Survey: Students’ study habits lacking

Forty-four percent of respondents said they spend 10 hours or less studying.

Molly Moker

If students don’t study as much as their professors expect, it doesn’t mean they can’t ace the class, according to a new study.

Professors at 472 four-year colleges and universities expect their students to be studying more than 25 hours a week, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement, which came out Monday.

Of the 163,000 first-year students and seniors who responded to the survey, only 11 percent said they spend that much time studying.

Forty-four percent of respondents said they spend 10 hours or less studying.

Yet, of students who spend 10 or fewer hours a week studying, 40 percent said they earn mostly A’s, and 41 percent said they earn mostly B’s.

The survey’s overall response rate was 42 percent.

The University of Minnesota did not participate in the study.

John Hayek, senior associate director with the National Survey of Student Engagement, said the group has conducted this survey for five years and statistics have not changed much.

“The most disappointing thing is there is a serious gap of what faculty are expecting and what students are doing,” Hayek said. “We need to have faculty communicate more intensely about expectations and have greater expectation for what students are doing.”

Melissa Deer said that she only studied approximately 10 hours a week when she was an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But now in her second year at the Medical School at the University of Minnesota, she said she studies more than 25 hours a week.

“(As an undergraduate) you can get by with just the requirements for the class,” Deer said. “But I wouldn’t say you’re learning a ton or developing critical thinking skills.”

How much time students spend studying depends on personal characteristics and curiosity, Deer said.

“Some want a really good education, and some just want a job; it depends,” she said.

Engineering junior Anders Broste said he spends approximately three hours to five hours studying a day.

He said he spends as much time studying as it takes to understand the subject.

“Once I understand that one plus one equals two, I can move on from that simple point,” he said.

Broste increased his studying time since his first two years at the University of Minnesota, but he said that is not necessarily a campus trend.

Once he started taking more classes in his major, Broste said, he enjoyed studying more because he had more incentive.

Biology sophomore Miriam Schimunek said she spends between 15 hours and 20 hours studying a week, and 25 hours is too high of an expectation.

Four hours of studying per each course is an appropriate expectation, Schimunek said.

Political science professor John Sullivan said he does not have an “hour formula” for studying expectations.

“I expect undergraduates to read 100 pages a week, and remember the details they read, and analyze what they read critically,” Sullivan said.

When he started teaching at the University of Minnesota in 1975, Sullivan said, he expected students to read 150 pages a week, but he has lowered his expectations.

“Life was certainly not as hectic as it is now,” he said.

Students today work more and don’t read as much, he said.

“It is what it is,” Sullivan said. “In 50 years, people probably won’t read 50 pages a week.”

Aerospace engineering and mechanics professor Perry Leo said he expects students to study three hours to six hours a week for each of his classes.

Leo said students in aerospace engineering need to study a total of 25 hours a week to do well in their course work.

Students work harder today than when Leo began teaching in 1988, he said, but he is satisfied with the amount of studying serious students do.

English professor Gordon Hirsch said hitting the books 25 hours a week sounds low.

For every credit, students should spend three hours per week studying, he said.

“Twenty-five hours average is low – 10 hours is tragic,” he said. “That’s not enough – that’s not an education. There’s a lot to read and a lot to know.”