Engineering graduate navigating life after university.

Managing Your Course Load

In my last article, I talked about how to lighten your course load. Coming in to engineering is an overwhelming experience as you go from being spoon fed to basically learning everything on your own. Professors only do so much. In most universities, they basically summarize a chapter’s worth and expect you to study the details. Whereas in high school every day a section of each chapter was covered. If your high school was like mine, and if we didn’t understand a particular problem the teacher would break it down and go slowly, step by step. If we missed something, it was okay because the teacher would post detailed notes on blackboard. And then university happened.

Professors cared less and less if you understood the content and you can’t really blame them as there are 300 kids in the classroom. Most professors in first year had broken English so it was even harder to understand them. The problem sets in lecture hours were way too simple as compared to the ones that came up on midterms and finals. Everything started getting out of hand because I didn’t know how to manage it all. First year for me was tough. I had to teach myself everything. By the time third year came around, I knew how to balance my time and do well in school. I knew the ins and outs and decided to take a 120% course load (that’s 8 courses per semester!) How did I do this? Read the tips below.

So you’ve got a full course load and need some tips on how to manage it all. Here are some things you can do that hopefully spike your productivity level and help you manage all your courses:


1. Get a planner

It is hard to invest in writing out every single thing you plan to do in a diary and then actually consult it several times a day. But once you start committing to it, it will help you A LOT! It will help you save time, and show you visually,  which tasks should be classified as priority. Make sure you use your planner efficiently so that you can complete assignments and essays a week before it is due.

I myself used planners while in university and was able to complete my essays and readings three days in advance to the due date. Organization is key in managing a full course load. Write down when assignments/essays are due and complete them at least 3 days in advance! This worked for me and helped me avoid panic mode. Write down midterm dates on a calendar view so that you can see how many days you have to absorb and understand the course’s content.


2. Set alarms while studying for a course

After you’ve written down all of the homework sets you need to complete, essay due dates, assignment due dates and midterm dates the next challenge is dedicating a certain amount of minutes and hours in completing those items. Stay disciplined by these timings. For example let’s say that you allocated two hours to complete an essay but two hours weren’t enough. Now what? Should you follow your schedule or take an extra hour and alter your planning for the day? Unless if you’re completely in the zone and need to urgently complete the task or are willing to sacrifice your free time (don’t forget about balance!), follow the schedule you’ve set for yourself.


3. Invest in Apps that keep you sane

Check out my article on the list of apps that every student in any major needs. These apps will keep you keep your shit together throughout your journey. The apps listed on that post are free and will spike productivity levels.


4. Be Proactive

This is probably the hardest habit to adopt. But once you start taking baby steps, life is so much more enjoyable. Imagine having finished an essay three days before it’s due and seeing all the other students struggling last minute. There is so much joy not being in panic mode while being surrounded in a tension environment.


5. Wake up early and sleep early

This tip should be obvious but to back it up with facts, in a study performed by Texas university in 2008, people who woke up early earned a full point higher on their GPAs. Sleep experts also state that having this routine of sleeping and rising up early syncs your body with the earth’s circadian rhythms offering more restorative sleep.


6. Take advantage of resources available at your school, community and the internet!

So many schools have tutoring sessions for students available at free charge. Check out your school’s student resources by checking out the students affairs department in your school. At Ryerson we have a whole webpage dedicated to student affairs: looking at all of the links really makes me happy and shows how much a school is invested in your wellbeing! Go Rams!

Another great resource to help you manage your course load is obviously the internet (if you use it right!). There are thousands and thousands of youtube videos showing how you can manage your course load. Give all the resources a try before you call it quits. Sure it wont happen overnight but baby steps is the right way to go.


6. Familiarise yourself with your boundaries

It is 100% possible to take a full course load and get good grades. But having conflicting priorities such as work, extracurricular, family related events and personal responsibilities and mental health issues only makes it harder resulting in quicker burnout. I am here to tell you that you can do it! You just need inspiration, motivation, time out or even a reset. You know yourself best and if you gave a full course load schedule a try and kept getting beat down despite planning well, sleeping early and organizing like a freak, then take things slow. With excellent management, however, anything is possible so keep trying again and again.


7. Plan, plan and plan even more

Planning is the key to succeeding in engineering and any other field! Engineering is honestly not that hard. It only seems hard because there is so much shit to do and study for. The weight of it all can be overwhelming. That is why planning is so important to succeed. Get familiar with the time you have and plan it all out. Once you succeed at planning you will realise that anything is possible.


Let me know what are the tips you follow to balance your workload with your personal life in the comments!


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