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How to cope with the workload of college?

  1. Jun 17, 2014 #1
    I am new to college. In 12th grade I studied only 6 courses. But in college I have to study almost thrice that amount each year. So much of workload. It seems as if the entire 11th and 12th grade syllabus would be covered in 2 months or less. So how do i adapt myself to study at such a fast pace with heavy workload?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 17, 2014 #2
    Basically, expect 6-8 hours of study (8 recommended, 6 minimum) per day after classes. I recommend doubling this amount on Saturdays. You may or may not take a rest on Sundays.
  4. Jun 17, 2014 #3
    Yeah, so I think this is too extreme. Studying 8 hours a day is insane. And 16 hours on saturdays, really? You'll be burned out after a month.

    Of course you need to study quite some amount of time. But in particular, you should study smart. Manage your time well and be sure not too waste time at things which are not so important. And most of all, try to have fun. You chose the major because you must like it somewhat. So you should keep trying to have fun with the material.
  5. Jun 17, 2014 #4
    I would guess at least four months, but the point still stands :p

    I like that you are being realistic about the workload you are about to have. It seems as if most new students (and some not-so-new students, I'm afraid) expect to be able to play games through class and come out with at least a B.

    1. In your orientation class and many of your more difficult classes, the instructor will probably give study advice. Listen to it.

    2. Prioritize by both difficulty and deadline.

    3. For at least the first semester, study every weekday and most weekends. After that, you will probably become more effective at study and may not need as much time set aside for it.

    4. Don't count on having free time during your first semester. Make no commitments.

    These are just a few things that popped in my head. I could probably give better, more general advice, but my main point is that you do get used to it. I still have little free time as a Junior, but I don't feel as stressed and busy as I did at first.
  6. Jun 18, 2014 #5
    I was giving this as a general guideline. Either way, University will present you with approx (minimum) 600-650 hours worth of work per every 4 months, and that is what should be expected.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2014
  7. Jun 18, 2014 #6
    One thing I noticed that quite often separated those who succeeded vs those who didn't is when they start their work.
    I would suggest taking a crack at assignments as soon as you get them. If you can finish them right away great, but often it will take another class or two for the covered material to catch up. Whats great in that situation is then you'll have an better idea of what is important and what is less important.
    Also by starting early you'll have more chances to talk to the TA's/Prof about questions you have.

    So many people leave things to the last minute and then are surprised to find that they have 12 hours of work to do in the next 8 :D
  8. Jun 18, 2014 #7


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    Well, 640 hours in total over 16 weeks is 40 hours a week, which is a sensible number, but less than your "8 hours a day after classes plus 16 hours on Saturday."

    The trick is to find out how to do 40 hours of effective study a week, rather than spending more hours ineffectively.
  9. Jun 18, 2014 #8
    I don't know where you guys are getting these numbers. I'm in a tier 1 university and do not need to study nearly as much as claimed here. Generally 0-3 days of study with 4 hours each day suffices before exams, with one, or both, of the following prerequisites:

    1. Go to class, pay attention, ask questions if anything is not clear.

    2. Read the material in the book (and do the practice questions if this applies)

    Do this last part until you feel comfortable with the material. This should get you straight A's.

    If you are spending 8 hours a day after classes studying the material you are majoring in the wrong thing. You will be eaten alive once you graduate, as there are many people who will be able to answer undergraduate level problems with much less than 8 hours of preparation time, and they won't burn out. Take into account that real world problems are also much more difficult than undergraduate classroom problems.

    The reason that college is more fast paced is because they do not spoon feed you the information. You do not spend time doing problems in class, so you can move much faster than in high school. Major in something you like and are good at, and remember your classmates are also high school grads.

    Good Luck!
  10. Jun 18, 2014 #9
    Agreed - this is far more to-the-point than my post. Every classmate* who has ever asked me for help has freely admitted that they've never so much as opened the book, or they rarely study at best. Relying on lectures is setting yourself up for failure.

    Ideally you should have read the material before you hear it in class. Then you know ahead of time which parts you need to listen to most closely, and what questions you should ask.

    * Okay, almost all of them. But the ones who did study didn't really need as much help as they thought.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2014
  11. Jun 18, 2014 #10
    Yes in my experience some professors are worthless as pedagogues, although they are great conversation partners once you are up to speed or just need help with a problem. Please read the book guys. Really. I aced organic chemistry 1+2 (and quite a few other large lecture classes where there is zero interaction) without setting foot in lecture after the midterm of orgo 1. Why? I read the book and did the problems. I saw many premed kiddies crying in the library come finals week. Why? They hadn't read the book. The reason there is a book is because someone thought they are an exceptionally good teacher, and your professor concurred.

    College can be tough. Life is much tougher. If you want to be successful you will need to take the initiative yourself.

    Good luck again guys!
  12. Jun 18, 2014 #11
    I agree with this. My experience was similar. Two out of three of my first physics professors were mediocre at best, the other was pretty good. I did most of my learning by reading the textbook. Aside from the fact that a lot of people think the common textbooks are good, or they wouldn’t be common, it’s good to get used to learning from reading. You may not always have access to someone that’s knowledgeable about something you’re interested in.

    In general I’d suggest not procrastinating. Once I started getting used to the pace of a university (it was an adjustment, I never studied in high school), I would typically read the relevant material before the lecture and looked at the lectures as a supplement to the books.

    This might be a personal preference, but I learn better studying in smaller chunks of time. I’d learn more in 2 one-hour sessions of studying physics than I’d learn in 1 two-hour session. Basically I liked doing some studying every day, but never had any interest in marathon study sessions. I also liked breaking things up. For example studying physics for say an hour or 1.5 hours, then something else like history or anthropology for a similar amount of time, then get some exercise, then go back to study physics or something else and so on.

    I also agree with this, learning is a lot of fun, enjoy the process. A university is a fantastic place to be.
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