Skip to main content


Andriana tackles the myth and the mystery of college homework!

Andriana tackles the myth and the mystery of college homework!

Hi everyone!

Let’s talk about the one thing never far from our minds: homework! As Carleton’s student body approaches midterms, assignments are piling up and Carls are powering through to reach the end of this (very unusual) year. It seems appropriate then to dedicate this week’s topic to homework.


I think that college homework is, at its heart, misunderstood. Until I started at Carleton, I had little idea of what to expect. I was afraid that I would have a paper due everyday, as well as two books to read and a chapel to paint. (Kidding! But I was genuinely clueless.) The transition to college academics can be stressful, but I think knowing what to expect can make that transition a bit easier. So let’s get started!

Amount of Homework

When I was a freshman, my adviser told me that a good rule of thumb was to spend twice as much time on homework as the time spent in class. So in practical terms, this would mean that every hour of class would warrant two hours of homework. For me, I usually have about two hours of class each day, which should translate to four hours of homework.

My adviser’s rule is a good one to keep in mind. But also know that the amount of time you spend on homework will likely vary depending on the day, as is the case for me. For example, if I’m really tired, I might give myself the evening off and instead get up early the next day to finish my work. Alternatively, if I have a lot to do, I’ll work more hours one day to make sure that everything gets done on time. On average, however, I would estimate that I spend about four to six hours on homework each day.

This is perfectly reasonable! I have plenty of time to socialize (virtually, nowadays), relax, and get lots of sleep. Additionally, I usually find my homework interesting! One of the wonderful things about college is that you get to choose your classes. This means that doing homework doesn’t feel like a chore—you’re learning more about topics you enjoy.

The Nature of College Homework

Homework marks a huge distinction between college and high school: In college, homework is about learning—not trying to prove that you’ve learned. Honestly, one of my biggest pet peeves is busy work. Before college, I had a lot of busy work, and it drove me nuts! Now, my homework serves a purpose. When I do homework, I am either learning something new or studying in greater depth a topic that we will cover in class.

In my experience, when assignments are intended to help you learn, they make your work feel more productive. This is so important! When assignments aren’t intended to help you learn, it can be difficult to feel motivated and might make the actual learning process less enjoyable.

Types of Homework

Most of my homework involves readings of some sort. In my English courses, assignments are usually novels, short stories, or other forms of literature. In other humanities or social science departments, course readings are usually articles or passages from academic journals and books. There are often a few papers due throughout the term, and in some cases, professors might assign a presentation or a final exam.

In STEM courses, there can still be readings, but they might be from textbooks, more informative than argument-driven. There might be problem sets or lab reports, depending on the nature of the course. Exams or projects are more likely than papers, especially for midterms or finals.

A Disclaimer

Each department assigns different kinds of work, and even within departments, there will be plenty of variety from course to course. Additionally, while the prospect of multiple papers/projects/exams in a single trimester might seem daunting, don’t worry! Assignments tend to be well spaced out, so there shouldn’t be too much at once. (The exception might be during finals, but the finals period is only five days long and passes quickly enough!)

If you do find yourself becoming overwhelmed, please don’t hesitate to speak with your professor(s). They are often very flexible and willing to help and accommodate when needed. If you’re struggling with your deadlines, let them know!

So What Should You Know?

It can be hard to imagine right now, but you will adjust very quickly to college work. It won’t take you long to find the schedule and routine that work best for you. To reiterate my earlier advice—if you need help adjusting, or really with anything at all, talk to your professors and adviser! They can really help make your transition to college as smooth as possible.

Good luck!

Andriana is a sophomore at Carleton, where she is earning a major in English and a minor in Cross-Cultural Studies. Although she is spending the year at home in Richmond, VA, Andriana is already excited to return to Carleton in the fall. When she isn’t busy studying, Andriana can be found binge-reading, playing music, or watching a favorite movie or show for the umpteenth time. Meet the other bloggers!