This post is part of a series focusing on Time Management for Teens, Students, and High Schoolers. Get the complete online course here or order the book here!

A Guide For High School Students Heading To College

So, you’re in high school now, but you want to know more about college, right?

Do you want to be prepared for time management in college? To do what you want to do, not just what you have to do?

Good! That’s the first major step towards having a great time in college.

By the time you’re done with this article, you’ll be prepared to excel in college - and life beyond.

Why College Is Better Than High School

For most of us, college is a difficult but rewarding time.

When I got into college, I discovered new limits for myself. I made huge steps towards discovering what I truly love about life.

We’re going to cover a lot in this article. My main goal is for you, a teen and high schooler, to know more about what the purpose of college really is…

You’ll see how college is actually a lot like high school. But at the same time, it’s totally.. totally.. different… and much better!

That’s right, I think college is much better than high school. I hope that’s something for you to look forward to.

The Secrets of Time Management in College

Time management is a central theme of college. As you will learn, college is a period where you must become better at staying organized.

But interestingly, it’s also much EASIER to manage your time in college - if you follow my advice.

First you’ll need to discover what you love to do with your life.

We’re going to talk about all this and more, so get your pen and paper ready!

Key Similarities Between High School and College

Let’s start with some of the main SIMILARITIES between college and high school.

What’s the SAME from high school to college?

Well, there’s still the same “juggling” feeling of all your activities and schoolwork.

Many activities and distractions compete for your time and attention - except in college, it’s even more intense than in high school.

There are so many possible uses of your time in college. Motivating yourself to study still takes just as much effort as it does in high school.

You’ll probably still want a social life. That means you need to find a friend group again. Who you sit with at lunch… who you hang out with… all over again - which takes time.

College Life Demands A High Time Commitment

You still need to maintain your life. That means feeding yourself, bathing yourself, sleeping, and stuff like that. Except now you’ll be responsible for doing it all on your own - including your own (dreaded) laundry!

Homework is still probably one of your biggest hassles in college - and yes, you’ll have tons of homework in college.

Of course, just like in high school, you’ll notice a range of classes. Some college classes are more like blow-offs, but some other classes will be very difficult, or have a super-strict professor.

There’s also a wide range of students in every college: from hardworking to lazy, from friendly to jerks - just the same as in high school.

Last but not least, final exams and final projects are still a big deal. Only now, they hit even harder than in high school - often counting for a huge percent of your final grade in college courses.

As you can imagine, many elements of college are SIMILAR to high school - although they’re usually more intense, as well.

Key Differences Between High School and College

Now, there are just many DIFFERENCES between college and high school.

One of the most important things to realize is that college has less GUARDRAILS than high school.

Your parents aren’t there in college. Even if they seem like they’re always ordering you around through high school, the HONEST TRUTH is that they’re just trying to help you make smart decisions.

You set up your own study schedule in college without oversight. There’s little guidance unless you seek it on your own.

Failure In College IS Possible

There are many more distractions in college… probably 100 times as many ways to waste time.

Without parental supervision, no one will stop you from wasting an entire semester goofing off. It’s completely possible to flunk out of three classes and lose your scholarship.

That’s what’s a little scary.

You might not have a lot of “warning signs” along the way. Big problems can come up quickly. If you’re not ready for a major college exam, the course will just keep rolling along without you!

Even the “easy” college classes are a lot of work. Every college course has tons of stuff to do. Whether the assignments are easy or difficult, they will still be time-consuming.

At the same time, you are given less guidance on how to accomplish your assignments in college.

Basically you’re thrown into the deep end of the pool. For example, it’s your responsibility to figure out how to use the college library.

Time Management In College Isn’t Just About School

It’s not just your classes and homework.

Time management in college requires more independence in EVERY aspect of life… from doing laundry to feeding yourself.

You’ll have to find time to eat in college, and hopefully eat healthy meals. Easier said than done!

It’s also possible that you’re in a new city… or even a new state. So, seemingly simple chores and errands can take more of your time than you expect.

You might even have to deal with SNOW for the first time!

Imagine how that could slow you down as you’re going about your day.

You’re trying to figure everything out and get your assignments done while still managing your personal and social life - and there’s two feet of SNOW everywhere!

So, college can definitely put you in some pretty weird and new situations - but then again, that’s part of the fun.

You May Feel More Isolated In College

On the slightly less-fun side, you might feel more isolated. There’s less organization that forces people to interact and team up the way you do in high school.

In other words, college requires you to make a serious social effort if you want to be noticed. It’s up to you to find your friend group.

Everyone in college is distracted with their own stuff, so you have to put effort into social time.

College is unlike high school where everyone ends up hanging out on campus together during study halls… since there’s nothing else to do and you’re not allowed to leave school.

In College You Must Solve Your Own Problems

In college, you have to solve your own problems - or ask for help.

At college, you are expected to either A) solve your own problems or B) have the sense find help.

Both the fun and the danger of college come from the real risk of failure. You absolutely CAN flunk out of college if you don’t put in the effort to solve your own problems.

In high school, you’re monitored enough that an adult would usually notice you were struggling and try to help somehow…

But in college, no one will be watching out for you so closely.

We could keep going and find hundreds more differences and similarities between high school and college, but I think this shows the general important differences.

A Personal Tale From My College Years

Let me share a bit from my life on my years in college. The transformation I went through - as I responded to the new pressures and challenges of college.

Freshman year was filled with time-wasting parties, getting to know my fellow students…

I was taking required classes and discovering what I liked to study. I was adjusting to new levels of homework, projects, science labs, and tests. I was learning to manage my time and my newfound freedom.

