How to survive 7+ hours of classes in a row?
April 11, 2013 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the process of making my schedule for next semester and it looks like the only viable option is 5 classes in a row, twice a week. Has anyone done something like this? Does this sound like an awful idea? I would love to hear your opinions and experiences.

I'm a mathematics major who is taking an extra year to graduate, so I really don't have that many options when it comes to my schedule. I have certain classes that I need to take, all of which are upper-division courses: 2 math, 2 computer science theory, 1 humanities class for a general education requirement. 10:00 - 11:20, 11:30 - 12:50, 1:00 - 2:20, 2:30 - 3:50, 4:00 - 5:20.

I commute about 20 minutes to school.

I'm having trouble deciding what to do. I've taken summer classes before that were 4 hours and it wasn't that much of a problem, but I'm not sure if I could do 5 classes in a row. I'm not the kind of person who can effectively study in short bursts, I usually need a few hours to devote solely to studying if I want to get anything done. Right now, I go to class a few times a day and sometimes come home in between classes, so I never really get "in the zone" of seriously studying. I usually put things off until the last minute. I'm very confident that this will not happen if all my classes are in one day because I will have so much free time to do everything I want/need to do. I've gotten an A in every upper-division math course I've taken during the summer because of all the time I had without taking other classes, so this is where that confidence is coming from.

For me, the pros are: having 5 days off a week (which seems absolutely amazing and is a pretty huge pro), being able to balance my life with studying instead of floundering around doing everything at the last minute, being able to focus on my days off instead of going back and forth to school. The cons are: most likely not being to eat lunch or go to the bathroom, having to rush between classes that are in different buildings, having to focus for such a long time, possible multiple tests on the same days and if I get sick I am really screwed.

I was just hoping someone here would have experience with taking a full schedule of classes all in a row. Any advice and opinions are welcome! I'm 80% convinced that it will work out, but I'm still a little hesitant. I could possibly change it to a normal schedule, but then I would not be taking the classes I ideally need and want to take.
posted by Hey Judas! to Education (40 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
hm. Five classes in a row seems reasonably normal to me, but I was a freshman in a New Zealand university doing a pre-med schedule and everyone I knew had similar schedules. And we had that 5 days a week. (and walked uphill in the snow to university, yeah, yeah).

But it's totally doable. Just carry a lot of food with you.
posted by gaspode at 7:43 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did a similar schedule 2 days a week one semester. Everything stacked back to back (in the same building...I can still draw you a perfectly accurate floor map of Robinson A.) At least you'll be able to see the sun between classes. At times I lost orientation to space and time because I was indoors the whole time without a clear view of the outside.

I would strongly advise against not having a lunch break. Seriously. Drop one of the middle classes. You need a lunch break to recharge your mental batteries going into the afternoon block, and the physical toll of skipping a meal will seriously hamper your performance. Food is essential.

You think you'll be able to spread your work all around your free time, but in practice you'll probably be stacking way too much of your homework on the day before. be warned.

It's survivable, but it will suck. Good luck. The worst part isn't even sitting in class all day, it''s not having a lunch break. If you have the choice, please seriously consider breaking this up over two days a week.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:44 PM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I've done both, and there are pros and cons both ways. I like the full day and day off plan best, but you need to be sure you actually do have enough time to get from lecture to lecture with occasional bathroom break, and that at least one of your middle classes has an understanding prof who will let you eat during class (you can explain it to them if there are usually rules against it).
posted by jeather at 7:45 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can pack all your classes into two days? Fuck yes, do it. That is awesome. You will have so much more free time this way, you've no idea.
posted by Scientist at 7:45 PM on April 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

Make sure that 10 minutes is enough time to get between the classes. At my university, it would have been possible to have classes too far apart to get between that fast.
posted by Jahaza at 7:50 PM on April 11, 2013

Wait, ignore my objection to having it over one day, misread this. This schedule is totally doable. I did this while holding down an internship the other 3 weekdays. Just make sure to see your friends immediately upon getting home, they'll suddenly make you less tired. :)
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:53 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Happens all the time. As long as your professors don't mind you eating in class, you'll be fine. When I had a schedule like this, the biggest problem came from me thinking I had "days off" and failing to use all of those days to study and cramming everything into one or two days right before class.

I assume your university has an add/drop period -- presumably you'll be able to drop one of the classes if it turns out it's too much for you.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:53 PM on April 11, 2013

I did this for two semesters. If you have the stamina, it's totally awesome. But expect to be totally burned out after your school days end.
posted by griphus at 7:53 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

My very first day of university as a mature aged student studing law was with a seven hour back to back day. That became my Tuesday for a semester and it was fine. The rooms weren't too far away from each other which was cool.

