The traditional college route has classes falling between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., but the typical student is changing and that schedule does not always make sense. The price of education is rising and the challenging job market demands more and more experience, the sooner the better. Whether for financial reasons or to get a jumpstart on their careers, 80 percent of students – including students from high school, community college, online college, and traditional colleges or universities – are working while enrolled in school, according to a survey from Citigroup and Seventeen magazine. Students holding down a job while getting an education typically work 19 hours per week during the school year, according to the same survey.
Juggling the responsibilities of a job and a full class schedule is no mean feat. Luckily, colleges and universities offer their students options to create a schedule that works for them. Nighttime classes are one of these options. If you are wondering if night classes are right for you, we’ve broken down the pros and cons for college students.
If you are one of the 80 percent of students working, night classes will give you the flexibility you need to meet all of your professional and academic responsibilities. Classes held in the evening ensure even students working a fulltime, 8-to-5 job can fit an education into their schedule.
If you are one of the students working a part-time job, taking your classes can give you the flexibility to pursue other activities. You could fit in an internship or extracurricular activities.
One of the advantages of night college classes, these courses tend to be longer than their daytime counterparts. Instead of being an hour-long class five times a week, a night class could be two-and-a-half hours twice a week. This concentrated schedule allows students even greater flexibility. If you need to pick up a nighttime shift at your job, you can do so on the days you do not have class in the evening.
2. The Late-Night Schedule
College students are no strangers to late nights, so using those hours to take a class is hardly radical. In fact, some students thrive on the nighttime learning schedule. We have all heard the terms “early birds” and “night owls.” It turns out, there is scientific validity to the idea that some people function better later in the day. A person’s chorotype will determine his or her body’s preferences for waking and sleeping. Approximately 10 percent of people have early chorotypes that make them early birds, 20 percent of people have late chorotypes that make them inclined to rising later in the day, and the rest of the population falls somewhere along the spectrum in between the two, according to Discover Magazine.
If you happen to be genetically predisposed to late rising, nighttime classes will be the perfect fit. You will be able to align your schedule to fit with your natural waking and sleeping patterns. No more struggling to stay awake in an 8 a.m. class, instead you can focus on learning in the evening – when you function best.
3. Time to Prepare Before Class
All college students know that a lot of their schoolwork takes place outside of the classroom. The 2015 National Survey of Student Engagement found first-year college students spend an average of 17.9 hours per week preparing for class, while senior students spend an average of 15.8 hours per week. With the majority of students holding at least a part-time job, that is a full schedule of work, class, and preparation time. Students taking traditional daytime classes will likely be doing most of their prep work at night before they go to bed. While it is certainly helpful to plan your next day before bed, late night cramming sessions fueled by caffeine is not a productive habit.
Nighttime class goers can eschew the late night study sessions for preparation during daylight. You can schedule your studying for right before your classes. The information will stay fresher in your mind. Your preparation will not be separated by hours of sleep and the morning rush.
4. Network with Different Kinds of People
As an alternative to the traditional schedule, nighttime classes could have a very different group of people than their daytime counterparts. People already established in their careers could be taking college classes at night to continue their education, complete a degree, or switch their professional focus. Students working an internship and part-time job in addition to college courses will also be in the mix. You have the chance to talk to these classmates and hear their stories. You may even find someone with a schedule similar to yours.
Meeting different kinds of people, forming relationships that can last a lifetime, and creating a network that can build a bridge into your professional life beyond school is one of the greatest benefits of college. Night classes offer an excellent way to expand the variety of people you meet and establish a stronger network.
1. Long Days
Night classes certainly offer you the opportunity to fit more into your day, but that can be a downside. Longer hours and a fuller plate can mean more stress. A 2013 survey conducted by the American College Health Association reported students felt the following levels of stress:
Stress is a natural part of life, but if it becomes too much to manage it can begin to affect you. Too much stress can manifest itself as physical symptoms such as headache, muscle aches, and problems sleeping. Students overwhelmed with stress might also find themselves struggling with a lack of motivation and anxiety.
But, do not equate night classes with unremitting stress. It is all about how you cope with the stress that will inevitably happen in your life. Here are a few ways to keep your stress under control:
- Manage your time. If you are new to taking night classes, think about how that will affect your schedule. Set regular times to wake up, study, and socialize. If you stick to a manageable schedule, you will know what your day looks like and reduce the stress that comes with scrambling to juggle all of your responsibilities.
