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How long are your classes? How often do they meet?

  1. Aug 20, 2015 #1
    I've been reading some threads on this site about how many math/physics courses an undergraduate should take in a term. Many posts I've read say that around 3 math/physics courses a term is reasonable for someone who wants to major in physics or math. But something seems amiss because at my school, most students (including me) only take 3 classes a term in total. I've been taking one math class per term for the last year.

    So I'm wondering if the class length/schedule at my school is significantly different from most other posters' here - for me, the average class lasts a little over an hour and meets up three times a week. If you are in college right now (or have graduated somewhat recently with a math or physics major), what was your class schedule like? How many times a week did you meet for each class, and how long were the class sessions?
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2015 #2
  4. Aug 20, 2015 #3
    Well in America, the average student majoring in Stem has completed Calculus AB/BC and other AP courses. Meaning, that the class sequence becomes more open ended. Ie. To take Linear Algebra, Discrete Mathematics, and ODE, atleast Calculus 2 in the pre-rec. This semester I can take 2 math and 1 physics with 1 GE.[/QUOTE]
  5. Aug 20, 2015 #4
    But I mean, how long and how often are your class sessions? Say for example, do your math classes meet up every other day for hour-long classes, etc.? I mostly just want to see if my school differs from other schools in terms of how long/often/hard the classes are so I can see if I should be taking more classes

    EDIT: Because three classes are the standard at my school, and one has to seek out special permission to take more than three full-length classes per term.
  6. Aug 20, 2015 #5
    depends. There are classes which can be 5 units, meet every day for 1 hour. 3 unit classes that meet up 1 day for 3 or 4 hours.

    The opposite can occur. Where you can have a 5 unit class meet 2 times a week for 4 maybe 6 hours a week (I forget). A 3 unit class meets 2 times a week for 1 hour and 15 min to 1 hour and 30 min.

    It depends what system the school is on, as well as, how the department has scheduled the classes.

    For me physics classes tend to be the most time consuming.

    Why are you only taking 1 math class? Are starting out the calculus sequence?
  7. Aug 20, 2015 #6
    at my school a junior college. 18 units are max. If you want to add more, you have to meet with administration.
  8. Aug 20, 2015 #7
    At my school (state university in the U.S.), classes either meet 3 times a week for 50 minutes each, or 2 times a week for 75 minutes each.
  9. Aug 20, 2015 #8
    That sounds pretty similar to my situation- how many math classes do you usually take per term?

    Yes, last year I took the calculus sequence I, II, and III. If future math classes are similar in difficulty to calc, it seems like it would be tough to take more than one at a time and still do well. (Then again, maybe I'm more of an "algebra person".)
  10. Aug 20, 2015 #9
    Usually the amount of credit hours a class is labeled is how many hours you meet every week + or - 30 minutes. If people aren't taking 14-15 credits a semester they either have obligations or are lazy. I'm in 14 credits right now and work 26 hours a week and still get everything done with time for myself.

    If people at your school only take about 9-12 credits, outdo them. You're wasting your time otherwise.
  11. Aug 20, 2015 #10
    The difficulty rises exponentially.
  12. Aug 20, 2015 #11
    Looks like my school's credit system is pretty different from the norm- here the average class meets a total of about 3.5 hours a week and is counted as 6 credits. Which does seem kind of sketchy- I wish I could see what kinds of lectures/homework people from other schools are getting to figure out if my school is indeed below standards, or if everything is just way harder here. Both possibilities seem somewhat off-putting to me for obvious reasons.

    The main reason I'm worried is that, even though my school seems slackish from my describing it, things are actually pretty tough, as it seems that many people here struggle with the workload despite there being three courses per term. Myself included.

    Here are two basic possibilities:
    (1): My school is actually easy relative to other schools, and the majority of students in my school including myself are dumb/lazy/academically incompetent relative to students in other schools. I really don't think this is likely, but since my school is a small LAC it may be that the standards here are more relaxed than at a research university.
    (2): My school is at least as difficult as other schools, but it seems easy due to its unconventional credit system and class schedule. Also very possible, because once again it is a small LAC and thus some **** may go on that is way different from elsewhere.

