Time Management Lessons for the On-Campus MSW Program

Hi! My name is Dunia H. and I graduated from Boston University School of Social Work this spring with an MSW in clinical social work practice. This is part one of my two-part series that’s all about balancing your life in grad school. In this blog, I’m going to share some advice with you on how I managed my time and competing obligations while in graduate school.

Graduate school is not easy, nor should it be. We come into graduate school to be challenged so we can learn and grow. Balancing school, internships, a part-time job, and a personal life can be demanding. That is why time management is key!

 What is time management? Well, Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively, especially at work.” So how does one go about managing their time successfully in graduate school? 

Find an Organizational System that Works for You

Organization is key. Find a system that keeps track of your schedule, homework assignments, due dates, and personal life. 

Everyone’s approach to organizing their schedule is different. Personally, I would not have made it through grad school without a planner. I write everything down! Trust me, it helps! I also like having a digital copy of my schedule, so I used this free college schedule maker. Not only does writing everything down help you remember all of your obligations, but you know in advance where your pressure points are in the semester so that you can plan accordingly. There are a lot of papers in social work school and trust me: having a system that helps you stay on top of all the work is a lifesaver. 

Time Management Starts with Your Schedule

Time management starts with creating a schedule that fits your needs. The Registrar’s Office is a great resource to help you achieve that schedule and if you ever need help making your schedule work for you, your advisor can assist as well. However, here are some tips to empower you to get started:

  1. At BUSSW, some classes are only offered at certain times. It’s critical to schedule your field internship around course times that are set in stone.
  2. Keep in mind that it is common for first-year classes to be in the first half of the week (ie: Monday to Wednesday) and second-year classes to be in the latter half of the week (ie: Wednesday to Friday). This pattern helps students find days for their field internship. I should mention, it is not a perfect system. You may find yourself occasionally going to your internship all day followed by an evening class. This does make for a long day, but it is doable. 
  3. Time management gets trickier in your second year, so it’s imperative to get it down your first year. First-year students will be required to intern two days a week. Second-year students are required to intern three days a week. If you wait until your second year to get your act together, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
  4. Remember that life happens and things always come up. I recommend dedicating at least 1-2 days a week for schoolwork and some self-care. I was able to plan my schedule in my first and second year around my internship. I worked on weekends and made sure to leave one day open in my schedule for schoolwork, my personal life, and self-care. I also created some blocks in my schedule throughout the week to get work done so it didn’t pile up.

      Prioritizing Assignments

      When working on assignments, I always start with the one that is due first and the one that will take the longest, which I start by outlining. I give myself a certain amount of time to work on each assignment and always make sure to give myself breaks in between. If or when things get too overwhelming, I talk to my professor. The faculty at BUSSW are so understanding if you need an extension or help on a paper.

      Social work classes also assign a lot of reading. One trick that has worked for some students is sharing the reading obligations with classmates. If each person does a couple of the readings and then shares their notes with the rest of the class, it can be a faster way to digest all the material and still learn. Sometimes professors even offer this to the class at the start of the semester.

      Getting Through Midterms & Finals

      In graduate school, you will find that professors tend to assign midterms and finals all in the same few weeks. It sucks! This is when your time management and organizational skills need to be at their best so that you don’t get too overwhelmed. What’s the secret to acing this part of the school year? Plan ahead!

      At the start of the semester, I write all my assignment due dates, midterms, and finals in my planner and in the Stickies app on my computer. In addition to helping you keep track of your assignments, making a to-do list can help boost confidence – it feels so nice crossing things off the list!

      Remember Your Well-Being Is the Most Important Thing

      Take one thing at a time, manage your time well, stay organized, and utilize your resources. Don’t worry – we are all in this together and you will make it through to become an amazing social worker!

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