I kept trying things that interested me. By the end of freshman year, I discovered a real passion of mine - I came back to piano and classical music which I hadn’t studied in years.

In the summer after freshman year, I spent more and more of my free time on music and piano practice. I realized that I wanted to go further with music.

This marked a transition point for me. By the time I came back to college as a sophomore I was much more serious about studying music.

I started buckling down - cutting the fat, skipping parties I didn’t really care about.

Instead I was preparing for high-level piano performances. I was taking specialized classes in music history and composition.

I was deciding who I wanted to be. As a result, natural leadership positions started appearing for me.

Full Commitment By Junior Year of College

By the time I was a Junior in college, I was in full-on commitment mode.

I was rarely going to parties. I needed to focus my time, sleep, and health towards my passion for music.

I got a job as a music librarian, allowing me to continue to study and learn even while I was at work. That’s just one example of how everything can focus around your central passion – once you know what it is!

I often worked for 80 or even 100 hours per week in the practice rooms and in my studies.

I also experienced failure on multiple levels as I attempted push myself beyond my limits.

For example, because I’d taken on too many competing demands, I ended up forgetting the music in the middle of a solo performance. It was in front of the entire music department, which was really embarrassing!

Despite this, there were more successes than failures. I have a general feeling of progress towards something I cared about. The people around me seemed positively influenced by my focus as well.

Senior Year Was The High Point Of College

Everything culminated in my senior year with a sense of calm and purpose.

Even though I was working even HARDER than I had junior year, somehow I feel more peaceful throughout senior year.

I continued to cut out bad habits that slowed me down, because I was so focused on my goal of my senior recital - the final performance.

It wasn’t hard at this point to prioritize my choices and decisions - because my path was so clear to me.

I was also engaged in multiple leadership roles and music groups, My help was sought by both other students and faculty.

I got the chance to play piano in front of the biggest crowds of my life. Senior year brought a mix of success and failure again - since I was attempting to push myself beyond my limits.

But this time I had a better understanding of my limits than last year.

Each time you go beyond your current limits, you learn so much more about your true strength level - even if you fail!

And college is the perfect place for failure and learning experiences.

At the end of senior year, I won the most prestigious solo piano competition on campus. I also gave several piano performances that I’m still proud of.

So, because of my single-minded focus in senior year, I was able to wisely prioritize my time - because I really cared about what I was working towards.

Your Work Ethic Will Remain After College

Fast forward about five years. Although it’s been several years since I’ve worked on music like I did in college, the work ethic has remained.

My passion for music and art has also kept its power to motivate me. One of my major life goals is still to create music that I can share with other people.

Learning to control my schedule and lead a team of musicians was the perfect training to start my tutoring business.

How to Make Your College Time Management Work Better

So, what’s the recipe to make it work for you throughout college?

Here are my 3 tips that I’d give to myself if I could go back in time, and instead I’ll pass on to you!

Tip 1: Start In High School

First, start in high school. Discover your true passions. Don’t wait until college to start.

There’s no perfect way, but if you don’t even try, it’s just so startling when you get to college.

And if you don’t really care about what you’re supposed to be doing in college, you can FAIL. You will definitely underperform, because you won’t really care about your studies.

And that’s exactly why you hear about people flunking out of college. Most of the time, they didn’t even know know why they were there in the first place.

Tip 2: Stay Focused On What Matters

Second, as much as possible, identify and stay focused around what matters to YOU –

It was easier to handle the stress and find the energy and time in college for MUSIC because I loved it.

I loved playing the piano, and getting better at it and I valued the whole process.

So my efforts aligned with my values. That’s exactly why I could work 12 to 14 hour days in college.

When you hear about people who work insanely hard, and it seems superhuman, it’s ONLY because they care so much about what they’re doing. They don’t even THINK about the effort it takes.

They just have to keep following their passions. It doesn’t even feel like WORK.

Again, this is secret of good time management - if you’re working on things you don’t care about, you will never be able to put in your best effort.

Tip 3: Try New Activities, But Don’t Commit Too Soon

Tip three: try as many possible activities in college, as soon as possible.

Try different clubs, different social groups, and seek new experiences continually.

Force yourself out of your comfort zone. It will definitely give you new ideas… but amidst all your activity-sampling, you should only commit to a few things!

Be generous with your first tries, but selfish with your commitments.

Be the type of student who will try anything at least once, and you will have a great time in college. 

Why You Should Look Forward To College

I hope you’re looking FORWARD to college!

The same lessons of time management continue to apply in college: discover your passions, and use them to power up your strength and abilities.

College demands a wise and hard-working approach if you want to rise to the top…

But the real secret is to discover what makes you want to sit down and study and practice. To improve in some way towards your favorite personal goals.

When you get to college as a freshman, you may learn similar lessons.

For example, partying might seem fun in the moment, but I think it takes you away from what you truly care about: your most important life’s work… the things that will bring you fulfillment and meaning.

Don’t let college partying distract you for too long. Allow college to transform you - to help you get closer to your dreams!

Question - What Will YOU Do In College?

So, what do YOU hope to study in college?

What’s the topic that’s going to deserve YOUR time and attention?

Is there some degree, college course, or study program that gets you excited?

Or, do you feel like you have no idea what you’re truly passionate about? No idea what you’ll study in college?

Either way, drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll see you in the next article!

Make this year your most productive year ever! Get the complete Time Management for Teens Online Course or order the book on Amazon today.

Share This