Beyond the College Move: Creating a Learning Environment

Posted By Marisa Sanfilippo on March 20, 2017 at 8:00 am
Beyond the College Move: Creating a Learning Environment

Students often get advice on where to move when they go to college, but once they make the college move, they receive little information on creating an environment to support their educational goals. That’s despite the fact that the importance of creating the necessary structure to facilitate academic success cannot be overstated.

Routines and habits after a college move

When a student transitions from high school to college, he or she does more than just move from their parent’s house to a dormitory or apartment. The student suddenly has more control over his or her daily routine and an increased amount of free time. This lack of structure can be disorienting for students accustomed to having much of their days dictated by school, extracurricular activities, and family expectations.

A typical day in K-12 education is between about 7.5 hours. A full-time semester in college is only about 15 hours per week in class. Education expert Craig Ullom, a former vice president of student affairs at Ohio Wesleyan University and a principal at NextPath Learning, explains, “The combination of discretionary time, multiple ways to invest that time, and the autonomy to make choices about use of time can create the perfect storm for students that can lead to derailment of educational goal attainment.”

He stresses the importance of creating a schedule and using a planner or calendar app to adhere to it as strictly as if it were imposed by an outside authority.

Christopher Stroven, a licensed professional counselor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and owner of Kalamazoo Integrative Counselling PLLC, had several suggestions regarding creating an effective schedule after a college move.

The ideal weekly schedule should include:

  • Class days and times.
  • Study time.
  • Work.
  • Exercise, meditation, or other healthy activity.
  • Student organizations.
  • Appointments.
  • Class projects.
  • Sleep.
  • Time with friends.
  • Breaks.
  • Free time.

Susanne Fenske, vice president for student affairs at Clarion University, offered insight into how to determine the structure needed to achieve academic success after a college move. She suggests, “Look at your deadlines, mark those on your schedule, and then work backwards from there to plan out when you can get each element completed.”

Students with poor time management skills result in cramming for exams rather than cultivating an environment of consistent study. Research has shown that dedicating a set amount of time to the task of studying on a regular basis has a far greater positive effect on a student’s academic achievement.

Living and learning environments

Getting enough rest is an essential component in creating a successful life. College students are notorious for self-reporting insufficient amounts of sleep and many simply fail to make it a priority.

Ullom, Stroven, and Fenske all suggest differentiating between one’s living and study environment after a college move. The common theme in the explanations for the importance of this differentiation was a need to have a haven away from work and academic pressure. It was additionally noted that most residential halls are busy, noisy, and generally distracting; all make focused attention more difficult.

Ullom recommendeds “Explore the campus and find the space that works for you.” Essentially, it is impossible to recommend a single location that will work for every student. Learning styles and methods vary too much from one person to the next.

Some students need to walk around and have the freedom to move while they work while others need absolute quiet to reach a place of intense concentration. It is important for students to identify several places that are conducive to their own learning needs: A primary location and at least one back-up if the preferred area is occupied. Then, use those locations at the regularly scheduled time.

Some to consider include residential lounges, libraries, 24-hour work spaces, student centers, cool nooks in academic buildings, coffee shops, and parks.

Technological environment

One of the biggest distractions for many students is the ease with which they can access technological distractions. The ability to game, chat with friends, interact on social media, and binge watch Netflix make it all too easy to waste time instead of using time wisely. This is one of the reasons having a firm schedule is so beneficial. If technology is scheduled, students know they have that break to look forward to and may find it easier to focus during their scheduled work time.

Even with a schedule, it can be difficult to limit one’s use of technology. For those who find it challenging to do so, there are several tools that may be beneficial:

  • Focus Writer.
  • Write Monkey.
  • Stay Focused.
  • Freedom.
  • Self-Control.

For those who find it difficult to work with environmental distractions and find organization challenging, there are several tools that can help

  • Trello, Asana, or To-Doist.
  • Google Calendar.
  • Google Drive, Evernote.
  • Noise Canceling Headphones.
  • White Noise Machine.
  • Physical Calendar, Planner, Bullet Journal.
  • Momentum.

Technological tools, apps, and other resources must be evaluated in much the same way a student would examine potential study environments. No single tool will work for each student,but with the abundance of options, students can find tools that will work for them.

Students who are accustomed to having structure automatically provided for them must accept the responsibility after a college move of creating a daily framework that facilitates a supportive learning environment to achieve optimal academic results from their college career.

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa is an award-winning marketing professional who loves to write. During the day, she wears her marketing hat in her marketing director role and at night she works as a freelance writer, ghost writing for clients and contributing to publications such as Huffington Post and Social Media Today.

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