I just want to sleep in five days a week.
June 29, 2011 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Is it better to stagger a schedule of classes or group them together?

Last semester I had four classes, two Monday/Wednesday/Friday, one Tuesday/Thursday, and one online, which meant I had to worry about at least one thing almost every day (a travesty, I know), and my sleep schedule could never get into any kind of pattern because the classes started at different times.

This semester I've taken the opposite tack and chosen four Tuesday/Thursday classes, figuring this will maximize my unbroken chunks of free time, minimize driving (20 minutes each way), and make things simpler in general. A couple of people I've talked to suggest this is, if not the norm, a popular option.

Basically I'm wondering, what are people's experiences scheduling classes? What are important variables to consider? Am I going to hate myself by the fourth class?

(I was pretty shocked this hadn't been asked before, or at least that I couldn't find it.)
posted by Nomiconic to Education (24 answers total)
It totally depends on your personality. I tried both ways, and ended up liking "stacking" my classes on certain days better. They were hellish days, but then I had a day off to catch up on the work.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:27 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did this one semester. It was one of my better decisions in college. 4 uninterrupted days to drink beer do homework? Excellent choice.
posted by deezil at 11:30 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I generally preferred keeping one or two days a week class free in order to keep a job, have long open time for projects, etc.

Be warned, however, that this can bite you in the ass when you end up having a whole bunch of midterm exams on the same day.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:31 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

My best quarter at college where I 4.0'd, a rare occurrence, was when I had all afternoon classes starting at 3:30pm. Staggered with two M/W, one T/R, and three-day weekends. For my nocturnal schedule it was freaking awesome. My sleep patterns fell into place because I was starting at the same (very late) time every day.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:31 AM on June 29, 2011

I've tried both stacking and distributing classes, but have found that putting them all on just a couple days of the week worked best for me, and it was awesome having days off. Especially if they gave you a 4 day weekend, which could turn into a 5 or 6 day weekend if there's a holiday and a substitution day of classes. Stack em up! Especially if you're commuting.

Remember to snack and drink between (or during if you're allowed) classes to maintain stamina. I think you'll be fine.
posted by Sayuri. at 11:32 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Unless the classes start as early as 8 a.m. and end as late as midnight (or any other combination that results in possibly having less than eight hours of sleep), then the classes aren't the problem, sorry.

The new schedule might work for you. I've done that and hated it, but I've known people who swore by it. Give it a shot, and if it doesn't work, be ready to drop a class.
posted by Etrigan at 11:32 AM on June 29, 2011

My best semesters of college were when I had 9-12 or 8:30-1:00 classes each day of the week. I got up, went to class and got my work done, and came home at lunch time to do whatever I wanted or needed to do. If I don't have anything to force me out of bed in the morning I won't get up, so the early schedule turned out to be much better and nicer than I'd expected.

(Note: I always hated T/Th classes because they're too damned long. 50 minutes is about the extent of my ability to pay attention in class. So the semester I had 4 T/Ths was misery for me.)
posted by katemonster at 11:35 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hopefully your last class will be your favorite class otherwise you will probably grow to hate it. Overall, you'll be glad you arranged your schedule this way at the end of the semester. The tests on the same day thing really sucks (physiology and statistics, for example, was the worst ever), but just plan ahead and you should be fine. A few days of misery is worth a semester of 4 day weekends.
posted by wherever, whatever at 11:41 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've done both as well, and like each for their own reasons
I like having big chunks of uninterrupted time to get work done, so stacked classes helped with that. On the other hand, it's a lot harder for me to get STARTED working when my day is nothing but a big chunk of uninterrupted time. I was never the type to skip class, so having just 1 or 2 classes a day followed by or buffering a big chunk of time was helpful.

The hardest part of the big block of classes was 1) making time to feed myself, and 2) not getting so burnt out that I was useless during the last class. It also made for a few crazy weeks around midterms when everything was literally all due on the same day.
posted by lilac girl at 11:46 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

my sleep schedule could never get into any kind of pattern because the classes started at different times

I don't see how this problem will be solved by switching to all your classes being on two days. In fact, it may exacerbate things. Now, you have five days a week with no need to stick to a sleep schedule and two days where it'll be extremely important for you to both get up at some particular time AND stay awake all day.

My suggestion is, make sure you get a sleep schedule you can stick to. Everything else is simple, if you can make sure you sleep well.
posted by meese at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had one quarter in college where I did this. I had Mondays and Fridays "free", classes and a lab from 7:30am to 9:30pm (yes, fourteen hours straight) Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a four hour morning lab on Wednesdays. It had its pros and its cons.

