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I am willing to wager a king’s ransom that when high school students transition to university, they have every intention of finishing all of their assignments well before their due dates. Most don’t.

If you’re concerned about falling into this trap and you’re unsure how you will manage your first-year workload, read on.

One of the biggest changes in the high school to university transition is that students are typically in class much less, but have more work. In the face of this reality, many fall through the cracks. In fact, it’s easy to do so. In university, you’ll have much less interaction with your professors than you had with your teachers. You’ll also have much more freedom. With all of this considered, it’s understandable that many students face a considerable learning curve when it comes to managing their work load. In my opinion, however, I believe that you can produce quality work, well before deadlines, if you commit to a schedule of baby steps. This is the power of incremental markers.

Setting incremental markers and breaking up a large workload into small chunks is a great way to avoid the most common undergraduate pitfalls. Doing so is fairly straight forward and it starts with developing a regiment that allows you to complete your weekly reading requirements in addition to getting started on upcoming assignments. A daily plan that keeps you working towards these two goals will do wonders for keeping you accountable and for allowing you to complete your work without paralyzing stress. By setting incremental markers and sticking to this plan, you’ll see that at the end of each week or month of the process, you’ll be in a much better intellectual frame of mind than if you were to cram.

Developing a schedule can have other desired benefits, too. First, completing work early and in a less stressful environment can help prevent you from making mistakes on assignments. When time is not your enemy, you can treat details with the respect they deserve. Second, you’ll find that assignments and reflections on readings (for tutorials) will be more informed because you’ll allow yourself the necessary time for sincere contemplation. Third, you may find that it is motivating to have scheduled work stints that have a clear start and end time. From my experience, I find that doing this prevents distractions from creeping into your working time. It might even be wise to let close contacts know of blackout periods with electronic devices in order to prevent distracting (non-essential) communication.

Another thing you should consider in this process is the time that you’re unable to commit to studying. Constructing a schedule that will require you to work for twenty hours straight, for example, is simply unrealistic and certain to keep you from attaining your goals. Make sure to also consider the time you will spend on commuting, class time, part-time work, and other responsibilities during each day.

Final Word

Your workload in the high school to university transition will increase. While many will advise you to meet this challenge by studying more and working harder, I would argue that this advice is just too vague. Making sure that you have actionable items to stay accountable to is a great way to conquer the “insurmountable” undergraduate workload. Try to gauge the total time you will require to complete readings and assignments then break this up into weekly, daily, and/or hourly increments. In following a plan of incremental markers, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish when your baby steps are tallied at the end of the week, month, and term.