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18 units too much in one semester?

  1. Jul 3, 2014 #1
    How do you guys feel about taking 18 units in a semester? I know its relative to how difficult the courses are (eg humanities vs technical classes).
    Right now im planning on taking
    Calculus 2 (4 units)
    Physics 1 +Lab (Mechanics) (3+1 units)
    A computer engineering class digital logic (3 units)
    A general engineering class digital computation (3 units)
    and finally intro to chem which is 4 units including a lab
    i was thinking about dropping chemistry and be set with 14 units since this is my first time taking physics and calculus and everything would all be new and dont want to be overwhelmed. what is your take any advice is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 3, 2014 #2
    It will be tough, and time consuming. I couldn't have done it... But then I worked too. One of my classmates got two degrees in three years by taking and acing huge class loads like that and more. It depends on you really. What is the most classes you have taken and aced before? Do you work or have other responsibilities?
  4. Jul 4, 2014 #3
    I don't think it's a good idea starting college with 18 credit hours worth of STEM classes. It is doable of course, but you will need a lot of discipline and effort. What I think you should do is, try it for the first week or first few days, and if you think you can do it, then go for it; if not, then drop a class or replace one with a gen ed. I think asking your adviser will help you a lot.

    If you want to get ahead, I think your best bet is to utilize summer semesters. Most of the lower division courses are offered during summer in large state universities (if you are attending one), so you can spread out the course work to summer to do them.
  5. Jul 4, 2014 #4


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    Do not recommend it at all.
  6. Jul 4, 2014 #5
    Drop chemistry for sure! Calculus 2 and physics 1 usually have HUGE courseloads because in most universities they're known as weeder classes. If your isn't, that's great, but my advice would be to drop chem for now!

    Good luck.
  7. Jul 4, 2014 #6


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    It depends on how long you want to spend in school.

    We don't know what your field of study is, but in the US, a typical engineering undergrad degree requires 128 hours of classes, per accreditation requirements. If you want to stay in school four years, that's an average of 16 hours a semester. Because of scheduling, this number of hours for a particular semester may vary, as required or elective courses may not be offered when the student would like to take them.

    When I went to school, I don't think I had one semester in four years where my curriculum scheduled less than 18 hours, and the second year was the worst, where I had seven classes and either 21 or 22 hours total. Needless to say, many classmates washed out during this time, but once you got over this hump, you were pretty much set for the rest of the program.
  8. Jul 4, 2014 #7


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    I don't think it's too much but I would keep a record of how many hours you spend each day on each subject. At the weekend, look over the hours and if a subject is lagging, spend some time on it on the weekend, so you end up with a fair amount of hours spent. Otherwise it could happen that one subject lags behind and suddenly becomes difficult.

    I'd also write down every Sunday how exam prepared you think you are in each subject, a mark out of 5 to measure how ready you are at that time to write an exam on everything you've learned in that subject up to that week. The goal is not to drop below 4/5. If it happens, you'll have an early warning sign and can work to fix it, either by posting on PF.com or looking for resources online or whatever.
  9. Jul 4, 2014 #8
    thanks for the input everyone ive decided that i am going to drop chemistry and take it sometime later because that class isn't a pre req to any of my other engineering classes and i know that calc 2 and physics 1 will take much of my time since they are "weeder" classes. fwiw those asking what my major/field of study is, i am currently on the electrical engineering curriculum at a state university.
  10. Jul 4, 2014 #9


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    That looked pretty close to my first year undergraduate course load, and while it was a lot of work, it was definately manageable. And it's important to consider the consequences of dropping classes. Does having to take chemistry later, as a summer class perhaps, mean that you'll have to sacrifice a summer job? That could have consequences in terms of debt load and work experience for when you graduate.

    Work within your limits, for sure, but it's also important to keep in mind the reason you're at university in the first place.
  11. Jul 4, 2014 #10
    good advice choppy, now im back to the drawing board deciding between to things that could ultimately make my decision for me. is it about trying to achieve the highest gpa that i can in order to open as many doors for me as possible after graduation or is it about challenging myself to take a heavier course load which will ultimately cause me to change my work habits and improve my work ethic at the price of a possibly lower gpa. what do u think?
  12. Jul 4, 2014 #11
    I recently completed a semester which included:

    Calculus II - 3 hours + 1 hour tutorial
    Hons. Physics II - 3 hours + 3 hours lab
    General Chemistry II - 3 hours + 3 hours lab
    Introductory Programming II - 3 hours + 2 hours lab
    introductory Astrophysics - 3 hours + 3 hours lab

    I had 27 hours/week in class.

    It was brutal. I had moved cross-country with my partner and we were trying to build a social circle as well. I came out with a B+ at the end of the day, but I didn't enjoy a moment of it and won't make the mistake again. As a matter of fact, I've organized my schedule to not be frustrated by more than 6 hours of lab again.
  13. Jul 4, 2014 #12


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    Honours Physics II is a completely different level of pain to what Ben is looking at. Without that subject, your workload would have been far more reasonable, I suspect.
  14. Jul 4, 2014 #13


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    I'm sure Choppy will respond as well but I say why not do both, workload and GPA? You have the resources available to you and the workload will not be that extreme. And if we think about probabilities, the probability that one does well with a lower workload may in fact be lower. It's certainly correlated that way, students who take more subjects score better on average (I believe). It could be that they are naturally more intelligent, that they are less likely to drop out because they have shown some interest in increasing the workload, that they have less idle time and are excelling by habit.

    But if we ignore the correlation, there is reason to believe that having a higher workload can mean forming a habit of learning, becoming good at it. And with a lower workload, it may be the opposite, finding it all too easy, learning bad habits instead.

    So I don't think it is clear that your marks will be lower. And I think it is up to you whether that happens. My experience is that marks will force themselves to be low quite mercilessly, whether one has time or not, and getting them to stay high should be easier when working has become a habit.
  15. Jul 4, 2014 #14
    You are very likely right. The point was that 18 hours isn't as crazy as some may make it out to be.
    I still find the most difficult thing grappling with study habits after spending so much time working in the private sector to pay the bills! Coming from an environment where study is the day-to-day, it seems very reasonable.
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