    Both possibilities seem to kind of suck. Perhaps there is a third possibility that I've overlooked.
    At any rate, I suppose the only solution either way is to work. There is no way in hell I'm letting every other person on this forum beat me for lack of effort.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  13. Aug 20, 2015 #12


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    It's fairly standard to require about 120 credit hours to complete a degree. Most undergraduate courses in North America will be worth three credit-hours - meaning there are approximately 3 hours per week of direct contact time over the 15 week semester. In some cases those are spread out as three one-hour lectures, two 1.5 hour lectures or a single three-hour lecture (common for night classes). In summer sessions, the number of hours per week increase, but the total number of hours remains the same.

    This means that you need about five courses per semester on average to graduate with an undergraduate degree.

    One observation that I've made with respect to the most successful students is that they're the one who look at this situation from a "I get to take five courses per semester" point of view. They are genuinely disappointed that they can't fit more in. The less successful ones tend to the adopt the "I have to take a minimum of N courses to get the degree" point of view and avoid taking anything more.
  14. Aug 20, 2015 #13
    What? I have never taken more than 12 credit hours. That makes me lazy?

    Instead of spending time on more classes, I choose to devote myself to research, and will graduate with 4 publications. I don't consider that lazy.
  15. Aug 21, 2015 #14
    What's typically the case is that it's impossible to graduate in 4 years taking only 12 hours a semester. I'm taking 20 hours this semester so that I can fit in the classes I need and the classes that I'm taking as extras because I'm interested in them. I'm also doing research with a professor and I'm in the honors program for my university. I'm not saying that to brag. I'm saying I'm going to brutal lengths to graduate in 4 years (because otherwise I have to start forking up cash because my scholarships will end).

    Of course, if you want insanity, I know a guy who triple majored in Physics, Electrical engineering, and chemistry, and he graduated in 4 years with like a 3.7 GPA. Took around 24 hours every semester. Now he's getting his Ph.D (I think either in physics or applied physics). The guy must've never slept.
  16. Aug 21, 2015 #15
    I can see how it would be difficult to graduate in 4 years with only 12 hours/sem if you don't come in with any credits, but most freshmen come in with plenty of AP credits and whatnot.

    Yeah... I bet that guy really hated his life in undergrad. That's horrible...
  17. Aug 21, 2015 #16
    Unfortunately I went to a terrible high school with little funding and no AP classes. I still kind of envy the highschoolers who got to be in my calculus 3 course before even starting college.
  18. Aug 21, 2015 #17
    Most of those kids can just plug and chug. Don't get it wrong. Some of those students are verynsmart. The important thing is that you are now an adult. It is your responsibility to prepare yourself. Some people have better opportunity than others, that is life. The important thing is to make a game plan and follow it.
  19. Aug 21, 2015 #18


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    A bachelor's degree in engineering takes a minimum of 128 hours to complete. If you want to complete your degree in 4 years (or 8 semesters), that means an average of 16 hours a semester. Of course, not all engineering programs are structured the same, and some institutions may require completing more hours than the ABET minimum.
  20. Aug 21, 2015 #19


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    How many credits (total) are required for graduation?

    How many terms are in an academic year (not counting summer school)? This sounds like a quarter system: three quarters per academic year, with an optional summer quarter. My undergraduate LAC many years ago was like this. We also had an optional "interterm" between Thanksgiving and Christmas which allowed for one course. Normal classes met four times a week, probably a bit over an hour each, for five credits. Normal course load was three courses per term, nine per year, plus one optional interterm course. I don't remember how many credits we needed for graduation.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  21. Aug 21, 2015 #20
    For a 3 credit class it's twice a week for 75min or 3 times a week for 50min. I really dislike the 50min classes, I took a graduate class that met twice a week for 50min and the lab was on our own time (VLSI with Cadence)...that really stunk!

    I've never been able to do more than 12-14 credits in my junior/senior EE classes. In the first two years I would take 17-18 credits but they were easy courses (chem, phy1, calc2, music hist, literature). Too many labs and semester projects now for me to stack up the courses. Adding in research, volunteering and work makes my schedule totally booked. I also try to enter any design contests that I can each semester (TI innovation challenge for example). I learn way more from exploring material on my own and doing projects than I do in a class, self-taught myself more verilog than I learned in my school's actual HDL course.

    I've been able to stay on track and fit in extra courses by taking summer classes.
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