Last week was the first day of classes at Winona State University; an exciting time to meet my new students and start the regimen of the fall semester. For students, college life presents the challenge of balancing class attendance, study time, necessary rest, social activities and sometimes even part-time work or athletic activities into a 24 hour day. Some of them do a masterful job of it and others fail miserably.
During my freshman year in college there was this kid in our dorm named Lenny. I never saw Lenny study. He went to bed real late and slept in till noon almost every day. The interesting thing about Lenny was that any time of the night you could find him if you wanted to play some ping pong down in the recreation room or play cards in the lounge. I know most of this from the testimony of my other dorm mates because my waking hours didn’t jive much with Lenny’s, but they all told me that Lenny was available every night of the week, as long as you wanted to mess around between midnight and 4 a.m. After the first semester some rumors circulated that Lenny was on academic probation. The only thing I know for sure about Lenny is that he never returned for his sophomore year in college. He was a real nice guy, friendly and accommodating, but I never saw him again.
Fortunately most college students manage their time much better than Lenny managed his, but most of them don’t get the full benefit of University life due to inefficient use of time. At the beginning of the semester I often ask the students in my classes what they would be doing if they weren’t in college. Most of the time they say they would be working some kind of full-time job, Monday through Friday, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. Then I ask them a simple question, “What would your life be like in college if you worked a 40-hour week?” They seem a bit puzzled at first and then I explain that a 40-hour week may be the key to academic and social success in college.
I call my program the “Lunchbox Plan for Collegiate Success.” My proposition is simple; just like most other workers, I recommend that college students go to work Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an hour off for lunch. Every hour they spend in class or studying their academic subjects counts as an hour of “work.” All other time is “leisure.” For example, if they get up at 7 a.m. they have time to eat breakfast and start their day at 8 a.m. If their first class is at 10 a.m. they should spend from 8-10 a.m. studying academic subjects in a private cubicle in the library. At 10 a.m. they go to their first class, followed by a class at 11 a.m. By noon they’ve got four hours of “work” completed. After a leisurely lunch over noon hour, they study from 1-2 p.m. at the library before attending their two-hour class at 2 p.m. After dismissal from that class at 4 p.m. they go back to the library to study another hour from 4-5 p.m. The eight-hour work day is over. They now have time to eat dinner, go out with their friends, attend a movie, or engage in other leisurely activities.
Under my famous “eight hour student work day” collegians have every evening free after 5 p.m. They also have every weekend free, all weekend! Furthermore, the quality of leisure is better for those on my “Lunchbox” plan. While their friends party, nagged by the knowledge that they have uncompleted papers or homework that will be due on Monday, the Lunchbox students have already completed their work and can party all weekend if they wish, “guilt free.”
Some minor revisions to the plan might be helpful. I realize understand that like hamsters, college students are basically nocturnal, preferring to stay up late at night. Perhaps a student will want to start his work day at 10 a.m. and work till 7 p.m. That’s fine, as long as he puts in his 8 hours every day, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. There may be, on occasion, the necessity to brush up on Sunday evening for a Monday exam, but honestly, if the student has “worked his forty” he shouldn’t have the need to cram for an exam.
Many students, when presented with the freedom of planning their daily activities, stay up late into the night, causing them to be less than “mentally sharp” when they attend classes. Late nights and sleep deprivation cause some students skip classes too often. Many students regularly neglect their studies when presented with opportunities for leisure. All of the above are formulas for both academic and personal disaster. The problem is that, free from the shackles of parental monitoring, there is no daily regimen or routine in the lives of some students. They become less than efficient, sleeping till eleven o’clock in the morning while their “Lunchbox” competitors have already completed three hours of “work.”
My professorial “Lunchbox Plan” for students hasn’t caught on very well. Most students snicker when they first hear about it, but some students are masters at planning their days. Student athletes, in particular, are forced to plan carefully due to the fact that they must spend several hours a day in training. They have little time for leisure and are forced to plan their days more carefully. It is the students with too much time on their hands that are the worst planners. The irony of my “Lunchbox” plan is that I’m not asking students to do anything that they wouldn’t already be doing if they weren’t in college; or am I asking them to do anything different that they will be doing after they leave University life.