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100+ hour weeks as an undergrad -- abnormal?

  1. Dec 24, 2014 #1
    So, in college I did Applied Math. and Neuroscience.
    Each requires about 50 hours a week (for me at least). So, 50 x 2 = 100 hours + 10 hours of volunteering in a lab.
    So yeah, I'd often put in 110 hour weeks for 3 months straight...semester after semester.

    I did well, but it was horrific mentally.

    How common are these sorts of hours for an undergrad.?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 24, 2014 #2
    If you have such endurance, very good results, and can continue with it, good for you!
    Don't care about other undergradutes' hours.
  4. Dec 25, 2014 #3
    I have to ask, what on Earth are you doing for those 50 hours? It doesn't matter if it's abnormal or not, there's no reason to spending that much time. I almost don't believe you, to be frank.
  5. Dec 25, 2014 #4
    You should at least sleep six hours (better eight) per day, which leaves you ##7\cdot 18h=126 h## per week. Well, if you don't have to do much other stuff (eating, laundry, etc., walking to university), you can do it I guess. But it wouldn't be for me.
  6. Dec 25, 2014 #5
    Yes, it's abnormal, but like zoki85 said: all that matters is if it works for you. Personally, I choose to go to school part-time (1/2 - 3/4), because I need a lot of time to absorb all the material. Too many classes and I feel like it's too much for me to really take in. I have to be able to integrate it to feel good about myself (and the material), which takes time.

    Though more important is that you can do so in a healthy, balanced manner. Being extreme is easier than being balanced, because it requires less thoughtfulness.
  7. Dec 25, 2014 #6
    Well, perhaps other people are just smarter. However, it's what I need to do for straight A+'s.

    If I think about it carefully, I'd say it'd be about 40 hour a week doing math, not 50. That's only ~6 hour a day, every day of the week. Every problem is done twice, every detail of every proof is understood. Anything less than an A+ is unacceptable to me.

    The really tough thing was the neuroscience. The individual units of neuroscience information are easy, but it's that you are typically responsible for ~250-300 pages of typed notes for the final. So if you take 3 neurosciences courses a semester, that's 750 - 900 pages you have to memorize with laser precision + textbook readings. I kid you not. It is brutal.

    So yeah, it's 100+ hours.
    I want to do a PhD at an ivy...Had to do what I had to do.

    Happy Holidays!
  8. Dec 25, 2014 #7
    "Anything less than an A+ is unacceptable to me."

    Honestly, and I say this will all respect, this is painful and almost embarrassing to read. I'm not trying to be a jerk, I'm really not. Send this post to yourself in a few years with https://www.futureme.org/ and hopefully you'll realize how well, to be frank, dumb you're being (again, I'm really not trying to insult you). Rather than spending 110 hours a week studying, spend an hour talking to a professor. You'll realize how skewed your views are and how detached from reality all of this is.

    "I want to do a PhD at an ivy"


    It sounds like you're more interested in living up to some image in your head, than actually being a scientist.
  9. Dec 25, 2014 #8
    Can I ask you another question. What was the point of making this thread? You asked if it was normal to study this much, then proceed to talk about how high standards you have for yourself. Are you looking for an answer, or are you just trying to show off?
  10. Dec 25, 2014 #9

    1. I did not do well first year (partied way too much). Most top schools require GPAs close to 4.0 to get it. Thus, I had to get most A+'s to cancel out my first year.
    2. I have long felt I had to work much harder than others to get the same grades but didn't know if this was an illusion. My friends all seemed to be in the same boat.
    3. I know the specific type of research I want to do, and only few school have the resources I want. To be specific, advanced Calcium Imaging and Two photon imaging, which are quite new and can cost millions.
    Several non-ivy schools do have this tech., but the majority do not. Chasing a brand (e.g., "Harvard") instead of the best education is foolish. If that's your point, I agree. Science should not be about designer labels, but about producing high quality work.
    4. I have spoke to my professors. They told me point blank after 1st year that if I did not graduate with a high GPA, I'd have no chance.
    This thread confirms what I have suspected for a long time: most people are sufficiently smart to not have to do what I had to do for a high GPA. There isn't anything heartwarming about that being confirmed.

    I am certainly proud of my work ethic as well as GPA, and believe I can do good science, but I really do wish I had more IQ points to go with it...if I'm honest.