-I had a four-day weekend, which was mostly filled with insane amounts of reading and homework. But, the extended amount of weekend time meant that I could do the whole next week's work before it even started, which meant that the week itself was all about classes.
-Getting the momentum going to do work was always the hardest thing for me, so it was nice to have distinct CLASS TIME and REST TIME and HOMEWORK TIME, and I didn't have to transition from one thing to another too much.
-Wednesdays were my relaxing days. Sure, I had lab in the morning, but the rest of the day was for vegging out.

-I had to plan out my Tuesdays and Thursdays very carefully. If I left something that I needed at home, I was screwed.
-I had to eat lunch during class. Because I'm cheap/poor, I packed my own lunch. Which means I carried a lunch box with my all day.
-I had classes backtobacktobacktoback, and had to crisscross campus several times each day. I usually showed up red-faced, winded, and a minute or two late.
-I couldn't afford to be sick on a Tuesday or Thursday, because I'd get too far behind. It wasn't that I'd miss a class or two...I'd miss every class on my schedule. And a lab.
-Three lab courses in one quarter is way too many. Make sure you don't do anything that insane.

Also, one day, I got something stuck in my eye on the way to campus in the morning, and it STAYED THERE ALL DAY. I didn't have a free period to leave campus, go to a pharmacy, and get an eyewash kit to deal with it until I got home that night at 10pm. I had to explain to everyone I met that day that no, I did NOT have eye herpes, thankyouverymuch, but that my eye was red, inflamed, and constantly seeping tears because there was something stuck in it. Something stuck in it since 7 that morning. And no, I honestly didn't have a chance to do anything more than go to the bathroom and try to flush it out with water. Turns out it was a piece of METAL. IN MY EYE. WHAT THE HELL. Anyway, that was one of the worst days of my life, and it happened on a day when I had a huge block of classes.
posted by phunniemee at 12:17 PM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think it completely depends on your personal working style, and whether you can make good use of the time off, whether you have enough time to catch your breath and have lunch and so on during the days you're on campus, whether you're able to stay in touch with campus activities and so on during off days, etc. Most people do indeed seem to assume that M/W/F or T/R or M/T/W/R is best, but everyone is different. Trying it out yourself is pretty much the only way to find out, I think.
posted by wintersweet at 12:28 PM on June 29, 2011

My best schedule ever was when I had three classes on T/R - I got started at 10am because that works for me (I tend to sleep from midnight to 8am when left to my own devices). I would have ONE class on M/W/F because in general, I didn't want to have four classes on Tues/Thurs. In the best, best world ever, I would have one or two "seminar" kinds of classes where we were there for longer and met only one day a week. If this could be my M/W/F (so, just a W commitment . .yay) even better.
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:34 PM on June 29, 2011

In my recollection my university made it significantly easier for more senior students to schedule 300-400 level classes at favourable times in the middle of the day. I found it preferable to have my classes scheduled at midday, and in my last years of my undergrad I had all my classes between 10:30 and 2:30. Being forced to concentrate for that amount of time isn't what I would consider a hardship given that I work much harder now than I ever did, and do so from 8am-4pm. Other than maybe being forced to write 4 midterms in a row as others have mentioned, it's good practice for the working world to develop strategies to deal with long stretches of uninterrupted concentration.

I was a distance runner at university and would run in the morning, have breakfast and then a nap, go to class, head home afterwards and have another nap, and then run again. I slept at night, though I too often struggled with maintaining a normal sleep schedule as I both got distracted with late night activities or was too wired from teh training to relax. Things that help are exercising, eating well, not drinking or partying too much, and being strict about not letting TV or internet activities dominate your late evening hours. Read in bed to fall asleep, and get up at a consistent and fairly early time of day (not necessarily 6am, but 8am every morning regardless if you have class or not).
posted by jimmythefish at 12:41 PM on June 29, 2011

I once had 3 classes back-to-back on Tues/Thursday. By the 3rd class, no matter how hard I tried not to, I would fall asleep. I sincerely hope your 3rd and 4th classes are ones that you'll be able to step out of for a moment to "go to the bathroom"... if the prof's evil or boring those two last classes are going to be tough to make it through.
posted by lizbunny at 12:51 PM on June 29, 2011

I agree with the comments that it really depends on you as a person. I found having classes scattered during the week forced me to keep my focus on school all week. Although it is helpful if you are a commuter.

However, there is something to be said about going to campus even if you do not have a class. Going to the library the day you do not have class to get homework complete, or to a computer lab is helpful. Likewise if you do a group project it also helps with scheduling because you are free to meet all day the days you do not have classes.

