Master Your College Schedule


At Stairway to STEM, we help students with
autism and their support networks locate resources for transitioning to college and succeeding
in a career that fits their interests and needs. When I look through our transition content,
I notice one question coming up repeatedly in one form or another: “How will I plan
my schedule in college?” STS contributor Katie Matthews wrote a wonderful
Hidden Curriculum series discussing the course calendar, which will help you understand the
important implications of those dastardly packets; now it’s time to put that information
to good use. But, first, a quick note on the phrase “hidden
curriculum.” Hidden curriculum simply means the unwritten
expectations for a course or for an academic experience in general. By taking a day to review your schedule and
syllabi, then outline the upcoming week in an organized manner, you can develop skills
that will serve you throughout your academic and professional career. Benefits of using a three-part system—phone,
calendar, and daily planner: * You have visual and auditory reminders to
prompt you to start and end projects on time. * It’s great practice for the future, when
you will increasingly be expected to keep schedules and meet goals. * You can ultimately use the system in whatever
organizational manner best suits your needs. Getting started Gather the materials you’ve chosen, along
with markers, pens, highlighters, and anything else you want to make your schedule personal. Print all your syllabi and work/school schedules. Write out a list of everything you know will
happen in the next week and then the next month. Dating each activity will help you organize
quicker. In the future, you won’t need to make this
list again; this helps you start your planning system and you will be able to modify your
schedule based on changes you write down in your planner. Using the phone calendar Phone calendars give the unique option of
audio reminders. These can help you stay on-task throughout
the day. And, since the phone is so necessary to modern
life, it’s unlikely you’ll go too far away from it or lose it. Even if you do, most calendar apps have online
backups you can access through another phone or computer. There is also a wide variety of calendar apps
available, which means you don’t have to use the default. This is a great place to put class and work
schedules (which you can have repeating forever or for a specified time, like a semester),
start times for homework/projects, and hygiene/health reminders if necessary. Remember to include a weekly update so you
can make any changes at once. Colors may help or distract you, so try it
out what you think would be best and adjust as you go! When you’ve completed the general schedule
for the semester, go back and fill in what you know about work and due dates for the
current week. For the rest of the semester, you’ll want
to update your work schedule regularly and add due dates into your class alarm note section. Using the academic planner I confess, this is my absolute favorite tool. No teacher has ever made a rule against academic
planners in the classroom, unlike electronics. In “dry” months, when I’m not doing
a lot of doctor’s appointments or school, I might neglect my wall and phone calendars. However, my planner is always by my side. I dump knowledge I don’t need immediately,
like due dates announced in-class, phone numbers, or event dates, and on my planning day, I
transfer this information to the appropriate spots. There are many different options for academic
planners, and the organization can vary quite a bit. My personal planner is shown here; it has a task
list, delegation notepad, goals execution area, and an hour-by-hour schedule for the
week. There really are dozens of styles for these
books, so do some research for the planner that will best suit your needs! I probably had five or more abandoned planners
before I found the one I use now, and I’ve purchased this particular book twice. Your academic planner is essentially a hard
copy of your phone schedule, but doesn’t need to include small reminders about hygiene,
etc. The idea here is to be able to pull the book
out in front of your supervisor, doctor or professor and check what times you’re available
for meetings or appointments. That way your brain isn’t loaded with information
that you don’t need at all times. It’s a good idea to outline your school
schedule a couple weeks at a time, since you know it probably won’t change during the
semester. After filling it out, list the projects or
assignments you need to start this week. Then, transfer each item to a space on the
schedule that gives you enough time to complete it. This is the perfect time to use color-coding:
match your task list items to colors of each day. As you go through the week, cross the task
items off the list so you know what you’ve completed and what you’ll need to work on
longer. Finally, because this is a great in-class
tool, be sure to use it whenever your teacher announces test dates, assignments, and other
important dates. This information can be used during your weekly
update. Using a wall/desk calendar The bigger the wall calendar, the better! When I own a home, I plan on making my whole
office chalkboard or whiteboard. It’s just so good to have an easy-access
calendar that helps you keep a wider view of your schedule, vacations, and holidays. It can also serve as a secondary reminder
for doctor’s appointments and other events that are more than a week away from when you
learn about them. This will probably be the simplest because
you already have all your dates laid out. The wall calendar gives you an at-a-glance
overview of your month. Important dates, appointments, holidays, and
vacations are good to note here. Tips for maintaining your schedule: * Remember to always put aside some time to
plan your week. * If you’re struggling with using one or
more parts of the system, for example the phone calendar, try switching it up. You don’t have to use the first app or planner
you buy if it’s not meeting your needs. * Always try to immediately take note of schedule
changes on your phone or planner so your schedule will be up-to-date. * Are you over- or underestimating the time
you need for some tasks? This is a great opportunity to make small
adjustments that will help you manage your schedule come finals week. I hope this explanation has been helpful. A three-part system involves some work and,
in turn, develops independence skills that will serve you for the rest of your life. Do you have a calendar app or planner you
love? What strategies help you stay on-task and
relaxed?

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