College Schedule: How Long are College Classes? How Many Per Day and Each Week?

Good students aren’t born; they become better with practice and good study habits.
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Whether you are a high school student who is preparing to go directly to college or an older, returning student, the question has probably crossed your mind: How many hours a day will I have to study for college classes? While the exact number of hours will depend on the rigors of your class schedule, if you are a part time or full-time student and the requirements set by your instructors, there are some rules of thumb that can guide your time management efforts. Moreover, developing several good habits can help you make the most of your study time so that you can efficiently master the course material.

1 Study Time

Count on spending one to three hours a week of outside class for every class in which you are enrolled. Most college students take 4-6 classes a semester, so that means you should expect to spend between four to 12 hours a week studying for all of your courses combined. A full-time course load is 12 credit hours – or four courses – so in this scenario. Each day, you will typically have one to three classes in the day that take up five or six hours total. Many students take 15 credit hours – or five courses – and spend more time studying than those who take 12 credit hours.

It is best to err on the high side of this estimate and further assume that you will confine your earnest study time to five days a week, perhaps Sundays through Thursdays. This means that you would carve out a few hours a day for study time, with the amount of time depending on what work you have due that week and what materials you have to study. In all likelihood, this will be on the high side, but if you plan for the “worst” scenario, you won’t find yourself struggling to keep up with your studies.

2 Balance Your Schedule

Regardless of whether you are at a community college or four year institution, you will most likely be involved in activities and have jobs outside of class. Conduct a full review of how you spend your time during the week and what activities you may have to sacrifice or rearrange to devote time to studying. Factor in the number of hours you work full- or part-time as well as your commuting time. Consider how much time you spend on meal preparation and eating. Don’t forget your sleep time, although many students find they have to cut back an hour or two a night to make their schedules work.

Many first year college students join many electives at the beginning of their first semester and quickly realize they have overbooked themselves. After a couple of classes a day, having one or more elective meetings at night may get in the way of your studies. Be sure to evaluate your extracurricular activities carefully do you devote enough time to your weekly coursework.

3 Plan Ahead

Review each course syllabus and identify structured activities that may consume some of your out-of-class study time. For example, some science courses require lab time, some art history courses require special excursions and some teaching courses require the accrual of teaching assistant hours. Factor in this time to your daily and weekly study time commitment.

Review each course syllabus and scrutinize the reading assignments. Some courses, such as pre-law and pre-medicine, are reading-intensive. Further, the type of reading required at the college level is more reactive, meaning that you may have to re-read tricky concepts several times, take notes in the margins or write questions for class discussions. Learning how to read reactively is one of the biggest adjustments college students must learn to make. So whereas you may have been able to coast through a page of high school text in three minutes, one page of college text may require 10 minutes or more.

Maintain a calendar so that you can keep track of due dates for papers and the dates of quizzes and tests. Being able to see the week ahead should help keep you on-task and focused – and motivate you to waste precious little time during “crunch weeks,” such as mid-term week.

4 Stay Focused

Minimize or eliminate as many distractions as you can during your study time. You know your habits and predilections better than anyone, so if your home is unbearably noisy during the early evening, perhaps this would be a good time to settle in at the library. The “work” of education requires a steady commitment, so do not let anything interfere with the time you set aside for studying.

5 Other Tips

Give yourself some time to settle into your classes. After the first few weeks, you should have a good sense of the actual time commitment each course will require. And if you’re in doubt, ask your instructor for guidance.

Be sure to be strategic about how you plan your class schedule as well. How many back-to-back classes are you willing to take in a day, and what is the class length? If you plan to take any online courses, whether they have due dates assigned to them or are self paced, be sure to factor that time commitment into your in-person learning requirements as well.

Throughout your college career, you will experience many different class schedules, as they change in the fall and spring semester, and even in the summer if you choose to take summer courses. Always take note of what time of day you enjoyed being in class during, and how that affected your study habits!

  • Remember that there are no incentives for speed reading in college; it is important that you understand the material you read, no matter how long it takes.
  • Give yourself some time to settle into your classes. After the first few weeks, you should have a good sense of the actual time commitment each course will require. And if you’re in doubt, ask your instructor for guidance.

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.