It’s the end of week eight; you pull up the week nine tab on BBLearn for one of your classes, see the amount of assigned work due for the week and immediately know there is no way you will successfully finish it all on time. I think every college student can relate to this, regardless of what year you are in.
As much as we would like to point the finger at the professors and say, “Why did you assign so much work for this week? What purpose could you possibly have for assigning this much work?” I think it’s important to keep in mind that professors have no idea how much work our other classes are assigning. Although, this doesn’t change the fact that some professors still assign what is an unreasonable amount of work by our standards.
So, how do we navigate around this problem? Well, if you haven’t figured it out already, the way around it is to make some cuts. Yes, once you accept the fact that you simply won’t be able to get to some of the work, your life will be a lot less stressful. And even if you are trying to maintain that 4.0 GPA, it isn’t necessary to complete every little piece of homework.
Let’s be honest — some stuff is just straight-up filler content. It exists solely to fill what would otherwise be a brief void in the 10-week term, but just because it fills that void doesn’t mean that it needs the same amount of attention as the rest of the work. But this begs the question: “How does one identify filler in a course?”
Unfortunately, there is no specific set of criteria that can be accurately applied to all cases. On the bright side, there are a few things that you can do to find the filler content hiding among the rest.
The first thing to look for is positioning. Where are things positioned within the grand scheme of the syllabus? In my experience, the beginning, specifically weeks one and two has at least one or two chunks of filler content. The reason for this is because professors want to introduce their students to the subject matter of the course. Luckily, professors will often add a surplus of content to this “introductory” period, which means that you can get a solid understanding of the subject without covering every single piece of content in these first two weeks. You’ll certainly benefit from covering all the assigned material, but if you’re pressed for time, this is probably the time when it is not necessary to go over every little bit with a microscope.
This same tactic can also be applied to the middle of the term, specifically weeks four, five and six. I find that these weeks are a bit more tricky though, and that’s mainly because midterm exams and papers can have an effect on the amount and importance of content. Now, for online classes, this is not really advisable because you don’t have to take additional time to go to a lecture, so getting through all the content is much easier and preferable in my opinion. But with face-to-face classes, you have to attend a lecture in addition to the exam, although (if you’re lucky) the exam can take the place of the lecture, giving you added time to study.
Regardless of whether the exam takes place in week four, five or six, whatever content comes immediately after it is often the one that you can afford to put on the back burner. Oftentimes, professors realize that right after midterms is when students need to catch their breath before carrying on into finals, so they make this content a little less vital.
Also, keep in mind that the professors have to take time to grade the exams, so if you’re in a class that has regular pop quizzes, you may be able to make a successful gamble by not fully covering the material right after the exam because there most likely won’t be a quiz on it. Don’t fully bet on this though, since some professors design their classes so that the midterms don’t disrupt the general flow of the class.
The last tip I’ll give you — and this one is a bit more obvious — is to know which pieces of information are relevant to you and which ones aren’t. By this, I mean that if you are trying to get a good grade in a class, certain pieces of information will have a greater impact on your success than others. For example, if you’re assigned five different articles to read for a week and a discussion board that requires you to write about one of those articles in some capacity, you can just read one of those articles and then write the discussion board post. Does it suck that you only read one of the articles and not all of them? Yes, it does, but you can always revisit those articles at a later point in the course, because whether you read all of them or not won’t directly impact your grade in the current moment. Yes, you can read all of them and potentially be more informed, but you can also just read one and get the credit for it in the discussion board post. Therefore, you can devote the time that you would spend reading the other four articles to homework for a different class.
As I said, this may seem obvious, but sometimes we skip over the finer details when we start panicking at the sight of a large amount of homework. We’ll see that there are five assigned articles for a week, but we may not see the instructions saying that only one of them is needed for a discussion board post. It happens all the time with other class related things, such as people misreading due dates for assignments.
Hopefully these tips will help you get ahead of the curve a bit when the spring quarter comes around. It’s difficult to apply these things at the end of a term because most of the work we’re being assigned is going to be needed for our final exams, papers and projects. Just remember that there is almost always some homework that may not be quite as important as the rest, and identifying what work should take priority and what work should take a backseat can make life a lot easier.