I’ll be the first to admit that I’m fairly involved at my university, so my schedule may be more representative of what a busy
student’s day is like. My weekly schedule is more forgiving than it seems, however, regardless of how many times my Google Calendar alerts me to some event I have arranged.
Planning my schedule each semester revolves around three main aspects:
1. What classes are available
2. How many hours I’m willing to take
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3. Extracurricular involvement
Unlike most high schools, professors teach certain topics at specific times of the year. This means that a class that students may need to graduate may only be taught during the fall semester or spring semester. This factor, when combined with the fact that there is a range of hours a student may be willing to take, means that strategic planning is needed.
For example, I have to maintain an average of about 16 to 17 class hours per semester in order to complete my double major within four years. The ability to apply my AP credit hours to general education requirements was extremely helpful since I don’t have to take an “overflow” (creating a schedule of 18+ class hours requires a petition).
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Some classes require more work than others, which puts a limit on how much time students can dedicate to extracurriculars. It makes sense that calculus classes may take more time if a student has never experienced advanced mathematics before, but history classes may be easier if that student has experience in an AP history course from high school.
Personally, I limited myself to three extracurriculars and have kept that up since my first semester. Different student organizations require various time commitments. My position as the Novice Debate Executive Board Chair on the Speech and Debate Team takes about 4-5 hours per week. In comparison, I volunteer for 2 hours per week at a community dinner.
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Here’s a brief look into my Monday schedule for clarification:
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
The lecture hall is located 15 minutes away from my dorm. I do my best to leave my room by 9:30 AM in case I miss the bus so I have time to walk to my class, no matter the weather.
11:15 AM - 11:30 AM
I walk back to the dining hall closest to my dorm so I can eat lunch and freshen up before my afternoon classes. If I have time, I quickly walk up to my room since our dorm is connected to the dining hall. I leave behind books I don’t need for the afternoon in my room so my backpack is lighter.
12:00 PM - 3:15 PM
I have three consecutive classes, and the first one is located 20 minutes away from my dorm. After that, I have to speed walk from the South Quad to the Main Quad so I can make it to the other two classes on time.
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
This time is specifically set aside for homework that is due Tuesday. Once I’m back in my room, I organize my desk with all the materials I need and start studying. I put my phone on silent so I can focus on my readings.
5:10 PM - 5:40 PM
Dinner is much more relaxed for me since I have a half hour to actually savor my food. I bring my backpack and jacket downstairs so I can walk straight from the dining hall to the Speech and Debate meeting that’s located 10 minutes away.
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
I take notes during the Speech and Debate meeting so members who are not attending can see what we covered. The executive board sets up schematics for the Thursday meeting so practices are pre-scheduled.
8:15 PM - 10:30 PM
I finish whatever homework I have left for Tuesday’s classes before I go to bed. If there are smaller assignments that are due throughout the week, I may fit them in during this time period as well.
Not all students will have 12 hours packed into one day like I do on Mondays, but my schedule still gives a fair glimpse into what college life could be like.
It’s worth to note that a student who takes more hours than other students is not smarter or more accomplished; comparing class hours with friends should not be a deciding factor as to how a schedule should be designed.
When students create their schedules, I recommend they aim to balance out their lives in order to graduate on time while also making the most of the collegiate opportunities around them.