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#HonorsProblems: So You Want to Take 18 Credits?

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Bri, a Colubmian sophomore studying political science and economics.

“Should I consider taking 18 credits this semester?” is probably a question found frequently in the minds of Honors students. There’s no extra fee for the 18th credit freshman and sophomore year, and in true honors fashion many students probably feel obligated to take advantage of the opportunity.

I got the 18-credit bug last semester (and this semester too, but I’ll go into more detail about that later). I decided to take 6 classes, and reasoned that I could handle it as long as I was able to hone my time-management skills.

Everything was going well until midterms hit. I was taking tests from before fall break until Thanksgiving, which really wore me down. My grades were less than I desired, even though I was working as hard as I could. I even started drinking coffee after years of being proud that I didn’t need to!

As it turned out, my time management skills weren’t as good as I thought. I would be so tired from studying for one test that I’d neglect to do the coursework for another class, which meant that I had to then study twice as hard for the new class (once to learn the material and once to actually study it). If you find yourself falling into this trap, I’d encourage you to physically write out your schedule and stick to it, while making sure to build in breaks.

By the time finals season hit, I still had not quite learned my scheduling lesson. I had a lot more free time, so I was able to study more without overloading myself. I managed my time more effectively by building in breaks, which prevented my from burning out as I had earlier in the semester. However, I found myself still having to relearn material I had been tested on before because I hadn’t laid the intellectual groundwork earlier in the semester. Part of that problem was due to the fact that I was taking so many credits, and part of it was due to my poor time management skills.

Either way, if you’re considering taking 18 credits, the most important thing you can do is make sure you’re actually learning the material throughout the semester. Believe me, there is nothing worse than getting slammed with assessments when you never had time to actually learn the material in the first place. I would caution anyone taking 18 credits to ask themselves before the add/drop period ends if they have enough time to actually devote themselves to learning in all 6 classes.

I’m glad I learned this lesson first semester, because second semester I’ve again found myself falling into the honors trap of feeling obligated to take 18 credits (you can be self-aware and still a victim of the honors mentality, you know). However, I’m only actually taking 5 classes since I’ll be interning two days per week. I hope to budget my time more effectively, and start that internship paper early on so I don’t have to worry about it when finals come in May. I’m confident that using the lessons I learned, I’ll be able to hit the ground running later in January.

Taking 18 credits can be done and I encourage you all to challenge yourselves, but I also advise you to know yourself. You know what is best for you, and you might choose to drop a class – that’s ok! It’s better to learn in 5 classes than suffer in 6; after all, you’re in Honors! You want to soak up all the knowledge you possibly can and then some. Whether that means you take 4 or 5 or 6 classes doesn’t matter in the long run, but what will is the knowledge you are able to take away from those classes.