Is There Homework in College? (Here’s What to Expect) – OutScholar (2023)

As you approach the big high school graduation date, it can be stressful when you think about what’s coming next in college. Homework in college can be challenging, but one of the perks of graduating high school is that you’ve already seen a very similar workload throughout your high school career.

There is homework in college, and the number of credits you take will determine the workload. For example, if you take 12 credits, you should expect to study 36 hours a week or 6 hours per day. If you take 15 credits, you should expect to study around 45 hours a week or 7.5 hours a day.

This article will be going over what homework to expect at both university and community colleges. We’ll also be going over how you can calculate your homework load depending on how many credits you take. Lastly, in an attempt to ease college anxiety, we’ve provided a few college study tips to help new college students find a workflow that suits their learning style.

Is There Homework in College? (Here’s What to Expect) – OutScholar (1)

Homework Load Per Credit

When you enter college, you should consider how much you’ll be able to handle in terms of study time. Some people do better with lighter class schedules, while others can handle more at a time. No matter how many credits you take, you’ll have to do some homework! There are other factors to consider, such as whether or not you’ll need to balance a job with your school. If you hope to receive financial aid from your school, you will usually need to take at least 6 credits or half-time enrollment. If you want to graduate within four years by completing a Bachelor’s Degree (4-year program), you will need to take 12 credits (aka full-time schooling).

Let’s look at what you generally would expect your weekly study/homework load to be when taking a 14-week course per semester.

*The following has been calculated assuming that you’ll spend 3 hours per credit.

Number of CreditsExpected Weekly Study HoursExpected Daily Study Hours
3 credits9 hrs/wk1.2 hrs/day
6 credits18 hrs/wk3 hrs/day
9 credits27 hrs/wk4.5 hrs/day
12 credits36 hrs/wk6 hrs/day
15 credits45 hrs/wk7.5 hrs/day

To reiterate, this is a general estimate of what to expect as some classes may be easier while others are harder. Even if a class has a baseline expectation of 3 hours per credit, you may end up spending more or less than that (source).

Here are a few additional items to keep in mind during class registration aside from homework expectations:

  • 6 Credits: You can qualify for federal loans if you take 6 credits or half-time enrollment (source).
  • 12 Credits: Some states will provide financial aid when taking 12 credits or full-time enrollment. This also means you may get free tuition through the Pell Grant (source).
Is There Homework in College? (Here’s What to Expect) – OutScholar (2)

What Happens If You Take >15 Credits?

Under these circumstances, you would be approaching above the full-time enrollment limit, as some schools won’t let you register for more than 18 to 20 credits per semester. This is a route students take if:

  • they are comfortable taking out student loans
  • paying for housing and the courses themselvesare
  • living with their parents rent-free
  • are only working part-time
  • just want to buckle down and graduate earlier

When someone takes 12 credits per semester for a Bachelor’s Degree—depending on the degree and internships required—they could finish in four years. However, by enrolling in greater than 15 credits per semester, you can cut up to a year off of your schooling.

Tip: If you took college courses in high school, you could check with your academic advisor at both your high school and college to see if/how they will transfer in both major and general education requirements (depending on which school you go to). Make sure you send your high school transcripts to the college because they might be able to get this information to you before you graduate.


A study was taken by the Education Advisory Board (EAB) at the University of Hawaii provided research on how well students did when they took a 15 credit workload as opposed to a 12 credit workload. The study shows that the students who took 15 credits ended up with a higher GPA when graduating and could graduate, on average, sooner (source).

So a 15+ credit semester could pay off for you if you feel like you can keep up with that workload.

Majors & the Study/Homework Needs

The amount and type of studying you do will also depend on your major and your classes. For example, if you are an English major, your homework will consist of many reading and writing assignments. On the other hand, engineering students may be much more project-based in their homework.

A simple breakdown of some popular majors is listed below:

Math: Engineers, Computer Science, Accounting

Engineers will have, on average, 20 more hours of weekly studying added onto however many credits they will take. This time commitment usually pertains to different branches of engineering and labs. It’s recommended that these students take a 3:2 Program which helps students earn a Caballero’s Degree at any college with the major leading to apply for an advanced engineering school. You can find a broad list of those engineering schools here.

Computer Science majors will usually take on an extra 2-3 hours a day due to the type of computer software they are studying and labs added into their course catalog. There is plenty of homework added because of the large amounts of math and science involved, including Calculus I & II, Prob & Stats, Linear Algebra,Physics, and Chemistry.

For Accounting majors, you would be looking at an extra 300-400 hours of studying within your semesters in sole preparation for your CPA exam to pass the AICPA expectations. You’ll need to study hard to pass this exam, and many students put in hundreds of hours of extra work to perform well. This can range to an extra 15 hours of studying in a week to stay ahead, even if the exam is still months away (source).

Science: Biochemistry, Human Health, Chemical Engineering

Biochemistry majors can expect to spend an extra 16 hours in their studies as this ranges from extra lectures and labs, you will be participating in a substantial number of multiple-hour labs.

