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Study Habits of College Students Revealed in New Survey

Just how much are college students hitting the books these days? The 2011 annual National Survey of Student Engagement found full-time students put in about 15 hours a week, on average.

It depends on your major, however, and how much your professor pushes you. Engineering was more demanding, while business and social science majors had lighter workloads.

The survey found faculty expectations for study time generally matched what students reported, but professors in some fields wanted students to study more, and students weren't always prepared for class even when they put in 20 hours.

With the challenge of paying for college today in the down economy, the survey looked at the impact that financial stress had on students. Overall, 22 percent of entering students expected paying for college would be "very difficult."

Of those students, about one-third expected to work more than 10 hours a week and were first-generation college students. They also thought they'd have more trouble learning course material, managing time, getting help with school work, making friends, and interacting with faculty than students who didn't have financial concerns, the survey found. Students with high financial need placed a higher value on importance for campus support and help coping.

With these findings in mind and the current economic climate, the authors suggest faculty, administration, and first-year programming staff offer services and outreach to help improve student persistence for this population.

The survey also asked students about what strategies they used to learn in college. While most said they took careful notes in class, nearly one-third never looked at them again for review. About half outlined major topics and ideas from class as a way to retain the material and half discussed effective study strategies with faculty or other students.

What students said did work to keep them more engaged: academic challenge and active, collaborative learning. This suggests that professors need to ramp up their expectations, while also being proactive in teaching study skills so students really learn, officials with NSSE note.

As seniors prepare for the job market, 83 percent are talking with advisers or professors for work-related advice. Nearly half are participating in a clinical assignment, internship, practicum, or field experience. Education majors (71 percent) were more likely to have this practical work experience, compared with 43 percent of business majors. This career-related information was provided by the NSSE companion surveys, the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement.

The NSSE results are from a survey of 416,000 first-year students and seniors at 673 U.S. colleges and universities.

(On another note, if you missed yesterday's online chat about college readiness, see the archived transcript of the conversation here.)

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