Engineering most time-consuming

Nov. 28, 2011, 2:03 a.m.


A recent study by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) found that, on average, faculty expected engineering majors to spend the most hours per week on their schoolwork at 20 hours, followed by social scientists at 18 hours and business and education majors at 15 hours.


The NSSE polled 1,900 faculty members at 48 institutions. Since its founding in 2000, it has observed a 46 percent institutional response. However, Stanford has not participated in the sampling.


An NSSE study found engineering to be the most time-consuming major, followed by social sciences. (WENDING LU/The Stanford Daily)

The study also showed some more specific findings. It asserts that business majors spend the most time on activities outside school. Furthermore, architectural engineering students specifically spend the most time on their coursework, according to an email from NSSE Director Alexander C. McCormick to The Daily.


Professors did not wish to comment on the study’s relevance at Stanford.


“It depends entirely on the individual,” wrote Elisabeth Paté-Cornell, professor of management science and engineering, in an email to The Daily. “I expect excellence, whatever it takes.”


She cited students’ study habits and mastery of the material as factors that may vary the amount of time spent on coursework.


Ronald Anderson ’15, who plans to declare a psychology major, said that he already finds himself exceeding the amount of time completing what is commonly referred to as Stanford’s “golden ratio,” an unofficial approximation which equates one unit of a Stanford class to three hours of work per week.



However, other “fuzzies” have found that the golden ratio’s relevance depends on the individuals.


“For fuzzier majors, like history or English, the amount of time spent on homework is dependent on one’s ability to develop and express a cohesive argument,” Gabrielle Gulo ’12, an English major, wrote in an email to The Daily.


Meanwhile, the Undergraduate Engineering Handbook suggests that engineering students enroll in 14 to 17 units per quarter, which translates into 42 to 51 hours of work per week, according to the golden ratio. These recommendations are far higher than the NSSE study’s numbers.


Emma Pierson ’13, a physics major, argued that many classes, especially higher-level ones, are not assigned a fair number of units.


“In techie classes, there’s almost an inverse correlation between how many units a class is and how much work it is, because higher level-classes tend to have fewer units,” she wrote in an email to The Daily. “A three-unit math class is probably harder than a five-unit math class…My graduate CS course this quarter (229) is about as much work as the rest of my classes put together, doubled.”


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