Today I’m going to teach you two tricks to get great grades without asking for extensions and without pulling all-nighters. I got straight-As for seven years of post-secondary education and never once stayed up all night to do it. Here’s how you can, too. Because nothing is as guaranteed to create garbage results, cause tons of stress, and turn you into a walking zombie as starting to write a paper at 3 a.m. on the day it’s due. Trust me.
Trick #1: Set aside 1-2 hours a day for assignments, and plan them out now
By now, you should have already put all your exam dates and assignment due dates into your agenda or calendar program. (If you haven’t, do this right now before continuing to read.) If you have, you’ve already realized an unfortunate truth: deadlines are cowards, so they attack in groups. You might not have anything due this week, but when midterms hit, you might face two exams and three assignments in a single week.
The only way to tackle this is by planning for it now. For every assignment and exam, figure out how much time it will take you. Break it down into 1-2 hour tasks if possible. Then figure out when you’re going to do these tasks and write them into your agenda.
Got two assignments due on the same day? Which are you going to tackle first? Or are you going to stagger them? Plan it now. Write it down! Yes, you might find yourself starting a few weeks earlier than anyone else in your class, but it’ll pay off when you can go out on partying the night before the deadline, stress-free.
Trick #2: Add an extra 30%
Okay, you’ve got all your dates set for assignment prep and study time. You’re ready to go, right? Not so fast! Now I want you to go back and add more days. For every 3 days you’ve set aside, add one more. Don’t assign a specific task to these sessions, just let them sit there.
These extra days are for the inevitable printer malfunction, emergency library trip, and flaky partner. You don’t want to have a perfectly-planned schedule, only to get thrown off on day 2 because the book you want isn’t in the library or Internet connection died. Professors have heard every excuse there is, and when you say, “I need an extension,” they hear, “I haven’t started yet.” I used to be a T.A. Trust me on this one. Don’t force your professors into that situation: plan the extra sessions.
One last tip: If you do find yourself needing an extension, ask early and be honest. I asked for one (and only one) extension during my university career, because I had been in the hospital with a serious asthma attack and had no energy for three days. I let my prof know as soon as I got out of the hospital, showed him the doctor’s note, and got a 3-day extension. Extensions are meant for these kinds of emergencies. Don’t fall back on them because of poor planning. You’ll be doing your professors (and yourself) a great service.
Attention Bond Grrls “of a certain age”:
Have you realized that all these tips apply to work life as well? Everyone has deadlines, and the sooner you start planning for them, the less you’ll need to work evening and weekend shifts to meet them.