- Exercise. Running around campus trying to make it to your next class is not what we mean by exercise. If your college has a gym free for student use, take advantage of it, or find ways to fit some other type of physical activity – like jogging – into your schedule. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress, help you sleep better, and even improve your levels of concentration.
- Stick to a healthy diet. Eating healthy in college is easier said than done, but your body will thank you. A healthy diet can help you avoid getting sick and keep you more alert throughout your day. You do not have to give up all of your favorite foods, just remember fruits and vegetables are food a group – not pizza.
2. Lack of Sleep
Adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But, research from 2011 found more than 55 percent of college students get less than seven hours of sleep per night, according to U.S. News and World Report. The long days that can come with night classes may mean you are up later than your peers who are on the traditional class schedule. Sleep deprivation can disrupt your focus and even affect your health.
If you are taking night classes, you will need to recognize your schedule will be different. Like anything else, you need to fit into your schedule; you have to plan time to sleep. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is just one step to making sure you are getting enough rest. Remember to put away the smartphone and laptop when you lie down for the night, avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol before bed, and schedule some time to exercise. If you find you have small gaps in your schedule, consider squeezing in a nap or two. Quick power naps – a half an hour or less – can help keep you well rested.
3. Wandering Focus
If your classes don’t start until the evening, you have an entire day filled with work and studying to think about before you even get to the lecture hall. Don’t be discouraged. It is possible to pay attention and absorb the material in a nighttime class. Focus is a discipline. Practice it enough, and it will become second nature. Try a couple of different tricks to keep your mind in the classroom.
- Put away your devices. It might seem old school, but try taking notes by hand. A laptop may be convenient, but there are thousands of distractions at your fingertips as soon as you power it up. Your phone is a similar distraction. You don’t need to check the time every couple of minutes, or your social media accounts for that matter. Keep the phone off your desk and pay attention to the lesson.
- Sit up front. Grabbing a seat in the front row will make it harder to pass off browsing Facebook as note taking. You will also be closer to the professor and the lesson material.
4. Social Life Conflict
First and foremost, college is an educational experience. The goal is to gain new knowledge and earn a certificate or degree demonstrating the time you spent learning. Yet, college is also a socially formative experience for students. Many college students consider the night hours their time to take a break from their academic pursuits and enjoy the social aspects of school. While night classes will not necessarily preclude you from these social interactions, you could run into conflicts. You need to know you will have the discipline to put your academics first – no skipping class for a party.
Additionally, you will meet your fellow nighttime classmates. They may have a similar schedule. Find time to grab lunch together or meet up after class. The weekends will also offer plenty of time to socialize.
What to Do if Night Classes Aren’t for You
If after weighing the pros and cons you find nighttime classes do not fit your schedule or your personality, don’t worry. Colleges offer other flexible options that allow students to fit education into their busy schedules.
Online classes are a great option because they allow nearly total flexibility. You can set aside time to study, complete assignments, and take tests anytime during the day or night. The remote nature of these courses also affords you the flexibility to choose where you want to learn. You can set aside a space in your home, head out to a coffee shop, or even pull out your laptop while you are on a break at work. Plus, online courses are growing in popularity. You are likely to find a wide variety of available options.
On the other hand, the freedom that comes with online learning can be a challenge to manage. It becomes easier to put off reading an assignment, writing a paper, or studying for a test without the more structured environment of a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom. Additionally, some students may feel like they are missing out on face-to-face interaction with a professor and fellow students.
These classes can be a great way to learn, but consider the pros and cons before signing up.
Weekend classes help working students put some space between their professional and academic lives. If you have class on Saturdays and Sundays, instead of during or after your workdays, you can avoid those long days. During the week, you can focus on your work responsibilities without worrying about the test you have to take in a few hours. Additionally, weekend classes offer a more concentrated form of learning. Instead of meeting for an hour a few times a week, these classes meet for a few hours just once a week. This style of learning may appeal to students who struggle to remember lessons spread out over time.
Weekend classes, like any other type of learning, do have potential downsides. The concentrated learning style may not be for you. You will spend more time with your classmates in one session, rather than smaller chunks of time spread out throughout the week. You could also let what you learned slip from your mind as you juggle your weekday responsibilities. Lastly, weekends are traditionally considered a time to relax and socialize. A single class on Saturday will not take up all of your time, but homework and studying will also require your attention. Consider whether you are willing to skip some of your regular weekend hobbies in favor of learning.
Many students are building their schedules out a combination of daytime classes, night courses, online options, and weekend classes. Each option has its pros and cons, but the ultimate goal remains the same: to learn. With some careful planning, you can create an academic calendar that works for you and your education goals.