Mr. BuffaloChickenWing one semester did have a free day - a Thursday. Instead of working on his senior project he elected to go to the bar Wednesday night (drink special night) because he could now sleep in on Thursdays! When crunch time for our senior projects I had mine done, Mr. BuffaloChickenWing was scrambling to finish his.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2011

I always registered almost exclusively for morning classes. Because of my major I couldn't give myself a day (or days!) off during the week, but having all of my classes between 9 and 12 (generally) worked out for me really, really well. It got me out of bed in the morning on a consistent schedule, then gave me a lot of time to have a relaxing lunch and unwind before hitting the books, my job, or a workout in the afternoon and evening (usually while the library/gym were relatively empty since everyone else seemed to prefer afternoon classes).
posted by telegraph at 1:12 PM on June 29, 2011

I had no classes on Fridays this semester and loved it. Having a three-day weekend every week made up for the days on which I had a few classes in a row.
posted by cp311 at 1:31 PM on June 29, 2011

I found having classes scattered during the week forced me to keep my focus on school all week.

Me too. Also, it meant that I was less likely to have multiple assignments due or exams on the same day, so I could cram more effectively when necessary. I had a 4.0 GPA.
posted by grouse at 4:20 PM on June 29, 2011

I definitely preferred to have two classes, max, on any given day. My freshman year, first quarter, I had T/Th classes at 7:30 (110 minutes), 9:30 (110 minutes) and 12:30 (50 minutes) and had M/W/F classes at 7:30 (50 minutes) and 9:30 (50 minutes.) It was always that 50 minute class on T/Th that did me in, even though it was the easiest class in the universe (orientation for engineering majors - we talked about safe sex and built little contraptions to move straws from one side of the room to the other.)

I also found that days without classes were largely useless. I always said I'd use them to study or something, but I didn't. I didn't even schedule work shifts then - I'd schedule work on the same days as classes, but play EverQuest or go see movies on the days I had completely off. Dance rehearsal, violin practice, homework, bill paying, volunteering, and everything else in the "being responsible" category all seemed to happen on days where the System had me getting up at a reasonably grown-up hour and making myself presentable for my classmates.

(I lived in the dorms all four years, and had no car, which had a significant effect on my behavior.)
posted by SMPA at 4:41 PM on June 29, 2011

I've known a few people who teach college students. One of the things noted: students tend to do better in sections that take place later in the day. Morning sections tend to do worse.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:07 PM on June 29, 2011

I think this depends on you more than anything else. I can't do early classes. I just don't get up for them, or if I do get up, I don't feel like going, or if I do feel like going, I zone out or fall asleep. I do much better when my first class is around 10 in the morning. I also like putting my classes into blocks- this past semester I had only Tuesday/Thursday classes and it was great- I had 4 day weekends to go home, I could work on MWF, I had a day between classes to get my homework done. I had 4 classes, but I had an hour-ish long break in the middle, which made a huge difference. I could go eat with some of my classmates or take my lunch to the food court in the student union and unwind from classes. My roommate had the same schedule I did and hated it because she felt that she wasn't as productive on her days off and was too crammed on the days she had classes.
posted by kro at 7:14 PM on June 29, 2011

One thing is that if you have a class in the middle that you don't "need" to attend, you're stuck on campus anyway. This is probably a good thing if your goal is to attend all of your classes. On the other hand, if you end up with a professor who is actually detrimental to learning... My best schedule so far has been lecture-work-lecture four days a week, with the most important lectures after work (I work on campus). Also I go to the gym on campus twice a week for yoga and twice a week to work out, so my trips are always multi-purpose.
posted by anaelith at 7:40 PM on June 29, 2011

I liked T-Th classes and preferred to have the time to work on large projects and limit my commuting as much as possible. One thing that helped me was to schedule an evening class. I'd do four classes (sometimes five) spread out as much as possible during the day, maybe even starting as early as eight am and then finishing at 9:30-10:00 pm. It's pretty amazing how laid back evening classes are. Most of the people attending are slightly older with full time jobs and families, so profs are very sympathetic. Often classes that were scheduled to go till ten would let out at nine thirty, if we could stay focused and cover the material, just because it's late, everyone wanted to go home and the profs figure we'll do whatever needs done before the next class.

That type of schedule makes for a long day, but very focused. I often was able to complete the next due assignment in the time right after the class, which made my tough linguistic class assignments much easier when things were fresh. I brought my lunch, dinner and a snack, made time for a short 15-20 minute walk during the day and spent at least 1/2 hour 'gearing down' where I would sit and do nothing school related--meditate, listen to music, doze on the grass if it was warm. The worst part was having to haul all my crap with me. I probably looked like a transient. The only thing that's really important if you're doing this type of schedule is to make sure you start on projects early. NOTHING is worse than procrastinating and then having midterms or finals and major projects due all at once.

YMMV quite a bit on this. I know I certainly couldn't do it now that I'm older.

Oh, to be young again!
posted by BlueHorse at 10:25 PM on June 29, 2011

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