Human Health Majors (Doctor and Nurses) can expect an extra set of 6-8 hours of studying daily. This pertains to more hands-on experience lectures and if you work at a hospital for either an internship or class requirements. You’ll also need to put in a lot of study time for medical exams for graduate school, so be ready to spend a lot of time buried in the books (source).

Chemical Engineering students should prepare for a scary amount of 60+ hours a week solely on course material and extra research for assignments. If you want to become an expert in the field this is a studious route to take. Having roomed with a ChemE student in college, I can attest that the workload for this major is anything but easy.

English: English Teaching (TESOL), English Teaching (Secondary School)

English Teaching Majors especially TESOL (Teaching English As A Second Language) ranges to 40-150 hours in three months depending on the pacing of studying, if you can get an internship teaching abroad, and if you are getting a degree or certificate (source).

English Teaching at Secondary School Levels (Middle and High school) and English Majors may spend 50-60 extra hours of studying in their semester so they can do well on qualification tests. This can be cut up in 2-3 hours/day or 12-18 hours/week so it’s possible.

Social Studies: Political Science, Psychology, Law

Political Science Majors should expect about 2-5 hours of studying a day for doing lab reports and sometimes weekly exams.

Many psychology majors have benefited by studying what’s called the Two Hour Rule. This means that for every hour spent in class, a student should spend two hours going over new and old material daily. The field of psychology you go into will affect that time since those going into a Doctorate degree will need more time (up to 8 hours in certain cases).

Law Major’s extra studying time will depend on whether they enroll full time and what level of law they are studying. 1L (freshmen) students need 21.7 hours, 2L (sophomore) students average 18.3 hours weekly, and 3L (junior) students need 15.1 hours weekly (source).

Is There Homework in College? (Here’s What to Expect) – OutScholar (3)

Homework Expectations: University vs. Community

When it comes to choosing a college, some people wonder if there’s a homework difference between universities and community colleges. Community colleges are smaller and cheaper, so sometimes people assume that they will require less effort. On an institutional level, the amount of hours per credit is the same. But does that really reflect reality?

Not only was I a university student myself, but I’ve also drawn from the experiences of students that have attended both school types. For these reasons, I have a bit of insight on the difference between these education systems and the amount of work that’s required to be successful in each.

My Experience with Community & University College Work Loads

From the students that I’ve had contact with, those that attend community college are much less stressed about going into community college because the workload is practically the same as the standard high school workload.

To offer some perspective, one student’s community college workload consisted of daily studies that would include different reading materials (being chapters of books or short stories) and writing response papers on whichever topic was given. Then at the end of the week, there would be a quiz or time to work on a bigger paper coming up later that month. This student stated that community college felt similar to high school in many ways, and to this day they still miss community college because of the steadier yet slower pace of being taught the material in a smaller class.

When this student attended a university in Utah later on, the workload was heavier in terms of homework. They had to dedicate more time and effort in each class and more study hours on each subject. This was because students were assigned much more material to go through in each class. Students would need to have an overwhelming number of class concepts memorized as they juggled different courses and crammed various bits of information into their heads.

This was also true of my own college experience. College professors were not as available to students for assistance as I expected, since they had to deal with hundreds of students on a daily basis. The only times where I could really connect with my professors face-to-face were during their open office hours, and even those were difficult to make.

You can find more information about the details of college office hours by clicking over to Professor Office Hours: 11 Facts Students Should Know.

To sum it up, community colleges expect students to have a good handle on what they’re learning before moving on, whereas, at university, it’s on the student to keep up, get extra help, and manage the substantial course workload. It’s possible to be successful in both of these academic settings, but you should understand how they’re different.

College Study Tips

Is There Homework in College? (Here’s What to Expect) – OutScholar (4)
  1. Attendance is necessary! Being late looks bad, but it’s better than not showing up at all. Having a professor explain the material in person will make it easier to understand later.
  2. Be an active participant in class: You’re there to get every drop of education and opportunity to better yourself in college. Raise your hand proudly, whether it’s to answer or to ask. Also, it all adds up to a teacher possibly putting in a good word for you if they have connections to your career.
  3. Always review your notes before your class starts: This not only is a life-saver for a surprise quiz from last night’s material but it never hurts to give yourself a fresh reminder.
  4. Everything is your responsibility: When you’re in college, teachers will look at you the way a boss would look at you. If you’re not prepared to do the work, instead of getting fired, you’ll get a bad grade which affects your GPA/transcripts.
  5. Make a sensible schedule: These are the best things you can do for yourself. It’s all about how you pace yourself, no matter the number of credits or hours devoted towardd independent study. Plan breaks for yourself and stick to routine study times to give yourself a good schedule.
  6. Always be familiar with your school resources: Library, Academic Advisor, Study Groups, Tutoring, and Office Hours. These are lifelines for success!

Sources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


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