    I apologize that my thread seemed pompous.
    Thanks for the reply.
  11. Dec 26, 2014 #10
    You seem to be a very bitter person, at-least when it comes to good students and to people who value academic achievement above all.. It seems to me you're trying to rationalize your own "failures".

    To OP:

    If working 100hours/week works for you, then by all means do it. Make sure you're healthy however, eating well, sleeping well and socializing a bit. I applaud you for being able to work such long hours!
  12. Dec 26, 2014 #11


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    Maybe ## 7 \cdot 8=56 ##? Otherwise, there are only 42 hours left in the week.

    @HizzleT: I agree with others here, if you can pull it of in a healthy and sustainable way, go for it. I don't know if I could pull it off without
    e.g., working out 3+ times a week and with a special environment.

    I think knowing so clearly what you want helps you make the effort.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
  13. Dec 26, 2014 #12
    He was taking 24 hours and subtracting 6 for sleep leaving him with 18. That 126 is what is left after minimal sleep. The point being that there would only be 26 hours left in the week for everything else.

    @OP Its hard to say you have to work harder then most people, since most people dont get straight A+s. Then again most people dont study that much.
  14. Dec 26, 2014 #13


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    Couldn't have been that abnormal for the OP. After all, he did volunteer to work in a lab 10 hours a week, when he should have been studying instead of goofing off. ;)
  15. Dec 26, 2014 #14


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    Ah, I see, I though maybe he was the one studying 100 hours, and too tired to get the calculations right.
  16. Dec 26, 2014 #15


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    Pfffft - no time for sleep: clearly, you need to study more!
  17. Dec 27, 2014 #16
    I'm not bitter at all! I am starting a decent masters program soon and I'm quite happy with my academic success. Please don't attack me, when I really am trying to help him. This thread isn't about me, so I won't say anything more, but all of my posts were in good faith and I genuinely want the best for the OP.

    Even the best students I know don't study 100 hours a week. I don't really buy "oh I'm dumber than they are so I need to study more". Especially at the undergrad level, there really isn't THAT much aptitude involved. Most undergrad classes really are not THAT hard. Even graduate classes aren't THAT much based on aptitude.

    Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding of all of this is that to a serious scientist, undergrad grades mean very little once you get past undergrad. Every professor I've talked to said that once they left undergrad, no one ever asked what their grades were. The only thing it matters for is graduate admission, and even then straight A+s are not required to get into good grad schools.

    I will offer one last piece of advice to OP. There is a lot of randomness in the world, including academia. There's a site online where people post their stats and where they applied for grad school (gradcafe I believe). One student might get rejected from MIT, but accepted to Harvard. Another might get rejected from Harvard, accepted to MIT for the same subject. Yes, good grades and letters of rec will help, but there's only so much you can control. You might study 100 hours a week, and fail a class due to something beyond your control. Things happen, and studying that much is a way of trying to control life, but you can't control everything. If you are happy studying that much, I can't tell you to do otherwise. But I strongly suspect that is not the case.
  18. Dec 27, 2014 #17
    In my last year of undergrad, I put in about 10-12 hours per day 5-6 days a week. So thats anywhere from 50-72 hours per week. That was the time I needed for
    1)Classes/studying/final projects
    2) teaching assistant
    3) research assistant
    4)student government position
    5)applying to grad school
    6)taking care of sick family member (could be more or less)

    not including about 1 hour of commuting total each day. I did a math degree by the way.
  19. Dec 27, 2014 #18


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    I bolded the part that concerns me here.

    It may be possible to keep up this pace through an entire semester. Some lucky few can even manage it for a few years. But eventually that "horrific mentally" catches up with most people. You see, you need time for basic chores, taking care of yourself (exercising, preparing proper meals, sleeping), socializing, etc. And what's more, the balance can easily be thrown off if you encounter even a minor disaster (getting sick for a couple of weeks, break up with a significant other, meeting a new significant other, landlord spontaneously evicts you, etc.)

    I think there are a few people who do put in those kinds of hours. There was a thread on these forums not too long where someone asked about sitting for sixteen hours per day to study. Most of these people are high academic achievers. I don't think this (100+hours club) is the norm though - even for those with very high marks.

    In my experience, the norm among those who did reasonably well was around a 40 hour week, with short periods that would bump up into the 60-80 hour range (mid-term weeks, finals, those hell weeks where everything was due at once).
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