a breakdown of the average day on campus for these students and recent grads.
Central Michigan University
Major: Integrative Public Relations
Graduation: December 2015
- 9:25 am The first alarm goes off with a series of snoozes to follow.
- 9:45 am Finally out of bed. Take a quick shower.
- 10:00 am Make it to the first class of the day (just in time).
- 11:00 am One class down. The second class of the day immediately requires in-class writing. Time to get creative!
- 12:00 pm Check my schedule and see I have a meeting with the Director of Campus Life. Not much time for lunch today! Grab something quick.
- 1:00 pm Ready to make it through the last class of the day. Learn the ropes of both InDesign and Photoshop.
- 2:00 pm Quick stop to get some things ready for an event later in the week. Can’t forget to pick my roommate up from work either!
- 3:00 pm Ugh...three-hour work shift at the residence hall desk. At least I have time to catch up on some work. Interacting with residents makes for a great work environment.
- 6:00 pm Off work! Grab some dinner before the night’s Program Board meeting.
- 7:00 pm Catch up on e-mails and messages in order to stay on top of things.
- 8:00 pm Cap off this busy day with a meeting with CMU Program Board to discuss upcoming events taking place on campus.
- 9:00 pm My boss wanted to talk to me after the meeting tonight but I really have a lot of work to do before tomorrow. Ready to head home and get working.
- 10:00 pm Work on homework, paperwork, and loose ends for a few hours. Make time for dorm room shenanigans with my roommates. It might be a good idea to order a pizza. Or three.
Garden City, New York
Graduation: B.F.A., 2012; M.B.A., 2014
- 5:00 am Wake up, then head to my morning babysitting job.
- 8:30 am Board train into the city for my internship.
- 2:00 pm Break from work to audition for a play. Having jobs that are lenient with me leaving to audition is such a privilege.
- 5:00 pm Head back to Adelphi.
- 6:00 pm Go to the gym for my (self-imposed) mandatory daily workout; it relieves stress and helps me keep up with everything I do!
- 7:00 pm Return home to catch up on studying and other class work.
- 8:00 pm Class.
- 10:00 pm I do everything I need to get done before I go to sleep at night. If I start to lose sleep during the week, I’ll catch up on the weekend—when I’d rather spend an extra hour or two out with friends!
University of California, Riverside
Graduation: May 2016
- 7:00 am Alarm goes off, but I actually get out of bed around 7:15 or 7:30.
- 7:30 am Shower, eat breakfast, check The New York Times, CNN, reddit, etc.
- 8:00 am My research group meets, and all attendees connect electronically, which means I get to attend from my desk in my apartment.
- 9:00 am Take bus or walk to campus and check e-mail along the way.
- 9:30 am Class (General Chemistry).
- 10:30 am Take a break. What I do during this window depends on what I have later in the day, any upcoming deadlines, or problem sets due. It gives me time to work on homework, research, watch TV or movies, talk with friends, or all of the above.
- 1:00 pm Class (Differential Equations, Thermodynamics, Senior Seminar Thesis/Guided Research, etc.).
- 4:00 pm Go to the gym. Depending on the day, I’ll lift weights and do cardio or play basketball and/or racquetball.
- 5:30 pm Back to my apartment.
- 6:00 pm Make and eat dinner.
- 7:00 pm Work on homework and research. Check e-mail.
- 9:00 pm Watch Netflix or sports, depending on the season, to relax.
- 10:00 pm Go to bed.
Rochester, New York
Major: English Literature Concentration and Communication & Rhetoric
Graduation: May 2014
- 6:30 am Alarm clock rings...and I reset the alarm.
- 7:00 am Alarm clock rings and I actually get up. I shower, get ready for work, check my e-mail, and pack my backpack with books and homework.
- 8:00 am I work at the Interlibrary Loan and Serials Department in the library. I also do homework during the slow parts of the shift.
- 1:05 pm Lunch. Afterwards, I do the pile of dishes waiting in the kitchen sink.
- 2:00 pm Catch up on homework, reading, and e-mails. Work on my freelance writing assignment for the week.
- 4:00 pm Attend my Communication & Rhetoric Senior Seminar class.