Even though all classes were from the same discipline, intensity varied, so it wasn't too much of a grind. Sometimes one would finish a little early and give you an extra five or 10 minute break. I packed snacks on Tuesdays and made sure I had water with me etc. If I didn't have time to get a coffee at some point between classes I settled with vending machine coke. I found 2 other students with the same schedule and we combined efforts (you get coffees, I'll get sandwiches, meet you back here).
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:54 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did three math classes in a row one year (which turned into three classes and a seminar back-to-back one day a week) and it was pretty much awful. By the end of the day, I'd have no idea what had happened in the first lecture. I do, however, have very little stamina for sitting in class. Two back-to-back 80 minute classes would be pushing my limits rather severely, so your mileage may vary.

If the culture in the math department is such that you can persuade professors to move midterms, you might be able to at least get the math midterms away from the CS midterms.
posted by hoyland at 7:54 PM on April 11, 2013

Oh yeah, I'd try and have some kind of ready made food in the freezer for the end of the day (because as a student I had no money to purchase anything convenient)
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:57 PM on April 11, 2013

I had this schedule once. I thought it was an awesome idea before I started, but it turned out being kind of miserable and soul-sucking. Spending seven hours a day trying to listen is rough. If some of the classes are more activity-based, with less lecture, that's better, but this schedule is really not ideal. Especially the lack of a lunch break.

Also, you will have to really be on top of your time management. It's very tempting to take too much weekend when you have Friday to Monday unscheduled every week, but you will still have tons of things that need to get done in that time period.
posted by ktkt at 8:02 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Did this the spring of my Freshman year, and not only did 4 classes back to back (starting at 8 AM), but I also worked 2 hours each afternoon (basically a 5th class). While it will be tough, it's doable.
posted by deezil at 8:04 PM on April 11, 2013

Sounds like having a job. Welcome to the real world. Totally doable.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:04 PM on April 11, 2013 [17 favorites]

This looks like a nicer version of my real-world work schedule (I often work through lunch or eat at my desk), only I do it 5 days a week.

I did your planned schedule my senior year. It was *awesome*, so much time on my off-days to do whatever, and in hindsight, I didn't feel swamped the days I had class. (Granted, my freshman year, I was going from 8am to 10pm both semesters and I survived. Gotta love 3-hour ensembles worth only 1 credit hour.)
posted by Wossname at 8:07 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did the Tuesday/Thursday classes only thing in school for one semester, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but my day was waaaaay spread out. I had 4 normal classes each day, then a 1 hour discussion section for a larger lecture class on Tuesday night, and a 3 hour grad-level class on Thursday night. I lived on campus at a "residential" school, but most of my classes were way on the other side of the University, so I'd usually just camp out in my school building and read or something those days.

The only downside was that I wasn't too disciplined, so on my days off, I hardly got anything done, while I was insanely productive on the days I had class and was just in work mode all day.
posted by LionIndex at 8:26 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a math professor.

I would strongly advise you to not do this, if I were your advisor. Personally, after about 4 hours of really doing math straight, I'm done. Stuff stops making sense. Now, it won't be quite that intense with lectures, but still. I don't think you're going to get much out of the late classes.

At the least, you should be able to take the humanities requirement in the summer. Or are these summer classes?

Can you take an extra semester to spread things out a little, or is that financially infeasible?

As a professor, I'd be kind of annoyed if you ate lunch every day in my class, FWIW.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:36 PM on April 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

Sounds a lot like work.

I've also done corporate training with adults and have taught 8-hour intensive classes for five days straight.

You can do it.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:54 PM on April 11, 2013

Not addressing the back-to-back thing, because I haven't done that, but I have had a semester schedule in which I took four Tues-Thurs classes (and one 3 hour Wednesday morning lecture). Having even four classes on the same day was an issue because everything was always due the same damned days -- there aren't all that many weeks in a semester, so if each class has a midterm somewhere around the middle and similar numbers of assignments, they will end up being *very* matchy-matchy.

It's all well and good if you can study really well on this schedule, but can you study well enough to write 3 or 4 midterms in the same week? What about on the same day? I maxed out at 3 in the same day and that *sucked*.

