One of the most important questions prospective students have about college life concerns the number of hours they will need to set aside for studying. Over the years, a number of so-called rules of thumb have been developed, but the truth is that the number of hours you will need to study per class will depend upon the difficulty of the class and how efficiently you study. Taking a good look at these two factors can give you a reasonable idea of how much time you will need to budget for studying.

The Difference Between an A and a B

Conventional wisdom holds that a B student should plan two hours of study each week for every credit hour and an A student should hit the books for three hours per week for every credit hour earned. This isn’t necessarily bad advice. However, most classes don’t require that much studying, and some actually require more.

Harder Subjects Require More Study

A slightly more realistic approach is to base your study schedule on the difficulty level of the class. Figure two hours of study time for every credit hour for elective classes or classes in subjects that come easier for you. Plan four hours a week for every credit hour for difficult classes and three hours for the classes that fall somewhere in the middle. A handy formula that you can use to help determine how many hours of study you should schedule using this rule of thumb, along with other resources for new students, can be found here.

Study Smarter, Not Longer

You can dramatically reduce the amount of time you need to spend studying by studying at the right time. Allow yourself a half-hour before each log-in to review your notes and downloads from previous classes and schedule a half-hour after each log-in to go over what you have just learned. This will trim hours from your weekly study schedule. Each week, review all online notes and downloads, personal notes and old tests or quizzes. Read your textbook as you go along. It will make it much easier to understand the work. Complete all assignments by the date on the syllabus, even if they aren’t due until the class ends. These steps will usually take much less than the traditionally recommended 2-4 hours of study each week. However, you will need to schedule in extra study time before tests and quizzes.

Online Courses Make Fitting Classes into a Tight Schedule Easier

In the end, whether or not you have the time to take an online course depends more on you and your willingness to stick to a regular schedule and learn to study effectively than on any other factor. While it is a common misconception that online course don’t take much time or are easier, online courses do still have a huge advantage over courses taught in bricks-and-mortar classrooms. In a virtual classroom, there is no commuting time, and no time wasted while the roll is called, the instructor takes off his overcoat or a half-dozen teaching assistants pass out test papers. Many students can easily fit all of their studying time into the time it would take just to drive or ride a bus to and from a traditional classroom.