Be Organized! Manage Your Unit Load for Success

As class sections are significantly reduced due to budget cuts, more students will consider taking more units than is advised. Does this sound like you?  You are not alone. I certainly was one of these students when I was in college. Some reasons could be: a sense of feeling like you’re getting behind on your educational goal or feeling the need to complete your educational goal quicker in preparation for future cuts in sections. Both points are well taken, but you still may want to pay close attention to some pros and cons.

Here are my pros & cons:

Pros to taking extra units in the semester:

  • Complete educational goal in a timely manner
  • Opportunity to increase GPA
  • Demonstrate ability to manage time

Cons to taking extra units in the semester:

  • Chances of hurting GPA which can affect short and long-term plans such as scholarships, AA degree/transfer, deans/presidents list
  • Increase chances of earning W’s on transcript (another perspective is taking a spot from a student than can complete the course)
  • Less time to appreciate the courses due to an overwhelming schedule
    • Less time for leisure
    • Increase emotional stress
    • Long days

Deciding on a unit load (# of classes) includes many factors besides the amount of class time you will spend a week and the reasons mentioned above. Family responsibility, personal commitments, tutoring and added time for class (i.e., lab hours, arranged hours) are other things to consider when deciding on a unit load. Don’t forget about work!

I recall taking 20-23 quarter units (13.34-15.3 semester units) for 3 quarters (10 weeks/quarter vs. 18 weeks/semester) during my last year in college while working 10 hours/week. Changing majors in my 3rd year put me in a difficult situation. My decision to take a high unit load for 3 quarters just to complete my degree in 4 years was definitely not the best. My overall GPA suffered and I was not able to appreciate my Sociology courses. Looking back I would have considered staying an extra quarter to balance things out and enjoy my major courses. I also should have considered speaking to an advisor early on about my poor academic performance in my first major (Business Economics).

Do the math on your hours of commitment. Start off with the following formulas:

# of units per week = Class time per week

# of units per week x 2 = Approximate study time per week

Recommended units if working:

40 hours per week = 3-7 units

30 hours per week = 8-11 units

20 hours or less per week = Full-time (12-14 units)

Less than 15 hours = Full-time (14-18 units)

Example for a full-time student (12 units) taking Math, English and Social Sciences courses working 15 hours of week. This student is committing to 12 hours of class time, 24 hours of study time and 15 hours of work for a total of 51 hours a week.  This student can easily be over committing if there are “other things” to consider outside the 51 hours.

Think smart! The key is to walk away feeling good about your decision and one way is to think things through before jumping into a high unit schedule. Be ORGANIZED. Search for a plan that will bring you SUCCESS…….In the end, students with academic success will open up more opportunities along their journey.

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3 Responses to Be Organized! Manage Your Unit Load for Success

  1. J.R. says:

    Great information! I have been quite prudent in my approach and even though it will take me a bit longer than I was originally anticipating I have been able to get a lot more out of my classes and struck a great balance between school and other responsibilities.

  2. Marvelina Barcelo says:

    Hello J.R,
    That is awesome that you found a balance! There are so many influences in this type of decision and so many changes in higher education. I am glad you enjoyed the blog!

  3. Sandra says:

    This is really good advise. While I was reading it sounded alot like me this spring semester. I had to take a seat and organize my schedule because I was leaving no time for studying and the results to that changed my perspective about my crazy schedule, now study time has became the most important part of my schedule. Dont try and take on to much at once.

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