By Joe Hill


Like many colleges, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy teaches its new students the importance of time management and organizing their priorities. However, in addition to being a full-time student with 19 credit hours, there are the strenuous demands of being an active duty military member and an NCAA athlete. This makes it crucial for you to utilize your time and prioritize your responsibilities. As part of a well-rounded background in general education, everyone takes the same core requirements during freshman year regardless of their major.

We all have different things in which we excel, and some things we will just never be that good at, even if we try our best. I learned this lesson at the beginning of my second semester. My Chemistry instructor outlined her expectations for the class, including the work and assignments listed in the syllabus. She then told us that everyone would probably not be able to get an A in the class, but that if we followed her advice and worked hard, everyone could at least earn a C.

As a Government major, I earned high marks in the humanities classes, which I had a natural aptitude for, but struggled in math and science. While I had an overall passing GPA, there was still a big problem. I had failed Calculus. I was going to have to re-take the course and if I did not pass, I would be expelled from the Academy.

Even though I had no interest in Calculus and it had nothing to do with my major, I knew that I needed to pass in order to stay in the Academy. I decided to apply my Chemistry instructor’s advice to my Calculus class as well. I figured that even if I could not get an A, there had to be a way for me to get a passing grade so that I could stay in school. I decided to make this my number one priority that semester.

I had to identify my priorities and decide how to manage my time. Whereas Calculus was one of those classes in which I would never be able to earn a high grade, I knew I had enough writing talent for me to pass English without putting in that much effort. I did not have enough hours in a day to do all the work I needed to get both a C in Calculus and an A in English.  I could either get an A in English and fail Calculus, or I could earn a C in both classes. If I decided to work hard in both classes, I would earn an A in English, but I might get another F in Calculus, and then I would be expelled. I decided to apply the extra time that I was not putting into my English class assignments to Calculus instead.

My strategy paid off and I managed to get a C in both classes by the middle of the term. My English professor was disappointed that I was not applying myself in her class as much as I could. Even though I was upset because I had gotten a low mark in my best class, I knew that I would survive the semester, make it to sophomore year, and still have a future as a Coast Guard officer. That may not have been possible had I chosen differently. This is exactly why organizing your priorities and the time you devote to each of them is so important in college and later in life. It is your job to choose what those things are.


Joe Hill is a Coast Guard veteran who now works as a school administrator for the non-profit organization Bilingual Education for Central America.