Lessons in time management from a failing transfer student

I still remember registering for my first university courses. I was 17 years old and going into Chemistry at UofT. I put six courses into my schedule for both the Fall and Winter semesters. It made sense, right? That’s what the website said to do and I wasn’t going to fall behind. I didn’t consider that going from four courses a semester in high school to six in university would be a whole other challenge I never expected.

I didn’t do well at UofT. I was struggling to keep up with school work, family and the tempting affairs of my friends. While I would complete my assignments by the deadline, I would run out of time for my readings. My mid-term and exam prep, perhaps unsurprisingly, was as non-existent as a magic, money-giving unicorn. By the second year, I realized that I needed to “get it together”; what I was doing was not working.

After taking some time to work and think about what I wanted to do with my life, I transferred to Ryerson for Marketing Management at TRSM. Frankly, I was scared to go back to school. What if I couldn’t keep up with the school work again? What if I failed a class? It would confirm my worst fear – that I just wasn’t cut out for school. I knew I needed to change the way I managed my time, but I didn’t know how to do it.

As a test trial, I took four courses in my first semester. I would schedule one class that I knew I would struggle with, one class that I knew would be a breeze and two other courses in the average-difficulty realm. The biggest change this time around was that instead of being a loyal member of “The Bank of Mom and Dad,” I was paying for school from my own pockets. This helped me become accountable, I had more on the line if I didn’t do well because I just couldn’t afford to lose money. This helped me change my mindset from laissez-faire to creator of my own future.

Going from a Science degree to a Business degree was another challenge, but one that ended up working in my favour. Since I had never taken a Business course before coming to TRSM, I knew I didn’t have the background that other students had. For example, I never took Accounting or Business in high school. Therefore, I knew I had to work harder to familiarize myself with common business terms and topics. For this, I scheduled time to work on a chapter of Accounting every day, up until the mid-term and final exam. It was the only thing I felt I could do to ease my panic.

I also struggled with readings. It would take me a day and a half to read a few chapters and oftentimes I felt like I was losing a lot of time. For this problem, I booked an appointment with the Academic Success Centre’s Learning Strategist. She gave me really valuable advice on how to read and study more effectively. I was able to use the tools she gave me and re-adjust them for each course since.

I had to admit to myself that when it really came down to it that I was a lazy student. But this realization wasn’t terrible. There’s one saying that goes “lazy people rule the world,” which doesn’t sound very positive at first, but you can translate it into “work smarter, not harder.” Really, I found the most effective way of studying was by practicing, asking questions and summarizing instead of just reading and re-reading. Through this, I cut my study time by about less than half of what it originally was.

Lastly, my social life was always very important to me. I love my friends and meeting new people. I’m always going out around the city and exploring new things. Of course, this is more fun than sitting at home and studying. What I found helped was creating a desk calendar, one that I can view by month and see when all my upcoming assignments and tests are due. I also scheduled my gym time, student group commitments and social outings. When I keep myself very busy, I feel like I don’t have much time to do other things, therefore the free time that I do have, I use to study. This is one way I trick myself into doing my homework – by being really busy.

These are just some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my time at TRSM. It definitely took me a while to get to a point where I feel successful in school, but as Business students, we all know that the road to success isn’t linear.

Relevant Resources that are available to all TRSM students, for FREE, through the TRSM Academic Success Centre:

  • Tutoring: The Academic Success Centre provides free tutoring to all TRSM students and students taking management courses. Tutoring is available in two forms: drop-in tutoring and individual tutoring.
  • Learning Strategist: Book a one-on-one learning consultation with our Learning Strategist to discuss your current approaches to studying and talk about strategies to improve your ability to learn in a university environment.
  • Peer Academic Coaching: Book a one-on-one appointment with one of our Peer Academic Coaches (PAC). They are upper-year students from various programs in TRSM, who are trained to assist you with improving or learning new study skills, mentoring and helping fellow students navigate their academics.
  • Writing Support: Book a one-on-one appointment with the ASC’s English Language Specialist, for an opportunity to improve your writing as a result of professional feedback and ongoing support.
  • Tip Sheets and other learning resources: From a four-month calendar, to tip sheets on reading and note-taking, the ASC has tip sheets for your learning needs. Download and fill the tip sheets on your computer, or print them from the comfort of your own home.