Jermaine Williams, Temple University
Effective time management is a skill many professionals struggle to implement and utilize within their daily lives. Why then are we, as academic advisors, surprised when our students experience great difficulty building this skill? To advise collegians on effective time management skills, we must first understand the characteristics of our student population. And while we caution against the danger of creating stereotypes that could prove detrimental to our interactions with our students, we acknowledge that prevailing social conditions do have an effect on each generation’s development.
The generation entering our colleges today has acquired multiple names (i.e. Generation Y, Echo-Boomers, Generation Tech, etc.), but they are most often referred to as Millennials. Researchers most commonly suggest that this generation begins with individuals born in 1980, who do not have the same traits as Generation X’ers (the prior generation). Therefore, they must be advised differently.
Individuals within each generation lack effective time management skills; likewise each generation has specific characteristics affecting this skill. To begin to understand how past generations differ from the Millennial Generation, advisors will find Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation (Howe & Strauss, 2000), Boomers, Gen Xers, & Millennials: Understanding the New Students (Oblinger, 2003) and Managing Millennials (Raines, 2002) helpful. These authors agree that Millennials share several unique qualities. Howe & Strauss (2000) describe Millennials as “special, sheltered, confident, team-oriented, conventional, pressured and achieving.” Raines (2002) states that Millennials are confident, hopeful, goal- and achievement-oriented, civic minded, and inclusive. Oblinger (2003) adds that Millennials “gravitate toward group activity, identify with parents’ values and feel close to their parents, and spend more time doing homework and housework and less time watching TV” (p. 1). Howe & Strauss (2000 & 2003) indicate that Millennials are the busiest youths in several generations, an observation agreed upon by most in the field.
A typical millennial high school student is faced with what may seem to be a never ending day. Beginning with a before school activity (i.e. band practice, etc.) and culminating with numerous after school activities, today’s high school students are more involved than students from previous generations. From athletic practice to religious groups, school government to SAT tutoring sessions, most millennial high school students find themselves scheduled until they sleep, wake up, and repeat their routine.
Structure is a major component of time management. If these students lead structured high school lives, then why do they have difficulty with time management at the collegiate level? The answer may lie within the residual effects of their ultra structured – some might argue over scheduled – lives and how these schedules are maintained and commitments are met.
Researchers explain that adults make it possible for millennial students to be so active. As advisors, we know from our daily student interactions just how involved parents are in their children’s lives. The African proverb “it takes a whole village to raise a child” best depicts how today’s youth grew up. Parents take turns transporting their children to activities, thus providing their children with an optimal level of growth opportunities. During the school day, millennial students look to their teachers to keep them task driven.
When these students go to college, their world is flipped upside down; their scheduling support no longer resides in the same location. For previous generations this rite of passage (e.g. going to college) signified a sense of freedom and opportunity. For Millennials, the feeling quite possibly is fear and isolation. However, new student orientation – filled with its multiple activities – promises a smooth initial transition. Yet, Millennials shortly move from a life of complete structure to a life lacking structure. Realizing this crucial transition issue is the first step to assisting Millennials with overcoming time management issues.
Millennial students follow a path less traveled in the world of time management; they over schedule themselves, leaving little time to complete their academic work. The result is that many of these students are placed on academic sanction, which is not acceptable to a millennial student accustomed to receiving A’s in high school. Realistically, this is not a problem caused by a lack of scheduling; instead it is an inability to schedule activities appropriately. An example of this would be students who want the infamous Tuesday and Thursday schedule, a schedule they view as better because now they can work or participate in activities on their days “off.”
These students correlate the importance of a task to the amount of time it demands. For instance, students who miss class and thus do not progress academically commonly state the class is “only” twice a week. This statement illustrates the idea that millennial students feel an activity needs to meet a certain number of times each week in order to be important. Given their previous high school agendas, this makes sense.
How can we as advisors help students who come to us from a life of complete structure? We should study our students and the types of opportunities and experiences our institutions provide. In order to promote good time management skills, we must: 1) inform and educate students, 2) give students options 3), provide an adult sounding board as students make appropriate decisions regarding the importance of tasks, and 4) when applicable, use technology with students.
To inform and educate a student is perhaps the most important contribution we can make. Howe & Strauss (2000) point out that Millennials have high expectations; parents have repeatedly informed them of their special qualities and that anything is within their grasp. Therefore, many Millennials work toward lofty goals. Millennials must be taught to know the difference between quantity and quality. Extra-curricular activities are meaningful, but if they do not pertain to a student’s ultimate goal, then perhaps they should be advised to forgo that particular activity. This is not promoting zero involvement in activities, but rather assisting students to prioritize the activities that will be most beneficial.
Second, we can give students options. Today’s students, and their parents, expect substantial returns on their investments. Should students take an overload of credits and run the risk of being overwhelmed? Could another path make their lives less stressful and less scheduled? Inform students of their options; don’t dictate.
Third, we can help students make decisions while we provide a figure to respect. Millennial students have an extremely close bond with their parents; together they make many major decisions. This is why it should be no surprise that parents want to take part in advising sessions or that students phone their parents for advice in the middle of advising sessions. Millennials discuss their ideas and plans with an adult. We should embrace this as an opportunity to ensure that these students are not ineffectively scheduling themselves away from their goals. However, we must draw a distinct line between developmental support of student decisions and prescriptive dictation of conclusions.
Finally, studies show that millennial students utilize a number of technological devices to keep in contact with each other. Students should be encouraged to use their electronic devices, (i.e. PDA’s, Blackberrys, laptops, etc.) for scheduling purposes. The probability is high that students will stay on task and be aware of obligations if their agendas are stored in a device utilized frequently instead of a daily hand-written planner.
The unique qualities that shape the lives of Millennials must be considered when creating plans for their benefit. Solutions that worked for previous generations must be modified to be effective. Advisors and administrators must utilize millennial student research in order to help these students effectively manage their time. We must embrace this research to facilitate an environment that is most beneficial to our students.
Howe, N. & Strauss, W. (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. New York. Vintage Books.
Howe, N. & Strauss, W. (2003). Millennials go to College. Strategies for a New Generation on Campus: Recruiting and Admissions, Campus Life, and the Classroom. United States: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and LifeCourse Associates.
Kissinger, M. (June 4, 2005). The Millennials: Focused on achievement and raised on technology, babies of boomers are ready to make their impact. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Retrieved from http://www.lifecourse.com/media/clips/050604_mil.html
Oblinger, D. (2003). Boomers, Gen-Xers, & Millennials: Understanding the New Students.Educause Review, July/August 2003. Retrieved 9 September 2005 fromhttp://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0342.pdf
Raines, C. (2002). Managing Millennials. In Generations at Work: The Online Home of Claire Raines Associates. Retrieved 9 September 2005 from http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htm
Cite this article using APA style as: Williams, J. (2005, December). Millennial Students: Rethinking time management. Academic Advising Today, 28(4). [insert url here]