3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

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Quackers McDuck
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3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Quackers McDuck » Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:20 am UTC

I just got back from my orientation and I was very surprised at this figure. It made me think back to when I was first entering high school: there was a big assembly at our middle school, and they warned us there would be "1 hour of homework per honors class per night in high school." Of course, there was nowhere near that much even with 4 AP classes.

In your experience, how accurate is this number?

Also, when I signed up for classes, I ended up with 19 credit-hours, which I was told afterwards is "insane." I'm going for engineering. I don't want to seem arrogant, especially since other people would probably know better than me what is a reasonable amount of college courses, but I heard the exact same thing when I signed up for 4 AP classes for my senior year, and that was no problem at all, so I tend not to heed those warnings too much.

My courses are...


Physics for Engineers I (4 credits)
Honors Calculus II (4)
Writing thr Literature (4)
Introduction to Film (3)
Intro to computing (2)
Orientation to Engineering (1)
Freshman Honors Seminar (cheesy thing about life at college) (1)

I'm thinking of dropping intro to film, just because I should probably play it safe, and if I find that I could have handled more, I'll just take more classes in the remaining semesters.
Last edited by Quackers McDuck on Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:49 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby jmorgan3 » Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:47 am UTC

Don't worry. I did 16 credits last semester and I definitely did not study 48 hours each week. I might have studied that much during finals week, but that was the result of massive procrastination. 19 hours would be a lot of work, but if four hours are seminar (I'm guessing BS) classes, then you will be fine.
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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Sartorius » Sun Jun 15, 2008 4:08 am UTC

It really depends on your classes. My first semester of college, I took 18 hours and had nothing close to the work/study load I had recently taking 14 hours. I think the 3:1 ratio is sort of a guideline as to how much one should be studying rather than a hard and fast rule. While introductory courses will probably be a breeze and so you won't need to study for them much, the 3:1 guideline will kick in whether you mean it to or not in upper level courses.
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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby JayDee » Sun Jun 15, 2008 5:06 am UTC

Sartorius wrote:It really depends on your classes.
This.

For my first year Chemistry course, this is what they said, which makes me laugh:
Intro to Chem Course Outline wrote:STUDENT LOAD DISTRIBUTION
(Based on a notional total input of 160 hours per 10 credit points used in Chemistry)

Formal Activities:
Lectures 36 hours
Laboratory Sessions 22.5 hours
Quizzes 4.5 hours
Examination 2 hours

Non-Formal Activities (notional):
Laboratory Reports 12 hours
Tutorial Exercises 12 hours
Directed Reading 30 hours
Private Study 41 hours

Total: 160 hours
On the other hand, in 2nd year Ancient Greek we are expected to spend less time on homework than we do in class.
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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Lycur » Sun Jun 15, 2008 6:11 am UTC

It'll vary alot week to week. Although, on average, that estimate may be a little high, there will be weeks where the workload spikes up. I wouldn't worry about it too much though, if anything you're course load actually looks pretty light.

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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Kizyr » Sun Jun 15, 2008 6:16 am UTC

Quackers McDuck wrote:I just got back from my orientation and I was very surprised at this figure. It made me think back to when I was first entering high school: there was a big assembly at our middle school, and they warned us there would be "1 hour of homework per honors class per night in high school." Of course, there was nowhere near that much even with 4 AP classes.

In your experience, how accurate is this number?

It's mostly a pointless number. (EDIT: Upon reading a few responses, I'm in agreement now that it's a decent guideline, although far from a set-in-stone number.) There is no consistent class:hours ratio, but the purpose of the number is just so that people who enter college realize that they'll actually have to work at it, and the expectations are different than in high school.

The number of hours per week you spend per class depends on:
- the difficulty of the course
- your aptitude in the subject
- what work is due that week
- how you space out work for longer assignments

There're probably several other things that affect it. Me, I ranged anywhere from a ½:1 ratio (such as in my earlier Japanese classes) to a 10:1 ratio (thesis courses in the last 2 months, or courses which required a large amount of reading).

I should warn you, though, that college classes can be very different from AP courses in terms of difficulty or workload. So the work you did for AP courses isn't always a reliable indicator of the work ahead of you. Really, the best advice I can give is to keep an open mind the first few weeks and try to find a way of structuring your workload that works best for you. That, rather than trying to figure on the right ratio, is your best bet.

Quackers McDuck wrote:Physics for Engineers I (4 credits)
Honors Calculus II (4)
Writing thr Literature (4)
Introduction to Film (3)
Intro to computing (2)
Orientation to Engineering (1)
Freshman Honors Seminar (cheesy thing about life at college) (1)

Since I don't know your college or professors, I'll have to make a few guesses based on my own experience. Anyway, your physics, calc, and writing classes will probably be tough; but, it's good that you have a mix of writing-heavy and math-heavy courses (you should try and avoid having all classes that require the same kind of work, or several very difficult courses in one semester, as much as possible).

