Finish college faster, squeeze in another major, try something new, get the most out of your money — good intentions give us many reasons to take extra classes. And you probably know somebody (or are somebody) who is taking on 18, 19, 20 … 25 units this semester (yes, I did meet someone taking 25 credits). Enrollment has arrived, and if the stress isn’t convincing enough, I am writing to give extra encouragement to those prone to taking up heavy loads: Skip the extra class.
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The primary reason to take fewer classes is that it will make us better students. We have all been granted the same 24 hours in one day. Loading in extra classes stretches our own scarce time, and generally, more credits do not translate proportionally to amount of time spent on class assignments. According to the Arizona Board of Regents, 30 hours of out-of-class work is required for every unit. Therefore, 18 units translate to 7.7 hours every day, including weekends, for class time and school work. Studies show that students generally do not meet this standard. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, three fifths of college students spend less than 15 hours per week on assignments. Only about 11 percent of first-year, and 14 percent of senior students spent over 26 hours studying. This is less than the recommended weekly time for fifteen units. Frankly, most of us either do not have (or do not want to have) the time to adequately devote to more than fifteen units.
Yet students who take huge course loads generally do well. The University of Arizona does not have readily-available statistics correlating GPA and credit load, but from experience, my guess is students with higher course loads do not do worse than students who take less credits, GPA-wise. The students who take excessive amounts of credits are often ambitious and confident in their ability to juggle many classes (and extracurriculars and jobs too?), but it does not mean these students are doing as well as they can.
Especially for students who know what they want to do after college, extra classes are not beneficial. An economics professor once told me to drop any extra classes, read the textbooks for my remaining classes thoroughly and critically consider what the textbooks have to say. From the professor’s perspective, it is more important to learn a lot from a few classes than a smaller amount from many.
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Having unregulated school time is a good thing. Visiting professors outside of having assignment-related questions, exploring concepts independently of class, giving time to help your peers, having time to do the entire reading assignment (wow!), all benefit your learning experience, and can push a student from being good to standing out among their peers.
Students who take fewer classes are often less stressed, which improves their enjoyment for learning. Also, according to the Center for Studies on Human Stress, stress interferes with our ability to encode new information, so taking more classes slows us down.
Choose your classes wisely this enrollment session. For any classes that do not apply directly to your end goals (major and otherwise), think carefully about enrolling. If the class will put you over the edge of being able to spend a sufficient amount of time on your other classes, remove it from your shopping cart. If it’s not worth your time, remove it from your shopping cart. To all of the heavy loaders, I challenge you to aim for fifteen units next semester. And I will do my best to take my own advice as well.
Toni Marcheva is a junior studying economics who once took 24 units in one semester. Never again.