It also meant all my assignments tended to be due on the same day, as well. That was less stressful, because at least I could get some stuff done early.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:22 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

For me, that schedule would not be doable without a lunch break - both to eat and to let my brain be quiet for a little while.
posted by sumiami at 9:27 PM on April 11, 2013

The issue with this schedule is the days off. You'll have to get all your work done on those days. So you'll have to stay focused on days with no fixed schedule to impose structure. Try showing up at the library at the same time each day. Always 1/2 hour before the hour your first class starts on the class days. On those days, review your stuff. On the off days, start studying in the library at that time.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:54 PM on April 11, 2013

Echoing Johnny Gunn, if you've been in the workforce before this won't be onerous. Our lecturers stopped for a 5 - 10 minute break in the middle of two hour lectures which I thought was a riot.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 10:02 PM on April 11, 2013

Can you record your lectures? Absent that, take very good notes, ask a lot of questions, and anything else you can do to stay actively engaged.

My perspective is from a career in tech and long days of listening are not uncommon. It took a while to get used to them, though, and anything I could do to help recall later helped.
posted by SakuraK at 10:46 PM on April 11, 2013

Yeah, this is one of those things where you are going to have to make a plan and stick to the plan if you want it to work. With 5 days off and likely the desire for a weekend, you are going to have to devote a portion of the 3 weekdays to explicitly to your coursework, and the use the weekend as 'flex' / 'general purpose' time. So, say your classes are tuesday/ thursday: Wednesday might be Math1 / CS1, Friday might be CS2 / Humanities, and Monday might be Math2. Each weekend is for flex time, and what have you. This way you are making sure you devote specific time to each class. Likewise, you may find that you have to devote note transcription time to the day after, and that means you have to account for that time somewhere...

The point being: two days of classes means you've got to make sure that you aren't procrastinating this stuff into a problem.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:51 PM on April 11, 2013

Good breathing, good posture, good sleep, and, indispensably indeed, several small snacks to sustain your brain.

Oh, and matcha, lots of matcha, all praise to the heavenly green powder, most generous mother of a thousand hours of serene focus.

Seriously, I find it's way better than coffee for sustained mental exertion and learning. The ridiculous amount of L-theanine in matcha will relaxe you and work synergistically with caffeine, leaving no jitter, no unrest, nor any of this blasted or burned out feeling you get at the end of the day after you had that one desperate cup of coffee too many. And because of the much smaller volume, it will not send you running again and again to the washroom like infused tea would. Really, it's baffling, and strangely addicting for all the good reasons.
posted by phphph at 10:52 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not at all like having a job (or, a regular office job, at least), because 85% of those allow you to lapse your attention every 30 minutes or so, or have some degree of latitude in when you can read emails vs crank out a report, get a coffee, go to the bathroom. Few jobs demand the concentration of (even undergraduate) math courses. Also, in *most* jobs, the margin and possible consequences of error don't usually impact your life chances as dramatically (assuming grad or professional school is a goal). And, as a student, you're paying to take on the risk of error, not an employer.

Presumably, you're wanting a reasonably high GPA? You don't just want to get through? You only live 20 minutes from school. If you could be on campus three days a week, you'd still have two just for studying. Or if you went more often, you could chunk out the other half of the day for studying (and ensure that happens by e.g. going to the library after class, instead of home).
posted by nelljie at 10:58 PM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

My husband did this and lost about 25 pounds over three months and was a total stressbucket.

I'm not functional without real lunch, so I wouldn't even try. Sure, this sounds like having a job--but even jobs give you lunch breaks.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:00 PM on April 11, 2013

The people suggesting this is like work aren't quite getting it. 10 to 5:20 is effectively a 7.5 hour work day with no lunch break and the only other "breaks" are hustling to the next class. Nice for stretching your legs, but not a whole lot of time to clear your mind, grab a cup of coffee, etc.

Which isn't to say this schedule seems inherently bad or impossible, but if you choose to do it I hope your classrooms are reasonably near each other and at least one of your professors is amenable to you snacking in class. And maybe you can sneak out for a quick trip to the restroom once in a while.