The film class is a toss-up. I'd try and find people who have taken the course before to get an idea of the kind of workload. One of my favorite classes was a Japanese Culture through Film course, but it required a lot of work and was pretty tough. The intro to computing class sounds like it's no big deal, so it might require little to no work (basing that off the number of credit hours versus the other ones you listed).

If the intro to computing class is no big deal, then what you have up there shouldn't be too heavy a workload. You have: 3 tough classes, 1 unknown, 1 easy class, and 2 technicalities (expecting they'll require nothing but showing up). KF
Last edited by Kizyr on Sun Jun 15, 2008 6:58 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby existential_elevator » Sun Jun 15, 2008 7:22 am UTC

Yeah, I'm going with what everyone here has said so far being pretty true.

I'm doing a philosophy course, and I'd wager that our ration should probably look like 5:1 if we genuinely want to know what's going on. In one of the courses in my first year we were expected to turn out an assessed essay on completely different subjects every two weeks, which was harsh. Yes, you can get away with less study than they recommend, but with a lot of courses its really important that you've done appropriate reading that you can keep up with the lectures. If you're really interested in what you're studying, you'll get a lot out of those 3 hours additional that you won't get out of your contact hour. It can be a really positive thing! ... my best and most interesting additional study this year came from the Classical Civilisation course I took.

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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Micron » Sun Jun 15, 2008 10:08 am UTC

The 3:1 ratio seems like a good guideline to me, at least based on my engineering degree. I agree that the actual ratio will vary a great deal with the courses you take. Some may be easy or cover familiar topics and require little work outside class but if your school is any good and actually challenges you then you will eventually hit some course where you do have to work quite hard to master the material.
Since you cannot really know in advance how much work each course will demand or how hard the material will be for you personally 3:1 is probably a good guideline for planning your schedule. If you make sure you schedule can accommodate that sort of work load then you should be able to do fairly well if all the courses are difficult and you can always find more things to work on if it turns out you do not need that much time. On the other hand if you overload your schedule from the beginning then you'll have no flexibility to cover extra work for more difficult courses.
Also keep in mind that just having enough hours in the day is not sufficient. You're going to have group projects or work that requires lab equipment which cannot be done at any hour so you'll need some extra flexibility in your schedule. You'll also want to be able to adjust your schedule somewhat so you can make time for new activities, or to stop and have fun, or just to discover that living on your own surrounded by other students is a lot of fun but not always particularly productive.

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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Vaniver » Sun Jun 15, 2008 6:05 pm UTC

If you don't know what your workload is going to be like, don't commit to anything which doesn't give you 3 out of class hours free for each in-class hour.

You probably won't need it. But there are a lot of people who go in thinking "oh, this'll be like high school, I won't have to work hard" and go from being in the top tenth of their class to being in the bottom half of their class. If you want an A (or, in some cases a B) you'll probably need those three hours, and the sooner you realize this and actually start using them the better. My roommate freshman year underestimated the amount of work he'd have to do and ended up dropping a few classes halfway through the semester because of it.

But, no, my classes didn't require anything near that level of work for me and most of my friends.
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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby hobbesmaster » Sun Jun 15, 2008 7:14 pm UTC

Along the lines of the previous post - you can drop a course without it appearing on your transcript for about the first 3 weeks of the semester. By the second week you should have a feel for how much work each class is going to be - do not be afraid to drop a class if you're over committed. Hell, don't be afraid to drop one for a W at midterm if you're neglecting one - a W is better than an E (F).

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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Charlie! » Tue Jun 17, 2008 9:30 am UTC

I.... never work outside of class. Usually.

So for me it's more like 4:1 in to out. But of course, I'm magical.
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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Mercy » Tue Jun 17, 2008 11:02 am UTC

I did 22 credits my first semester. Though I am not in a college in the States, our workloads and study ethics should be quite similar, I was advised.

The 22 was nothing, getting 16 this semester almost broke me in half. :) It really is all about the classes and the professors, but if you don't procastinate like most technical students, the 3:1 ratio should be a slight exaggeration.
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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby DarkLordofSquirrels » Tue Jun 17, 2008 9:21 pm UTC

I wouldn't do 19 my first semester. Take some time to learn your limits and make friends, and all that good stuff. That said, over the semester, I definitely don't follow a 3:1 ratio.

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Re: 3:1 out of class:in class work ratio in college?

Postby Mmmm, Pi » Wed Jun 18, 2008 9:47 am UTC

I'd say it depends on your courses. Some of mine, like my maths course, I already knew, so I wasn't really doing much work out of lectures and tutorial classes for that, but others I had no idea what was going on and had to really try hard at.

Ah well, just have to wait till Friday and I'll find out if I've passed the year.
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