Time Management Skills for High School Students

Table of Contents

Share This Post

Time is a valuable, and finite, resource. This is true for everyone, but high school students feel many more demands on their hours than most. Some seize and spend their time wisely, others fritter it away piecemeal, but all are allocated the same number of hours and seconds; no more, no less.

In this article, we’ll explore the various demands upon the time of high school students, and how they can be sure they’re spending their time wisely. We’ll look at ways you can manage your time to make sure that you get everything done, and still have time enough to live and breathe and experience the exuberance of a halcyon youth. Time management is a skill like any other, and as we impart it to our students, so too do we hope to teach you. Let’s begin!

Dividing the Hours

The biggest demand on a student’s time during their waking hours is school. While the length of a school day varies around the country, it is the largest single block of time usage for most students. This is both necessary and immutable, so all other activities must be planned around school.

On top of a student’s time physically at school, they must devote time to schoolwork outside of it. While there are occasional petitions to ban homework, it remains an integral part of the modern educational system, and all students must set aside requisite time to complete it. 

Next come extracurriculars, a student’s clubs, sports teams, passion projects, volunteering hours, part-time jobs, and other ways they involve themselves outside of (or within) school. The number of these you are involved in is up to you, and we’ll explore later how you can get the best results.

Finally, there is time to relax. To eat, to laze, to watch TV or hang out with friends. To simply exist while the world moves around you. This is often the smallest category of waking hours, but is no less important for that fact. 

Budgeting Your Time

Now that we’ve seen all the places your time is spent as a high school student, we’re going to discuss how you should divide your hours among them. Here are our steps to drafting a schedule: 

  1. First, pencil in a sleep schedule. Too many students geth far too little sleep. Do not sacrifice your sleep for other activities, it isn’t worth it.
  2. Second, mark out the time you need to spend at school, including transit. These first two set, your remaining time can then be apportioned out.
  3. Determine how much time completing your homework will take. We know this can be difficult for some students, and give advice on this specifically in the next section.
  4. Pencil in your extracurriculars. These usually have set schedules for when and where they occur, and so you can block them out on your schedule.
  5. Add time to complete your homework around your extracurriculars. You know how many hours you will need to complete it, so you can use this to fill in gaps, between school and extracurriculars, or before you sleep. 
  6. Add designated time to relax. While it is not your top priority, it is still necessary to have some time doing what you enjoy, or simply recharging, between your other activities. 

This is a very general guide, which we regret, but it is by necessity; each student has different obligations, and advice to specific situations is difficult to manage in an article of this sort. Still, in the next sections, we will attempt to give specific time management tips for dealing with different parts of scheduling your activities.

Dealing with Homework

Homework is usually our student’s biggest concern when it comes to time management, and for good reason. The amount of homework high school classes assign varies, but as you progress into more advanced classes, it can rise precipitously. 

We recommend the following when it comes to getting homework done in a timely manner:

  • Organization. You should keep track of every assignment you have assigned, and when it is due. The manner of this tracking is up to you, but this will allow you to prioritize your work, and make sure nothing important is forgotten. 
  • Efficiency. Try to work as efficiently as possible, to maximize your returns. This means working without distractions from your phone, with limited breaks, and with clear goals in mind.
  • Prioritization. Rank the relative size, difficulty, and timeline of various assignments. This can be done informally, but weighing how much effort each will require will allow you to know when you should begin working on a big project, or reviewing for a test.

Working on homework is a skill like any other, and if you master it in high school, you will have a much easier time in college. This is the portion of your schedule you can be most flexible with, and making the best use of time here is the best way to free up time for other extracurriculars. 

Prioritizing Extracurriculars

There is only so much time you can invest into extracurriculars, so you should choose how to spend your time wisely. We’ve discussed what colleges look for in extracurriculars, and their importance in college admissions, but now we’re going to take a closer look at how this can impact your time management in high school. 

First, know that you do not need to completely fill every hour with extracurriculars to get into college. This is one of the most common mistakes we see students making. A passionate devotion to a few extracurriculars is far more impressive than a surface level involvement with many.

What does this look like?Let’s compare the extracurriculars of two students, A and B. What does each list tell you about them? 

Student A: 

  • Dances 20 hours a week.
  • Teaches two dance classes a week.
  • Participates in choreography showcases.
  • Volunteers at a food bank once per week.

Student B: 

  • Is a member of their school’s robotics club.
  • Is on the debate team.
  • Is on the varsity baseball team. 
  • Plays trombone in the school orchestra. 
  • Volunteers at a nursing home once per week. 
  • Is a member of the National Honors Society. 
  • Works as a lifeguard part-time.

How would you describe each student? What are their interests? Which is easier to sum up? 

Both students are clearly passionate people, and devote a lot of time to their extracurriculars. Despite this, student A will stand out more in admissions, and also likely has more free time than student B. The depths of their involvement is what admissions officers want to see, since this is seen as an indicator of the student’s willingness to devote themselves to something. 

You do not need to devote yourself solely to one activity; take, for instance, student C:

  • Is a member of the robotics club.
  • Volunteers to teach kids to code.
  • Programmed and launched an app with friends.
  • Interned at a local engineering firm.
  • Took part in a robotics summer program.

This student has clear interests and passions, and their activities present a unified whole. When deciding where to spend your limited time on extracurriculars, you want activities you enjoy, and that allow you to explore your passions. There are a limited number of hours in a day, don’t spend them participating in activities just because you think they’ll look good for college, or out of a need to fill your time. Find what you love to do, and then pursue it with abandon. 

Time for Relaxation

Everyone needs some time to unwind. Some students are lucky, and can get some of this through extracurriculars, but even these students need to take some time to breathe, and relax, and just enjoy the fruits of youth for a spell. We recommend structuring time for this into your schedule. 

The benefit of having built-in time for relaxation is that it lessens the desire to goof off when you are working, and also serves to prevent burnout. Nobody can go full speed on work all the time; this will only cause anguish. Time to unwind means that the time you do spend working is more productive, and allows you to be more focused. 

What you do to unwind is up to you, but we recommend a range of activities. We also recommend that at least a few of your extracurriculars allow you to indulge. Here are some common ways to unwind, and how you can meet them through activities: 

  • Hanging out with friends. Any club, sport, or activity that lets you spend time with friends lets you do this.
  • Exercise. Sports, dance; most any physical activity can make for a great extracurricular.
  • Expressing yourself. Be it through art, music, writing, or any other creative forms, many students find an outlet for their creativity in their extracurriculars. 

Of course, even if you can unwind somewhat through extracurriculars, you should take time for yourself outside them. We recommend doubling in this way for the sake of efficiency, and to allow you the greatest flexibility when scheduling. 

Final Thoughts

The ticking of the clock counts us through the days of our lives, and binds us all; so we must make the best use of the ones we’re given. We know that high school students often struggle with this, but by building great time management habits now can go on to have very fulfilling experiences in college and beyond.

If you are looking for more personalized guidance on time management, or want to hear how we can help you build good academic habits more broadly, schedule a free consultation with us. Our academic coaching and candidacy building services help students become the best versions of themselves, and that, above all is what colleges want to see. 

Need help with college admissions?

Download our "Guide to Everything," a 90-page PDF that covers everything you need to know about the college admission process.

More To Explore

Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
Arda E.
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
Samson S.
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!