Really ask yourself if you can make the best of those days in between classes, though. 5 days off in a row tends to invite procrastination.
posted by asciident at 11:08 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is an amazing schedule, but only if you have really really good self-control and time management. It's waaaay too easy for you to just party hard or just not do anything for 4 of your off days then freak out on that 5th day as you scramble to finish ALL your problem sets, papers, and projects.
posted by astapasta24 at 12:05 AM on April 12, 2013

I will note that I was an art student, but any plan resembling this would have been absolute suicide for me.
posted by cmoj at 1:04 AM on April 12, 2013

For my undergrad in engineering, this was common. I usually had 2-3 classes (lectures/labs) per day, plus 1 or 2 recitations (classes with TAs). And I did it 3 or 4 days a week. That was with 4 or 5 classes per term. So, totally doable.
posted by chiefthe at 3:05 AM on April 12, 2013

I did this my last semester in school. Mostly it was good. I found by the last class I was lagging a bit, but it really wasn't that awful. I think a lot of this depends on the order of your classes. If you can put the harder ones first when you'll have more energy and focus, I'd say go for it.

I would try it. I assume you have the option to add/drop if things are really miserable.
posted by GilvearSt at 3:11 AM on April 12, 2013

Totally doable, give yourself breathing space and be ruthless in being organized. Also, figure out which instructors will let you eat in class otherwise, you will be run down and what between class travel time is going to be like.
posted by jadepearl at 5:57 AM on April 12, 2013

i did that one semester in law school and worked in an office the other three days, it's quite posible but not ideal. make sure you are very organized. you will need to complete work in advance (not the night before!!) so make sure you have a way of reminding yourself what is due when that works with your brain.

if you have a locker there to store books and assignments, you should use it. bring some (healthy) food with you EVERY DAY you have class, and a water bottle (maybe also some instant iced tea or something with caffeine, if you consume caffeine). be mindful of when you can have a break to eat/socialize for a minute and how long it takes to get from one place to the next place.

harder classes first when you're fresh is a good idea. i remember that i made myself take notes on things that were nonessential, just to stay awake.
posted by zdravo at 7:39 AM on April 12, 2013

My worst semester of college was the one where I stacked all my classes on two days. I thought it was a brilliant idea until I did it.

I had more time for breaks throughout the day than what you describe(two of the classes were one day a week in the evening) but it was HELLISH. I did not have the discipline to get myself to space out the homework on free days, and I felt like I never saw anyone else, because they were all in class on a more spaced out schedule, so when I was free, they were busy.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 8:06 AM on April 12, 2013

I did this my last two semesters of college, and my last semester, three of the classes were in the same room! The classes were math, econ, and french.

It was awesome, but required crazy amounts of self-discipline. The kicker was treating MWF like "work" days, and not using them to goof off. It took me a short while to figure things out, but once I got the hang of it, I wished I'd done it in previous years as well.

* take non-smelly munchies to eat in the middle of the day (cheese cubes, pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, etc)
* minimize the textbooks you're carrying around
* schedule study time on your off days (and take showing up for it just as seriously as you would a class)
* you already know this, but study groups are excellent for making sure that your notes are complete and you didn't zone out during something important.
* coffee coffee coffee
posted by asnowballschance at 9:02 AM on April 12, 2013

This is not remotely like having a job. It's a bad idea. By your last couple classes you won't be absorbing any information, and god forbid having to write a test at the end of the day.

If it's your only path to graduate on time then you should do it, but avoid it if you can.

My university let you take distance ed/online courses even if most of your classes are on campus. Try looking into that.

And check with an academic advisor if they can get you some lattitude in your scheduling. When they see your courses stacked like that they'll probably have some sympathy.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:01 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't do this mostly because for science and math classes I don't really understand things the first time. I have to preview the notes before class, then have lecture, and then copy my notes after class. It isn't until I do that that I actually understand a lot of things in lecture.
posted by eq21 at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2013

having 5 days off a week

Don't do this unless you can disabuse yourself of this notion. You don't have 5 days off a week, you just have 5 days a week you don't have to go to class. You'll need to spend some of them doing other work at other worksites (homework).
posted by yohko at 6:29 PM on April 12, 2013

I'm a prof, and I agree with those sounding a warning: going to class for 7 solid hours is not like a workday, unless your workday consistently demands your full careful attention for 50 minutes of each hour. I've never had a job that intense.

This is going to be brutal. It's a bit different if you've got a lab or a seminar in there, which will involve something other than listening to a lecture and give you a bit of a break, but it doesn't sound like this is the case. As you've said, what happens during midterms, when you have three or four different tests on the same day? What happens when you're sick?

We break in the middle of two hour or three hour classes because lecturing or leading discussion for 3 solid hours is much more tiring than you'd think. And because you can see the students' eyes starting to glaze at around 65 minutes, which means that information is no longer being absorbed.

See if you can't get an advisor to give you a hand. There has to be some solution other than this.
posted by jrochest at 10:42 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

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