a sample weekly planner with time blocked off for classes

In my experience, there are two types of college schedules you can end up with after going through the nightmare that is registration. The first type of schedule is the balanced schedule: you have a few classes every day, perhaps all in a row or evenly spaced out through each day. The second type of schedule is the lopsided schedule, with all of your classes on two or three days and multiple days during the week when you have little or no class. Here are some positive and negative aspects of both kinds of schedules.

The Balanced Schedule

If you have a more balanced schedule, then that means you have some class and some free time each day. The main benefit of this kind of schedule, in my opinion, is that no one day is more stressful than the others. Your blocks of free time might be smaller and more scattered, but if you have to pull an all-nighter, it won’t kill you the next day because you won’t have to sit through 7 hours of class in a row while running on no sleep. It also makes it easier to join more clubs and commit to extracurricular activities that only happen on specific days because you likely have free time on those days. The balanced schedule lets you spend every day working hard for a few hours and relaxing for a few hours, which is better for stress levels. Another plus side to a balanced schedule is that your homework is more likely to be due on various different days throughout the week, so you can spread out when you work on homework and prioritize pretty easily.

The downside to a balanced schedule is that your chunks of free time throughout the day might be too small to get anything productive done. Last semester, I had about two or three classes a day, but between classes, I was hopelessly unproductive. I couldn't get any programming done in my short gaps between classes, so the time was mostly wasted. I also have a lot of club meetings and rehearsals in the evenings, which was when my only large blocks of free time were. As a result, I would often not start on homework until 10 or 11pm during the week, which meant staying up late to finish work. I also felt tired every day because I had classes every day and very little down time until the weekends (but that might just be a scheduling problem on my part-- I tend to overcommit).

When I had a balanced schedule, I would use the breaks between my classes to do homework that required less brain power, such as quick reading or math homework (or even writing these blog posts). I would also use the longer breaks between classes for one-on-one appointments with doctors or professors when necessary. I would use the evenings to do harder homework, like programming assignments and watching videos, or homework that required collaboration with my peers. From time to time, I would also use the short breaks to relax and recharge so that I could make it through the rest of the day. That way, I could still be as productive as possible in the short gaps between classes, and I could get all my work done efficiently.

The Lopsided Schedule

With a lopsided schedule, things are very different. You have most of your classes on MWF or TTh, giving you whole days where you have nothing to do. The days where you have class will be very stressful and require a lot of brainpower and concentration, but the days that you don't have class are relaxing and a welcome relief from school. Perhaps you even have a three or four day weekend with no classes on Fridays or Mondays. I think this kind of schedule requires a more willpower because it is very easy to spend your free days hanging out with friends or binge-watching entire seasons of shows on Netflix when in reality, that time needs to be spent doing homework and preparing for classes the next day. However, it's well worth it to have the large chunks of free time that you can divide however you want. With a lopsided schedule this semester, I can commit four hours of time in a row to doing outreach, or three hours on one day to holding office hours, and I'll still have plenty of free time afterwards. I can also spend long periods of time in a row working on homework, which means I can be more productive overall.

The obvious downside to a lopsided schedule is that you have to have a lot of endurance to sit through three or four classes in a row. I have class this semester for 6 hours in a row this semester, and I find it really hard to concentrate for the entire time period without getting tired or hungry. I also am really, really tired on the days that I have all my classes, and I don't feel much like working on homework after sitting through 6 hours of class. On a related note, if I don't sleep well the night before I have to sit through all my classes, I'm less likely to retain information and more likely to fall asleep during my classes. With a balanced schedule, one all-nighter meant suffering through one or two classes on low sleep, but now I have to sit through all of them. Another downside to having all your classes on two or three days of the week is that all of your homework or class prep work is likely due on those two or three days, which means that those days can be very stressful. I have a few classes that are very similar to each other in terms of the material I have to read before I go to class, and I tend to mix up my readings for the different courses as a result because I end up doing all the reading in a row.

Despite all that, I still prefer lopsided schedules because I feel like they are more flexible and work better for me. I need long chunks of time to do programming assignments, so a lopsided schedule lends itself to that. I also need empty days for doing research or outreach, and I have those with a lopsided schedule. Finally, I really appreciate the ability to allocate my time how I please. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have class for most of the day, and I spend those evenings doing the easier work that I can do even while being tired. On my free days, I catch up on sleep, do the harder homework assignments, and go to bed early so that I can be ready for the next day of classes.

Hopefully, your schedule is to your liking this semester, but if it isn't, I hope my advice can be helpful in getting you through the semester. Best of luck in the weeks ahead, and don't forget to give yourself time to relax!

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by the authors and those providing comments on these blogs are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or positions of UT Computer Science, The University of Texas or any employee thereof.