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How Many Study Hours for College Courses Must I Do?

written by: Haley Drucker•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/7/2011

Knowing how many hours of studying for college courses you should expect means that you are better prepared and are able to fit in way more socializing! Learn how to calculate and make sense of the study time, to be certain you'll have enough or if the course of choice will suit you.

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    Calculating Study Time

    Many college students will tell you that one of the most important things they learned in their first year of college was how to study. In high school it is often possible to get by without the best study skills, but not so in college. You will find yourself required to memorize and understand a lot of new material, sometimes about subjects you have absolutely no experience in. So it is important to both learn how to study, and to budget enough time for the task.

    So how many hours of studying is necessary? There are many different answers to that question, and it depends on the classes you are taking. But a good rule of thumb is that you should spend two or three hours studying for each credit hour you take. So if you are taking a three credit hour class (which is standard) then you would expect to spend about 6 to 9 hours per week studying for that class. Just to clarify, in this example studying includes homework, reading, projects, and everything else you have to do for a college class.

    That sounds like a lot of study time, and it is. Again, however, that is only the average number hours of studying for college courses. Lower-level classes and classes on subjects you know well and will take up much less of your time, while higher-level and unfamiliar classes can take up more. Some subjects are inherently work-intensive, especially ones like English that require you to write a lot of papers. And each class will fluctuate from week to week. The week after a test you might have almost no work to do, but the week before a big test or paper is due you might spend a good portion of your time on one class.

    So 2 to 3 hours per credit is an average, something to help you budget your time effectively. If you multiply that by 15 credit hours, the typical semester load for a college student, you get 30 to 45 hours of studying per week. Chances are you will find yourself on the lower end of that, however, especially if you have good study skills. But either way, that means you are going to have to find a lot of time to devote to studying every week.

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    Scheduling Study Time

    This is why it is so important to set up daily and weekly schedules for yourself. Chances are you’ve got other responsibilities besides studying—work, internships, clubs and activities, family obligations, etc. Not creating a schedule can make it hard to get everything done on time, and you might end up having to sacrifice one responsibility for another.

    One simple way of creating a college study plan is to list all of your responsibilities, everything that takes up a certain amount of time every week. Figure out about how much time each responsibility or activity takes, and preferably on what days (don’t forget to include time actually spent in class). This leaves you with a good idea of how much time you have each day and week to study, and you can plan out exactly how long you will spend studying and when. You will also know if you have enough time for studying (a number of hours within the 2-3 hours per credit range) or if you are going to have to find the time by dropping or easing up on something else.

    The more specific a schedule is, the better. Take a sheet of paper and write the days of the week across the top, and under each write down everything you’ll need to do that day and about how long it will take. Then include how many hours of studying you should do each day, and maybe for which class (if you can predict that). And make a promise to yourself to actually follow that schedule. You will never follow it perfectly—things you didn’t expect will come up and other things will take more or less time than you thought they would. But having a detailed plan will help you cope with the unexpected, and makes managing college stress a lot easier.

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    Taking a Break

    With so many hours of studying for college courses required of you, it’s hard to imagine how you’ll have the time to do anything else. But the truth is that you will get used to the work of studying for college quickly, and find your own methods to make the task faster and more efficient. Most importantly, don’t forget to have a little fun too. Budget free time into your schedule if you have to, but make sure studying doesn’t impede your opportunities for social activities and clubs. Because in the end those are the things you are going to remember, not the long hours of reading and making flashcards.