A study plan can be a useful tool and your best friend when it comes to organising your student life.

Sure, it takes a little effort up front, but in the long run it’s a great way to reduce stress and save time as you try and navigate various activities, responsibilities and due dates. For international students, it can also help with your transition to the tertiary education model in Australia that has more of a focus on independent learning than you might be used to back home.

To get you started, here are eight steps to building a study plan that’s perfect for you:

1. Make a list of your needs


Remember this study plan should be personalised for you. Before jumping straight into a template, it’s worthwhile to take time to consider everything you’ll need to schedule in, including both academic and non-academic activities. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Classes and exams (which may involve commute times)
  • Study / assignments
  • Work
  • Meals
  • Chores – shopping, cleaning etc.
  • Life admin – dentist, banking etc.
  • Extracurricular activities / hobbies
  • Exercise
  • Socialising / calls with family back home
  • Holidays / trips
  • Sleep / rest / downtime

How ‘big picture’ or ‘granular’ you want to go with your scheduling is up to you. Reflecting on the above activities, make sure you consider what is and isn’t working for you in your current schedule and what you might like to better prioritise moving forward. For example, are you getting enough sleep and rest? Could you be waking up early to tick off a few life admin tasks or exercise to save yourself time later? Think of this as your opportunity to try and gain balance when it comes to managing your work, study and personal life.

2. Evaluate how you study best


To make your plan as effective as possible, it will also be important to consider how and when you study best. So, take some time to ask yourself:

  • Are you a morning person or night owl?
  • Do you study more productively in shorter intervals or longer blocks of time? Depending on your answer, regular 30-minute daily study sessions or a few two-hour sessions each week, might be right for you.
  • Are weekdays or weekends more suitable for your study sessions based on your other commitments?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to your subjects? Be conscious of this and consider allocating extra time to subjects that might require more of your attention.

3. Factor in successful study habits


It’s also worth thinking about how you’re going to break up those study blocks further to make the most of your allocated time.

For example, the Pomodoro Technique is all about breaking down tasks and taking breaks to maintain your focus. Using mnemonic devices can be a great way to improve your memory retention. If you’re more of a visual learner, creating concept maps, diagrams or infographics can help explain subject material in a way that you can better engage with.

Creating a designated study space can also help you stay organised, create positive associations with study and increase your productivity.

4. Find the right template or resource to help you


At the University of Adelaide College, one of our top priorities is to make sure students feel confident and prepared to succeed. Our on-campus Student Service Team can assist you in developing a study plan to suit your needs and help answer any questions or concerns you may have.

You can also find free templates online to get you started with a basic outline of your day and week which you can then populate with your activities.

As you transition to university, students are welcome to use the University of Adelaide’s free Study Time Planner to help generate a timetable tailored for you. This has been specially designed to take into consideration your course, daily routine, family, work, commuting needs and lifestyle. You can then drag these activities into designated blocks of time to build out your daily and weekly schedules.

5. Be realistic


When it comes to planning and execution, having a bit of flexibility is essential.

Initially it’s better to overestimate than underestimate the time it may take you to complete certain tasks to make sure you’re not left feeling overwhelmed. Using a digital form of calendar can be useful for making tweaks here and there as you go along.

If you happen to miss a study session, there’s no need to throw the study plan out the window. Remember, it’s not etched in stone; being flexible when things don’t go exactly to plan is a big part of a successful study plan. Simply make any adjustments you need to and move on.

6. Don’t forget to set goals


A study plan is about more than just scheduling, it should also be a way for you to set short-term and long-term study goals. Depending on what you want to focus on a goal could be to achieve a 100% attendance record for lectures in a given semester or to successfully complete an academic internship.

Whatever they are, make sure they’re SMART goals. That is, they’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed. For example, ‘Achieve a High Distinction for one of my assignments in X subject in Semester 2.’

Setting these types of goals will help you to stay focused, maintain productivity, and give you a sense of accomplishment by the time you reach the end of the academic year.

7. Reward yourself


A good study plan shouldn’t be all work and no play. Building in rewards for when you achieve your short and long-term goals or for when you stick to your study sessions is a great way to avoid procrastination and keep motivated. For bigger goals, it might also be worth telling a friend or parent to keep yourself extra accountable.

8. Test your study plan


Practise and testing make perfect! Dedicate a couple of weeks to first trialling a draft of your study plan. This will give you time to see what works and make any changes you need to before printing it out. Remember out of sight, out of mind, so sticking a copy to your wall or keeping it visible somewhere in your study area will ensure that it stays top of mind.

Find out more about out dedicated student services and resources at the University of Adelaide College – your pathway to the University of Adelaide, a member of the Group of Eight and consistently ranked in the top 1% of universities worldwide.