If you’re an international student and you don’t have a self study timetable, you could be setting yourself up to fail.

Studying overseas as an international student is one of the biggest and most exciting adventures of your life. You’re also under pressure. Your family has probably given up a lot to give you this opportunity. They want to see you do well and there is a lot riding on your success.

It’s up to you to make sure you reach your full potential as an international student. A self study timetable is a simple but really important way to support your own success.

A self study timetable – the benefits

A self study time table will:

  • enable you to set study goals and keep you focussed on them
  • help you use your available time better so you can strike a balance between study and having fun.

Sounds great, but how do you actually design a self study timetable? Here’s an easy four step guide.

Step 1: Map it out – identify your assignment deadlines, key social dates, and other commitments.

This works really well if you can get yourself a yearly wall planner and stick it to your wall because it’s always visible, but you can also do it on a calendar app on your laptop.

Add these things to your calendar/planner:

Study Related

  • Deadlines for assignments.
  • Exam periods.

Non-study Related

  • Important dates – birthdays, anniversaries etc.
  • Public holidays.
  • Social events – parties, trips or planned holidays.
  • Work commitments – if you also have a job while studying.

Step 2 – Plan for your study related dates.

Once you’ve got the key study related dates down it is really important to think about the time implications around them. You want to plan your time to give yourself the best chance of success. For example, if you know it will take you at least a week to complete an assignment, block out a week of full or part days before the deadline. Take the same approach for exams to make sure you give yourself the best chance of getting a great result.

Step 3 – Work out what’s not possible.

Here’s where you need to be really honest with yourself.

When you look at your developing timetable now you might find that some of the non-study related dates you penciled in clash with the study planning you did in step 2. A trip you want to take with friends might cut into time you set aside for exam preparation. A party might be the night before an important exam or class presentation.

It’s important to have a healthy balance between studying and pursuing other opportunities and interests while you are overseas. But you’ll need to identify those things that you simply won’t be able to do because there is just no way you’ll be able to fit them in with your study schedule. Take a moment to tell yourself that life isn’t fair and then cut them from your timetable. Remove. Delete.

You don’t have to cut every non-study related date or event that clashes with your study timetable, just the ones that very obviously can’t be done. Some overlaps might be manageable and we’ll come to that in step 4.

When you’ve completed step 3 your timetable should be starting to take shape. You’ll have:

  • Key study dates and required study and/or preparation time.
  • Important non-study dates that don’t overlap with any of your study dates. Woohoo!
  • Some important non-study dates that do overlap with your study dates. Let’s look at those in step 4.

Step 4 – Manage the overlaps

Ok so you’ve got some overlaps in your timetable. That’s OK. In fact that’s good. The important thing is that you have identified those challenging periods now so they don’t catch you by surprise later on.

Now you need to decide how you can manage those overlaps. For example:

  • If you planned to take a Monday off for a long weekend trip but it falls in a week that you are meant to be working on a team assignment, maybe you could take the previous Friday off instead?
  • If you know you usually have a shift at work on a Monday night but your timetable shows you’ll have an exam on a Tuesday act early and talk to your boss so there is plenty of time to work out a solution.

If you’ve got to this point you should have a solid self study timetable that gives you a clear view on how to manage your time over the short to medium term to maximise your academic success and achieve a healthy balance with your other commitments and interests.

Bonus step – Important – Be flexible and don’t stress


The problem with careful planning is that life often gets in the way. Unexpected things happen that can throw all of your careful timetabling into chaos.

It happens to everyone, and it will happen to you when you are studying overseas.

When it does happen try not to get stressed about it. Be flexible. If you’ve followed the steps above you now have a way to think about and manage your time. When something unexpected happens you can go back to step 1 and go through the process again to work out how to manage any new issues, demands or challenges that arise.

Want to study overseas?

If you are thinking about studying overseas, get help and advice from one of our expert education agent partners.

Choosing the right education agent is critical. Choose the wrong education agent and you may end up losing your money and your dreams. Click here to read about what can go wrong when working with education agents.

Our expert partner agents are based in the main study abroad countries and will support you to make the right choice of course and institution. They are focused on making sure you are safe, happy, healthy and successful during this important time in your life.

The service is completely free.

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