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UNC Asheville students struggle with time management and procrastination

Catherine Young
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Time management is a struggle for many college students, including those at UNC Asheville. Visiting professor of sociology, Susan Ortiz said this could be a result of students adjusting to college.
Ortiz said the drastic shift of going to college can cause students to struggle. In high school, students have a set schedule in which they arrive at a certain time and stay until a certain time. In college, Ortiz said, it is different.
“Suddenly, you might have, you know, two classes on Tuesday-Thursday and one class on Monday-Wednesday-Friday, which means, if you have one class, then the rest of the day you have to manage your time,” Ortiz said. “I think that’s a shock to a lot of people.”
Many students think they have all the time in the world to get their work done, Ortiz said. But later on, they realize they did not allot the time needed for an assignment or to study for an exam.
Two-year veteran of working in the University Writing Center, Marquana Burgess, a 20-year-old studio art student, has first hand experience with the procrastination habits of UNC Asheville students.
“We all need to stop procrastinating as much as we are,” Burgess said.
The University Writing Center, one of the academic support systems available on campus for students, seems to get many students looking for help on assignments after managing their time poorly and procrastinating, Burgess said.
“Maybe, like, 75 percent of the students I see come in last minute,” Burgess said.
Most of the time, Burgess said she is able to help them. Often, students want someone to proofread their papers and check their grammar.
Burgess said sometimes clients come in who need more than a grammar check. Sometimes they need to completely rewrite their papers or need to do more research, but often do not have the time. Recently, Burgess said she had a client come in with a paper three hours overdue, who had trouble meeting their paper requirements and did not know what to do.
“Coming in an hour before it’s due isn’t really going to help much unless you’re positive that your paper is good,” Burgess said.
Burgess said she procrastinates plenty too. She advises students to schedule appointments at the Writing Center several days before the assignment’s due date to allow time for time to make revisions. The Writing Center can also help students even if they have not started writing their paper yet, Burgess said they can also help students start their papers.
Similar to Burgess, Ortiz said she sees her fair share of procrastination on college campuses.
“Every semester, I will have at least one or two students who struggle with it,” Ortiz said.
Her teaching career began as an elementary school teacher, but she later began teaching college classes. She said she spent two years teaching at Warren Wilson College before starting at UNCA three years ago.
Ortiz said the time management skills of college students vary, depending on culture and values.
“I’m a sociologist, so I think about things like culture and our social groups and organizations,” Ortiz said.
She said each can all play a role in a person’s time management, as can the attitude of the university or how a student’s friends view time management.
“Are peers laid back about friends being late? How does that influence what people think about other appointments that they have, you know, outside of fun things, like going to the movies or going out for dinner? It can impact larger things like being late for appointments you have with your professors,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz also said sometimes the busiest of students exhibit the best time management because they are always involved in something.
“It often helps time management to get involved in things that meet on a regular basis that you have to show up to outside of classes,” Ortiz said.
Elizabeth Hunt, a 22-year-old senior biology and classics student, seems to prove Ortiz’s statement true.
Hunt graduates in May with two degrees and works as a sales associate at Pet Supermarket and a development intern at the Asheville Art Museum. Hunt also acts as co-captain of the UNCA Equestrian Club.
On any given day, Hunt said she manages her time wisely to get everything done with limited spare time.
“Free time is not a thing,” Hunt said. “You could always be doing something productive. Always.”
Hunt said any extra minutes can be used to work on homework.
“You may not seem like you’re getting a lot done, but it ends up helping a whole, whole lot,” Hunt said.
On any given day Hunt said she works at her internship for two and a half hours before going to class, after which she has a free gap to work on homework. After that, she goes to class for another four hours before going home to do homework.
As co-captain of the Equestrian Club, Hunt said she has extra responsibilities to juggle with school and work. For example, the team recently competed in an IHSA show, meaning Hunt had to switch around her work schedule. This forced her to change when she did her homework. Instead of doing her homework on an afternoon prior to the competition, she had to work.
“Tuesday, 4 to 6, is usually when I do my Greek homework, because it’s due Wednesday. Because I can’t do it on Tuesday, I have to do it tonight,” Hunt said.
As a senior, Hunt said her time management skills have changed a lot since freshman year.
“There’s definitely a lot more to juggle. As a freshman, I didn’t really have to worry about time management per se, because I didn’t have anything to do,” Hunt said.
During her freshman year of college, Hunt said she would spend about four or five hours at night watching Parks and Recreation because she did not have anything else to do. She always focused on work before play, but that was the extent of her time management skills as a freshman. She has much more to do now.
“If I’m alone, I do work,” Hunt said.
It may not be the healthiest of things to do, Hunt said, but it is how she functions. Unless her boyfriend gets her to take a break, Hunt said she works until she does not have more work to do.
“He’s like, ‘OK, is it due tomorrow? No? OK, let’s do something else for a bit,’” Hunt said.
They may go see a movie, or take their dog for a walk, anything that lets her take a break and relax, Hunt said.
Her varying course load allows her to balance so much and get all of her work done. Hunt said it can range anywhere from art to science.
“I’ll do Greek homework, and then I’ll do science homework, and then I’ll do creative writing homework,” Hunt said. “It uses different parts of your brain, so, while you might be too tired to do one thing, you’re not too tired to do another thing.”
In addition, Hunt said prioritizing correctly is key to time management, which could be one reason college students sometimes struggle with time management so much. She said she finds many people do not prioritize their obligations well. She said they play first, leaving an hour or so at the end of the day for their homework.
Hunt said things can go wrong. Cars breaks down and sometimes the assignment needs longer than an hour. If students do the work first, they do not have to worry about anything going wrong.
While Hunt herself focuses on work rather than play, she said she still realizes the importance of taking breaks.
“When you feel yourself getting burned out, do take a break,” Hunt said. “‘Cause having a fresh brain is better than doing something poorly.”
Despite this, Hunt said it was still important to not take breaks that were too long and for students to be aware of their schedule to make sure they properly manage their time.
“If you only have one hour free in your entire week to get something done, you have to get it done,” Hunt said. “You have to know that is your only time to do it and do it. Even if the assignment’s not due for three more days. If that is your only free time to do it, you have to do it then.”

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  • M

    MarsMar 21, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Some of us are mentally ill and can’t even function some days, and this includes doing our work. I can’t imagine devoting every moment of free time I have to school work. Sure, my academics are important, but I come first. If what you’re doing is unhealthy, why are you advertising it and making it seem like you’re better than the people who struggle with it because of things they can’t help?