How Time Differs in College from High School

by Niclas Marie

In college, you are ultimately responsible to manage your time.

One of the key differences between high school and college is the concept of time. The way time is presented, organized, and managed in college is significantly different from high school, where each minute can be micromanaged by teachers and has to be accounted for. In college, there is more hourly freedom but more responsibility as well.

To be a successful college student, you'll have to understand how time is treated everywhere from your school's registrar to breaks in between classes. Once you have a clear grasp of time's role in a college environment, you'll be better able to manage it and make the most out of every second.


Scheduling the week

Unlike in high school, you will be responsible for setting your own schedule when you sign up for your college classes. Large universities offer course catalogs every semester that can advise students of when and where classes will be held throughout the day and in different parts of campus. Generally, full-time students spend at least three hours in each of four classes throughout the week. This means that you'll spend a total of 12 hours or more in classrooms.

Choices in scheduling can determine just how many days a week and hours per day you will devote to official class time. Some classes follow a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, requiring that students participate in every class they take on those days for one hour a day. Other courses are offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays: With these classes, meetings take place two days per week but the total time for each session will be longer by 30 minutes to make up for the extra day off.


Choose freely between classes

Short breaks can also be included during these classes and can run as long as 15 minutes. In addition, classes that make lab work a requirement can tack on extra class time. Colleges and universities often offer the same class many times during the day and with different professors to accommodate students' schedules. Classes may even be offered in the evening or during the summer to help students complete their degree requirements faster.

Breaks between classes can be different than in high school, too. One-hour classes in high school are usually taken back to back, with only a few minutes granted for breaks in between. In contrast, you can have, on average, 10 minutes to get to classes on a college campus. If your campus is large and you need more time to get from one class to another, you can strategize while scheduling and give yourself an hour break between two classes. Due to scheduling conflicts or full classes, it's not uncommon for students to experience hours of free time between classes. The most pragmatic of students put this time to use by studying.


Plan on spending three hours on your won for each hour in class

While having classes for 12 hours a week may seem like it can afford you a lot of free time, college courses can be demanding and require more study time than high school courses. For example, professors can expect that much of the reading work contained on a syllabus be done outside of class. In general, you can plan to study three hours or more on your own for each hour you spend in class. For this reason, a personal organizer or calendar can come in handy, as it will allow you to schedule specific hours of the day for class-related tasks like studying or organizing materials. Making the most out of your college career will depend on your ability to prioritize tasks, spend every free moment you can spare studying, and planning ahead for semester examinations.


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About the author

is the founder and CEO of TimeCenter Online Scheduling and lives in Helsingborg, Sweden. He loves to code beautiful and simple web apps, and occasionally enjoys a game of blitz chess.






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