- 5:20 pm Dinner in Sorelle’s (the common area of the academic building). I usually try to catch up on a little class reading while eating.
- 6:00 pm Editing for Publication class.
- 8:45 pm Finish up homework, projects, freelance work, etc. Check out Netflix if it isn’t a really busy week.
- 10:00 pm Get ready for bed and read for fun before lights out.
So, how do college students make their schedules work?
“It was fun to know I can make my own path and not be restricted to the stereotypes given to me in high school,” says Stephanie Cardaris. An integrative public relations major, she graduated from Central Michigan University in May 2014. And as a PR intern and the president of her campus chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, amongst other activities, she had her hands full. “I became involved in everything I could and attended all campus events just for fun because I no longer had anyone telling me I couldn’t,” she says.
But that’s just the thing: with no one telling you what to do and when to do it, you need to figure out how to balance classes, work, and other responsibilities on your own. “I had to learn how to manage my time wisely since I wanted to constantly hang out with my new friends and dorm buddies,” Cardaris says. That’s why she keeps a detailed planner with her at all times. “I use colors to differentiate between due dates for class assignments, RSO [Registered Student Organizations] activities and meetings, my work schedule, and even birthdays,” she explains. “Anything you can imagine is in my planner, so I am able to manage my time and stay organized every day with my overwhelmingly busy schedule.”
Not into color-coding? That’s okay. Students can and should figure out the time-management tricks that work best for them, Cardaris says, “whether it’s making to-do lists every morning, having a large cork board in their room with their responsibilities, or keeping all their appointments in their phone.”
And the time and effort to do color-coding and to-do listing and juggling pays off in the end, because it helps you get the best of all worlds: you can be super involved on campus, do well in classes, and have a social life.
Jonathan Weber, a 2013 graduate of East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania, says he was excited about the freedom and opportunities on campus, and he kept himself busy too. A computer science major as well as an entrepreneur, he launched Marathon Studios, Inc.—an online marketing, design, development, and cybersecurity company headquartered in his school’s business accelerator—during his sophomore year, which made his life even more hectic. “I organize my time by keeping a strict schedule and planning everything ahead of time,” Weber says. “When you have a full schedule, it’s really inefficient to just play everything by ear.”
Weber started relying on Google Calendar after his schedule became too complicated to memorize. “Now I have e-mail and text alerts sent to me automatically to remind me of due dates and important events,” he says. “Honestly, I don’t think I’d be able to keep up with my schedule without it!”
“Each morning begins with a review of the day’s work and activities, and there is not a night that goes by where I do not take a look ahead at what tomorrow looks like,” says Josh Palmer, another PR major at Central Michigan University (you can check out his daily schedule above!). “Although the process of creating to-do lists has become digital for most college students, I still get much satisfaction from crossing items off my list for the day. I break down each day hour by hour so that I am aware of what needs to get done at work, before class, or in my spare time.”
In addition to reviewing their daily schedules and writing down everything they need to do, Palmer advises college students to prioritize their tasks. “Time management begins with knowing what is valued as a priority in your life,” he says. “What parts of your week are most important to your success? Which things need to be completed first? Do some things need to happen...before others can take place?”
After a while you won’t need to think too much about managing your time, because adding stuff to your calendar will become second nature. You’ll know how much time you need to complete certain tasks—and you’ll know how much time you actually have available. But that doesn’t mean you can just set your schedule on autopilot. “Evaluate whether or not you are sticking with your priorities and double-check that deadlines are being met,” Palmer says. “See how you can improve the methods you have in place or find new ones that keep you best on track for success.”
And don’t forget to make time for yourself and just relaxing on campus, says Samantha Bowen, a recent graduate of Adelphi University’s MBA program (her schedule's above too). “Take a breath and start each day with a list of what needs to get done,” she says. “If you need a day for yourself, take it! Everything isn’t worth stressing over daily, so take a break when needed. It will only make you happier.”
At the end of the day, you’re looking at a pretty crazy student schedule, but that’s what it’s all about. College is what you make of it, and you want to plan your time so you squeeze every bit of hands-on experience and spontaneous fun and meaningful knowledge you can out of it.
And if you want to read more about students' daily lives, take a look at our first installment of a "day in the life of a college student."