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The Ratio of Studying to Class Time in College

by Amy Sterling Casil

Most colleges recommend that students spend two hours studying outside of class for every hour spent in the classroom. In 2011, researchers sponsored by the Social Science Research Council published results of a five-year study of more than 2,300 college students, which showed that 46 percent of students spent little time studying and made no gains in learning after two years of college. Invest your college time wisely and get the educational benefits you are paying for.

High School vs. College Schedules

High school classes meet an hour a day for 180 school days a year, or 180 hours of education and study. College classes meet three to four hours a week for a 15- or 16-week semester, or about 60 hours in the classroom. College students are expected to make up the 120 hours of difference by studying outside of class. This difference is the source of the 2:1 ratio for study to class time in college.

Group vs. Individual Studying

Studying alone benefits most students more than group study. The National Survey of Student Engagement and the 2011 SSRC survey of student learning both show that group studying produces fewer gains in learning than studying alone. While the NSSE's 2012 survey indicated that students who are involved in fraternities, sororities and other campus groups experience learning gains, the SSRC survey found that group participation had no relationship to how much students learned.

Avoid Classes With Low Expectations

Many college students search online teacher review sites to locate the "easiest" instructor or classes. Avoid this trap identified by the SSRC researchers. The group of students who showed no gains in learning after two years of college failed to do so for a reason. They reported never being required to write a paper longer than 20 pages or being asked to read more than 40 pages a week in any class. Little work equals little learning.

Schedule Class, Study and Work Hours Wisely

Be aware of the times of the day when you have time to study and work intensively. Many students who work are also top students academically. One reason is that they have learned to schedule their time and make the most of studying opportunities. Break up larger assignments into manageable segments, and don't schedule too many classes on the same day. Use the time management and calendar tools provided by most schools to manage your work.

Resources

  • Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses; Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa

About the Author

Amy Sterling Casil is an award-winning writer with a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chapman University in Orange, Calif. She is a professional author and college writing teacher, and has published 20 nonfiction books for schools and libraries.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images