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Five Signs That You’re Studying Too Much

Many students quickly fall down the rabbit hole of studying too much and end up struggling as the semester wears on. Let’s take a closer look at some tips aimed at helping you recognize if you’re at risk of losing your head come exam time.

Oct 6, 2016
  • Student Tips
Five Signs That You’re Studying Too Much

Typical guidelines recommend that students spend two to three hours of outside studying time for each credit hour they spend in class. While this may not sound like a lot on its own, it adds up. Think of it this way: If you take four courses comprising three credit hours each, you’ll spend 12 hours in class and up to 36 hours studying -- adding up to a total of 48 hours every week on schoolwork. That’s not only more than a full-time job, but also fails to factor in time for work, play, and other commitments.

Unfortunately, many students quickly fall down the rabbit hole of studying too much and end up struggling as the semester wears on. Let’s take a closer look at some tips aimed at helping you recognize if you’re at risk of losing your head come exam time.

unshaven man in glasses tired, fell asleep at the table

1. You’re Not Sleeping Well

Sleep is a vital biological function, and yet many students operate under the presumption that sleep is optional. Lack of sleep isn’t just bad for your body, brain and soil in about a billion different ways, but it can also directly impact the productivity of your study sessions thereby commencing a vicious cycle of getting less out of studying more.

Don’t want to take it from us? Take it from Harvard, where researchers have linked sleep with memory function, mood, motivation, judgment and perception.

And don’t even think about pulling an all-nighter before that big test. You’ll not just end up even more exhausted, but also with lower grades, according to research from St. Lawrence University.

If you’re relying on coffee and sheer will to power through your days, you’re dancing with disaster. Instead, sit down with your schedule and make a realistic plan which includes ample time for studying AND sleep. It may sound impossible, but millions of successful college students manage to make it work. So can you -- and your future may depend on it.

Young messy woman have breakfast in the kitchen

2. You’re Not Eating Right

You woke up at 8, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to the library to hunker down with your orgo textbook. The next time you look at the clock it’s 4 in the afternoon and you’re famished. What do you do next? If you’re like many students, you head to the nearest vending machine and load up on unhealthy snacks and a soda to help you power through until dinner.

In fact, food is a kind of catch-22. Eat too little and you run out of energy. Eat too much and you gain weight. Eat the wrong things and you compromise both your functionality and your overall health. One simple way to avoid these college common consequences? Make sure to build in routine times for eating while constructing your schedule, including all three meals as well as regular snack breaks.

Also, remember that while that candy bar looks good in the moment, no one ever regrets choosing the fruit instead.

Women with their faces pressed against glass

3. Your Classmates Are the Only People You See Every Day

So you haven’t seen your best friend in two weeks and you can’t even remember what your mother’s voice sounds like meanwhile you’ve been spending every single waking moment with your study group. While socializing with your classmates has its benefits, they’re far from the only people in your social circle. Friends from the outside world can help you stay balanced and engaged with the outside world.

Keeping up in college should not come at the expense of keeping up with your friends and family members. The takeaway is simple here: Put down the books and pick up the phone. Whether your schedule a coffee date or simply chat with a far-off friend, you’re certain to feel restored when you’re through.

Young man receiving tons of messages on laptop

4. You Stop Reading and Responding to Messages

If you’re leaving behind a trail of unanswered emails and texts, you’re not only dropping some balls, but you’re also conveying the message that these communications are unimportant to you. While your inbox might seem like it’s always full of spam, chances are it also contains need-to-know information.

We recommend designating several windows of time throughout the day for checking your messages and responding to them. Just avoid clicking back and forth while you’re studying as this is a serious time suck. Not to mention -- do you really have excess IQ points to spare?

Young male in glasses discussing business with woman in modern office with laptops

5. You’re Less About Motivation and More About Procrastination

You can only maintain an intensive study session for so long. Eventually, you’ll no longer be able to sustain your pace. Unfortunately, many students try to continue studying when this happens, even though they lack the concentration they need to absorb and retain the material. The result? The time they commit to studying stays the same or even rises while productivity tanks.

If you notice your mind wandering -- either after an extended period of study or at a certain time of day -- recognize the shift and take a break. A meal, exercise, meditation, or visit with a friend can work wonders for helping you get your head back in the game. After all, it’s not about how long you study, but about how well you study.

One last thing to keep in mind? Those 12 straight hours in the library are ultimately meaningless if they don’t help you perform better. Not only that, but when you put studying over other important aspects of life you’re not just jeopardizing your academic record, but also your health. And while grades matter, nothing matters more than that.

Joanna Hughes


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.