In high school, you may have finished homework in the hall right before class on more than one occasion and still earned a good grade; that just isn't possible in college. College freshmen are usually shocked at how much time they are expected to spend on coursework outside of class. You can expect to spend as much time on homework in college as you would at a job.
The Teaching and Learning Center of the University of Oregon recommends that you spend at least two to three hours per course hour reading, studying or doing homework. Likewise, the University of Michigan-Flint recommends between six to nine hours of study time per week per three-credit hour course. Therefore, a full-time student taking four courses will devote, on average, between three to five hours per day working on coursework in addition to class time. Although these figures may seem high compared to high school, they are not outlandish considering what you will have to do during that time.
Many high schools offer an open period or study hall, and you can study or finish homework during that time. Also, many teachers may give you time during their classes to work on homework or read. However, in college, you must complete all the assignments and reading before coming to class, as the professor reserves class time for lecture or discussion. You should expect to spend three hours of time studying outside of class for every hour you spend in class. This means that 12 hours in class would require 36 hours of studying. This is more than a full-time job.
Read, Read, Read
You will read a lot more per class in college than you did in high school. Also, the content of the text will be more complicated and difficult to understand. As a result, reading will take you longer. If you skim, you won’t understand or remember important information that will be on the test or discussed in class, and your grade will reflect your lack of effort. Remember that just because assigned reading is never discussed in class or mentioned in lecture doesn't mean it won’t be on the test. College requires critical thinking. In addition to understanding the content you read, you will need to analyze the meaning that is intended. Expect to write a lengthy paper in most of your classes. The reading and analyzing you do, as you study, will enable you to write top notch papers.
Some professors will not require minor homework assignments in addition to the readings but will give only major tests. This means that reading, review and study time are even more crucial, as flunking just one test will negatively affect your overall grade in the course, possibly beyond redemption. You should also expect to write research papers, work with others on group presentations and complete large projects that reflect your learning, during the semester.
Courtney O'Banion Smith holds degrees in communication, English and creative writing. For more than 11 years, she has taught English, composition, literature, and creative writing courses to college students from diverse backgrounds both face-to-face and online.