Monthly Archives: December 2015

CollegeQandA asks: How important is prioritizing in College?

How important is prioritizing in College?

ticket dispenser

Some people would argue that time management is the most important skill that most college students don’t have when they come to college.  I would put a few skills higher, but managing your time is important (especially since the teachers aren’t going to micromanage you like they may have in high school).  The first step is to learn how to prioritize – meaning which tasks should you focus most of your effort on.

The 80/20 rule

First, you should be aware of a general idea – the 80/20 rule.  This is a rule of thumb that roughly states that you get 80% of your results for 20% of the tasks you focus on.  This means that you need to figure out what is that 20% so you can get it done and get 80% of the success.  Basically, this is one form of prioritization.

No is a valid answer

Another challenge with students is figuring out what to say no to or, simply, not do.  In terms of academics, you may be overwhelmed and have to not do something for your classes – we’ll look at this below.  Even more important is saying no to the extra-curricular activities.  I would argue that most extra-curricular activities fit outside the 80% result domain, and you need to forgo those commitments when you don’t have enough time.  Beware of college task bloat that many students experience because they say yes to everything.  I would argue you can have 2 big activities in your college life.  One is academics.  That means you have one more to spend on a sport, club, hobby, social life, etc.  Don’t spread to thin.

Academic prioritization

With an understanding of no and the 80/20 rule, the question is how do you prioritize and time manage your education.  The first place to start is the syllabus.  The syllabus gives you a direct view of what activities in a class are assessed, and how much that assessment impacts your overall grade.

Yes, most assessments and class activities are there to help you learn the material (and you should do them).  If you manage your time well, stay up with a class from day one, and work at the material you really shouldn’t have to prioritize in terms of not doing these activities, but there are times when you need to decide what is most important to do.

Also, consider weighing how well you need to do on various assessments for your overall goals.  If you have a realistic expectation of the grades you want in your classes, then you can shift your workload to focus on the assessments and activities that will allow you to achieve those goals.  For example, if I’m going to get an A in computer science even if I don’t do too well on the final project, means even though I enjoy working on that project, I should reduce the time spent on it to focus on something else that needs more time.

Learn to prioritize to get that 80% success.

Credits: photo titled: take a number; by Mike Mozart


CollegeQandA asks: What should I do for College over the holidays?

What should I do for College over the holidays?

strabucks cup infront of xmas tree

If it’s the seasonal break between semesters, then you’ve made it and are likely spending time away from school with family and friends.  What should you do during this time in relation to school?

Relax a little

The brain needs to rest as much as any other muscle, so first thing is to spend time with friends and family and have some relaxing fun.  Semesters tend to end in a sprint of projects and exams, and you need a little time to not think about anything to recover.

Reflect a little

Nothing is learned if you don’t go through the process of reflection.  Take a little time to reflect on the semester.  What did you learn in each course and how does that fit into the bigger picture of things?  What did you do wrong that if done better will make next semester a more efficient semester?  Are you interested in your choice of major and is the semester going forward going to keep you interested?

Prepare a little

It doesn’t take much to start planning your next semester.  What are the courses that you are taking and can you get some background on them?  Can you access the information (syllabus, textbook, materials) early, and walk in day one with an idea of what the semester is going to be about?

Learn a little

Yes, it does sound great to binge watch a few shows on Netflix or play video game Y.  Do some of this, but also try and learn something new or practice what you have learned.  Maybe even try something that you haven’t ever tried before.

Read a little

Reading is always a win for the brain.  I have a number of non-fiction suggestions that might interest you, but in general reading improves your vocabulary and comprehension skills.  Also, many of us find reading relaxing.

Mix it up to come back refreshed

The break is an opportunity (rare in most of life for the working) to refresh and come into your next semester ready and excited to go.  I’m as guilty as the next person for wasting much of my downtime, but hopefully, there are a few suggestions to keep your holiday break interesting.

Credits: photo titled: A Merry Starbucks Coffee Christmas my friends; by Glenn Waters


CollegeQandA asks: Why do STEM fields seem better than other fields?

What is STEM?

Plant Stem

No, not plant stems or glass stems.  STEM is an acronym within education and industry for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  And because these fields have beneficial economic links to each countries success (economy, GDP, etc.), training people with these degrees is being pushed to students.

I’m biased in the following discussion.  I have degrees in computer engineering, and I believe that my engineering degrees have helped me not only in my profession, but have provided me knowledge and skills that helped make me a better person.

Is STEM good? better?

Why do STEM fields seem better than other fields?  There is no good or better when it comes to pursuing degrees.  However, the reality is that from an income perspective and number of career based jobs linked that are linked to a degree, STEM based jobs have both higher starting and medium salaries and probabilities are higher that average performers will find jobs.  So you might perceive  that these degrees are better.

From an individuals perspective, I think your success and happiness are linked to your intrinsic motivation.  Do you want to work in your chosen area for at least the next 20 years of your life.  Are you willing to hate 8 to 9 hours of your day for compensation.  In some cases, those 20 working years are equal to or greater than the number of years you have lived.

Are STEM degrees harder?

The answer here is another yes/no.  For many students science, technology, and math seem hard and for that reason people get scared away.  Note, however, that becoming an excellent writer, artist, or all other so called “non-technical” person is equally hard.  Maybe being average is not hard, but because those other fields are more challenging to become employed in, you will tend to need to become excellent.

Many of the students I talk to who are pursuing engineering degrees have a similar fear or dislike for writing that is similar to their counterparts dislike of math and science.  The thing is, they’re all hard to become good at, and they all take time, grit, and pain to learn.  Also, success in a career requires more than just the knowledge you gain from a degreee.

Going forward…

Pick a field that you have interest in, you want to learn about, and you will seriously commit to learning in.  If you make a committed effort to learn something then you will find fascinating aspects within that field that will help you grow.  There is something to be said of picking a STEM degree because of the economic benefits of these degrees, but don’t think a single reason makes these degrees a good choice for you.

Credits: photo titled: Sunny Stem; by GollyGforce – Living My Worst Nightmare