Special to Mustang News
From the time they enter Cal Poly, students are inundated with the concept of studying 25-35 hours per week — or two hours per unit per week.
Journalism senior Brittany Graham said that as a Week of Welcome (WOW) leader this year, she was directed to hand out magnets reading “Study 25-35 hours per week” — a phrase that can also be seen on posters around campus — and tell her WOWies to be prepared for long days of class in addition to studying for at least six hours each day.
“They didn’t really know what to expect, so they automatically thought that Cal Poly wasn’t going to be something they could handle — at least my WOWies thought so,” Graham said. “They were seriously freaking out.”
But Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Humphrey thinks this is a realistic expectation for students.
“Yes, I do think it is realistic for a student that wants to academically achieve and graduate on time,” Humphrey said in an email. “Academics are the first priority at a university, especially one as rigorous as Cal Poly, and students who enroll here should be willing to commit the time it takes to fully master their subjects.”
He also explained that Cal Poly is not alone in promoting these academic guidelines — most universities want to help students when it comes to balancing time. At the University of Arizona, Humphrey’s former employer, students were advised to spend two hours a week studying for every hour in class, he said.
Despite these guidelines set by colleges, many students do not adhere to them.
Do students really study 25-35 hours per week? Click on the hotspots to hear students’ thoughts.
Graphic by Brooke Sperbeck
Environmental earth science sophomore Liz Jacobs could see the value of hours of studying, but couldn’t find the time.
“Of course it’s ideal, because you would get A’s in all your classes if you studied 25-35 hours per week,” Jacobs said. “But no one has the time.”
Like many other students at Cal Poly, Jacobs engages in extracurricular activities. She studies for a maximum of 20 hours per week and maintains good academic standing.
“I sleep about six hours a night — I’m a full-time student, a student-athlete and I also have a part-time job,” she said. “So I work about 20 hours a week and spend about 20 hours swimming.”
Aside from athletics, Cal Poly’s Associated Students, Inc. website lists more than 300 clubs students are encouraged to take part in. The combination of class time four to six hours a day and an additional six hours a day for homework and studying could deter students from engaging in extracurricular activities, which could be as beneficial as academics.
“I tell students oftentimes, ‘Don’t let school get in the way of your education’, because there is so much to learn outside of the classroom,” agriculture education and communication professor Scott Vernon said.
Being involved in clubs, sports teams, jobs or internships is just as important for student success as academics, Vernon said.
The amount of time a student spends studying is dependent on many factors. Different majors, quarters or weeks in the quarter can affect study time, as well as the way each student learns.
The 25-35 ideal is a guideline, according to psychology professor Laura Freberg, and students should adjust it to their own strengths and weaknesses. But it is useful to remind students that they need to put in time to be a great student, she said.
Though she has worked late into the night when necessary, Freberg does not recommend cutting sleep as the answer to lack of time. Sleep is important for memory consolidation, she said, and if students don’t sleep after they study, they will retain information less efficiently.
“The best thing any student can do is to spread learning out over time,” she said. “Even if they aren’t doing 25-35 hours a week or whatever, if they do one hour of work a day that’s better than doing seven hours of work in one day — which doesn’t work. There’s a lot of psychology out there that says you space it out.”
As an adult, Freberg found herself working until 4 a.m. — the long hours don’t stop after students graduate, she said.
“Everybody is working 24/7, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing,” she said. “I think we need time to be people.”