Dear Ally,

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Tackle Homework Like a Boss!

Dear Ally,

You’re probably beginning to realize that professors give a lot of homework. They say most classes will require you to spend 9 hours per week on work outside of class for every 3 credit hour course. This is not a lie! And that is the average student in the average course and I’m assuming you don’t want to be an average student. So if you’re taking 5 classes, that’s 45 hours a week. That’s more than a full time job and doesn’t even count the time spent in class. College is your job for the next 4 years.

So where are you going to get all this time? You probably noticed that you’re not in class all day like in high school. That’s so you have time to do your homework, although every once in a while a 10am nap might be a good thing. Sometimes you’ll have to get up early on Saturday morning to get things done, especially if you want to go out on Saturday night. Every once in a while, you won’t have time to go out on Saturday night either.

There are two ways to get homework done: the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is to do a little bit every day as soon as possible after you’ve had class when it’s freshest in your mind. The hard way is to put it off and let it all pile up and you’ve forgotten what you learned, so you have to relearn it before you can do it. This is a good way to turn a 1 hour assignment into a 4 hour stress fest. The easy way is to begin assignments ahead of time, so that you can ask for help, if you get stuck. The hard way is to wait until the night before when the professor has been asleep for hours and won’t answer your desperate e-mail until after the assignment is due. The hard way is to only use your textbook and notes as resources. The easy way uses every possible resource you can find, other textbooks, librarians, the teaching assistant or student instructor, and, of course, Google! (Did you know that your Uncle Adam successfully replaced his own brake pads and drums by watching a YouTube video and getting a friend to help him? I was impressed!)

There’s also a right way and a wrong way to do homework. Guessing, googling the exact question hoping for the exact answer, and copying your friend’s answers all completely defeat the purpose of homework. Homework is not just to give you points to buffer your exam grades. Sometimes it’s not even worth any points or even collected or even assigned. Do it anyway! The point of homework is to give you practice and to help you figure out what you need to practice more to prepare for the exam. The homework tells you what’s going to be on the test!

Finally, take breaks and reward yourself, even for small accomplishments. I sometimes get to eat an M&M for every paper I grade. When I was in college, being able to watch the new episodes of Friends and Seinfeld was a huge motivator (yes, I know I’m old).

Well, I hope some of this is helpful and not too preachy. A lot of this is what I tell my students every year, but many of them don’t take it to heart until it’s too late.


Aunt Sarah


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