How Much Academic Rigor Is Too Much?

Textbooks and laptop - too much academic rigor can lead to burnout!

Flickr user David Mulder

Whether you’re in high school or college, it’s easy to do “too much” and become overwhelmed. When choosing your schedule, it’s important to think about “academic rigor.” This is the academic challenge you’ll be faced with from a class. So when you’re coming up on a new semester, how much academic rigor is too much when creating a schedule?

Don’t Go Beyond Your Limits

Everyone has their own limits when it comes to work. You may take longer to finish a project, need more time to study, or have a job after classes. Be realistic when choosing your courses. If you’re not a morning person, avoid the 8am classes. If you become overwhelmed with a day of classes, spread them out through the week.

Also keep in mind that college classes are more difficult than high school courses. While you may have breezed through those high school classes, your college experience will probably be very different. You will need time to study and work.

Don’t Take TOO Many Classes

It’s often recommended that you take about 15 credits each semester to graduate on time. However, this schedule doesn’t always work for each and every student and may not work for every semester. Some courses may require more time outside of class than others.

While some students can handle 18 credits (or even more) in a single semester, you might feel more comfortable taking 12 to 15. This is especially the case if you’re an upperclassman and taking much more difficult courses. Classes in freshmen and sophomore years may be a bit easier, so you may want to tackle some harder subjects in this easier semesters.

Know Academic Rigor of a Course Beforehand

When planning your schedule for the next semester, it’s always a good idea to read outside reviews of classes you need to take (or want to take) and the professors. This can give you a clearer picture of the workload that awaits and what the teacher is actually like when it comes to academic rigor.

Plan Ahead for Academic Rigor

If you’re taking on a full schedule or a bunch of classes you think will be difficult, plan ahead. This can be done by creating study schedules, using a planner for homework and projects, and simply knowing what to expect.

Sometimes you can’t complete this step until you have the syllabus in hand but it’s a good idea to have an idea of what will happen in your courses before hand if you can.

Academic rigor can partly be affected by the courses you select, but it also is affected by your own personal experiences. It’s important to plan ahead and do research before choosing your courses for an upcoming year. This will help ensure you’re not tackling too much at once and will have a semester you can handle. However, you don’t want to take too little either! Less than full time credits could cause you to lose financial aid benefits or not graduate on time.

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Hilary Cairns

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