Other than major surgery and having kids, college has been the most intrusive thing in my life. The difference between a job and college is that at the end of the work day I get to get away from the job. I may choose to work at home or extra hours, but that is my choice and I get compensated. College there is no getting away. After a class period ends there is always something that you could or should be doing regarding one class or another.
- Class discussion
Professors hand out work based on their needs and wants for their class. Rare is the professor that publically acknowledges that you have other classes and a life (or want of a life) outside of class. I am sure that they all know that there are other classes and having a life, but most treat the class you are in as THE class. What this means is that you will frequently find yourself juggling multiple assignments, with different requirements, due dates with an expectation (or is it hope) that you will be doing your best on the work they assign. This is where prioritizing homework (all classwork) comes in handy (see 500 Words: Prioritizing Burnout).
There will be a lot of busy work. What is busy work, assignments that should take five or ten minutes to do, but because of the bizarre, labyrinth, confusing, or silly instructions/requirements takes a half-hour or more. Busy work is the bane of any class. I know that it is busy work, thus I know based on my priorities that it is getting minimal effort. Yet, the damn assignment takes an hour or more to finish because I have to do six different very small tasks in a very specific way. Ugh!
It feels like it never ends and you feel like there is always something you “should” be doing. There is a calculation based on the number of credit hours a class is rated as to how many hours outside the class you should be working, something along the line of a 3 hours of homework to 1 credit hour ratio. Meaning a three credit class (typical class) should have nine hours a week of outside the classroom experience. Name a job with that kind of ratio, “Say Bob, you work 40 hours last week, did you work 120 hours at home?” And make no mistake, there are professors who try to hit that 9-hour mark each week.
I remember my first go around in college, I had free time because I did not have a family and my obligations to myself and the world were few. This time, I have a family. I have obligations to mself and the world, and because of these things my free time is limited. I am or was willing to give up some of my free time to college, but…lets just say, that after five years there isn’t a moment, even during the summer when I am not thinking, “is there something I should be doing for X class?” That is a level of intrusion that really gets on your nerves. Is it really as bad as the mental process sounds? Yes and no.
Breaking down 9 semesters: 1 semester was so lite on homework I wondered if I was in college at all (30 minutes of homework per credit hour); 3 semesters had me on the verge of wanting to burn my books and walk away (4 to 5 hours of homework per credit hour); 5 semesters kept me busy, not overly busy, where I had free time and I had moments of a lot of work to do at one time (1 to 2 hours of homework per credit hour).