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Facing Reality



I had induction for my course this week and they were suggesting that I needed to put in 180 hours of work (including lab time, in course time, and course work) per semester per course for my Master's. In the 11 weeks of the semester that equals to about 65 hours per week.

I spoke to a Ph.D. student who had just graduated from my course and she said "Say goodbye to your friends for 12 months. You'll have fun but you won't have time for them."

My cohort is all professionals excluding myself and another student. It's not a bad thing, but it is definitely intimidating.

Needless to say this has left me feeling really defeated. I just moved to a new city for this program, and was planning on both enjoying school and life while I was here. Based on what professors and this one previous student have told me . . . I won't be enjoying my life it seems. My life will equal grad school and nothing but grad school.

I understand that grad school is a commitment and requires a lot of time and effort. But I really want to know how much these people are exaggerating vs what the reality actually is. I won't find out until I am in the thick of it, but part of me wants to run away now before I even start.

Anyone else felt this way on their first week?

Edit: For some reason 130 hours per course turned into 180 hours in my brain. The maximum I am expected to work on the program each week is 47 hours, which is much more like what I was expecting. Freakout unnecessary.


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That's a similar time-commitment to what is required at my grad school. Although I knew this well in advance of even applying to the places I did (asking grad students I met on visiting days, talking to people who'd got their PhD already). In most fields & schools, 65 hrs per week is normal. That's kinda the nature of grad school - it's a lifestyle, not a job.


Your best bet is to set aside one day per week as being completely free from work (Sunday, for instance) where you can explore, catch up with friends, etc. If you can work from home/a coffeeshop for some stuff, then go ahead and do it.

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It's also a matter of how much you allow yourself to spend working. In grad school, I think it's really easy to spend way more time than necessary on some things. That is, in order to show your very best work in every thing you do, you would have to spend an unreasonable (in my opinion) amount of hours per week at work. So, I think time management in grad school is really a matter of priorities.


One of the hardest skills I had to learn was to know when to stop working on an assignment and hand in things that aren't my best work. In my (research based) programs (both my Masters and my current PhD program), the priority is research output, not coursework. I decided that I was willing to work around 50 hours per week, and up to 60 hours per week during the school year, where I have coursework. So, I budgeted my time accordingly to make sure I met the goals I set for myself. Luckily, my current school has a useful system of helping us to do -- the number of credits a course is worth is equal to the number of hours we're expected to spend per week. In most cases, this number is pretty good -- I've gotten satisfactory grades putting in this amount of effort. Most of the courses here expect 9 hours total per course per week (total = in class, lab, homework, readings). I usually can't fit all this in 9 hours so I skip the readings and only go through the notes when I need something for the homework. 


I also agree with the setting one day a week off from work. Right now, I am in the midst of preparing for quals so I don't get much time off, but in  my regular schedule, I try to spend 5 full work days in the office, 1 day working at home on homework (i might spend a few hours in the office and a few hours at home), and 1 day doing absolutely nothing related to school. 


After courses are over, I hope to spend on average, 40 hours per week on research and an extra 10 or so hours per week in quarters where I am TAing. I'd also be willing to work extra for important deadlines, like an upcoming conference etc. Sometimes getting to travel to a cool place for a conference is exactly the motivator I need to put in those extra hours!

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My program is course based where I am doing 4 classes a semester for 2 semesters, then I have 4 months to work on my dissertation. It's also a Master's program, which is why I was so surprised about the amount of time they expected us to work on things outside of the classroom. If it were a Ph.D. program where I was doing research then I would be expecting to work this much, but not for a course based master's program where I am only in classes or labs 16 hours a week. 


I spoke with some friends this evening, other Masters students but none in my program and I was reminded that that much work is probably what is expected of a student trying to get into the Ph.D. program who intends on having no life outside of school. This is really not the goal for me. I want to graduate with good grades but I only intend to go into industry in the future. I'm really hoping I'm just panicking a little from forgetting what school was actually like. 

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I don't think you need to worry about it. Just be prepared to work hard and change the pace of your life. It's up to you to find enough time for everything. It's only your attitude that does make all the difference. With the current level of modern technologies, you might save time on have some time left to spend with your friends. My personal advice is to improve your time management. There's time for everything, as they say the time flies, but we are the pilots. 

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180/11 = 65?    WTF?




715/180 = approximately 4


only 4 courses per Masters?    


Actually 180 hours includes homework and other stuff. I do not think you really should worry. That's 'official' hours

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