The Value of a College Student’s Time

During my time in college, I’ve seen posters about why it’s important to attend your classes. One reason that caught my attention was that we lose $X each class we don’t attend. I wondered to myself, “How did they get that number?” Of course, math is the answer, but what were the factors used to determine that? I decided to fiddle around with some simple math and see for myself. Let’s just say that a $15 minimum wage wouldn’t make it worth it for most students at the University of Oregon to have a job.

If you’re in college, then you’re going to have an interesting time with this once you see what your time is worth. It also makes a great conversation starter at family gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tuition, Time and Effort

When it comes to school, a student will always put in more time and effort than their tuition is worth. Time is scarce in the life of a college student. We’re expected to spend three hours outside of class for every credit that we’re taking. Thus, students taking 12 credits are expected to put in 48 hours per week of combined in-class lecture and outside-of-class homework and study. Here’s a quick look at the time commitment college requires:

6 Credits (1/2 Time): 24 hours per week

12 Credits (Full Time): 48 hours per week

16 Credits: 64 hours per week

20 Credits: 80 hours per week

In order to truly understand the value of a student’s time, we must take into account the cost of tuition and how much time and effort is required. We are forced to go by the general rule of one hour in class, three hours outside of class. This makes four hours per credit taken.

The Value of Time

I believe that time is quite accurately valued at the product of this formula: (Tuition ÷ Number of Weeks in One Term) x Number of Credits = Weekly Value of Time. It could be written like this: (T ÷ W) x C = Weekly Value of Time. The reason why you divide tuition by how many weeks there are in one term because we want to get the weekly value of tuition so that we can multiply it by the number of credits. This will give us the weekly value of our time. But we’re not done yet.

It’s nice to know the weekly value of our time. But it’s even better to know the hourly value of our time. Thus, I believe that by dividing our weekly value of time by the number of hours in a week, we can know the true hourly value of a college student’s time. Thus, Weekly Value of Time (WVT) ÷ 168 = Hourly Value of Time (HVT). Let’s see this formula in action on my next quarter at the University of Oregon (UO):

My next quarter at the UO is estimated to cost $2,862 in tuition. There are 11 weeks in one quarter at the UO and I’m going to be taking 12 credits. Mathematically, we get ($2,862 ÷ 11) x 12 = $3,122.18 per week ÷ 168 = $18.58 per hour.

This might seem incorrect. There’s no way that a student’s time is that valuable, is there? The thing is that a student would put more time into their school and homework than tuition is worth. This is the case at any college. The more you pay in tuition, the more valuable your time is worth.


I decided not to add the cost of books because of how much it varies by major. Also, tuition is the only per hour expense at college that everybody is required to pay. Books have no such variable expense other than prices set by the bookstore. Another point to note is that some people will have terms with absolutely no books and others will have terms with more than one book per course. If you’d like, you could technically add the cost of books to tuition and work the formula out for a more personalized value. But I don’t recommend it because of the reasons stated in this paragraph.

Effort and Issues With Heavy Workloads

It’s important to understand that effort is really hard to valuate because of some courses with heavier workloads. An example of this would be a 3-credit course that has enough homework to actually be counted at a 4 or 5-credit course. Good examples of courses like this include private music lessons, some math courses, and courses with more reading than is usually required.

Understanding Time Helps Us Better Manage It

Wholeheartedly, I believe that you must understand your time and it’s value before you can effectively manage it. There are only 168 hours in a week. If you sleep for eight hours per night, that’s 56 hours. The weekly time commitment for 12 credits is 48 hours. If you eat for one hour three times per day, that’s 21 hours. That’s already 125 hours taken out of your week, leaving you with 43 hours of “free time.”

My time at the UO was valued at $18.58 per hour. This means that my free time of 43 hours is worth a total of $798.94. That part-time job that pays $9.25 at 20 hours only pays $185 per week before taxes. Even if that were a 40-hour per week job, it wouldn’t really be worth it. So is it worth it to take on a job while I’m in college? I always say that it’s best to get yourself in a situation that requires little to no work.

If you thought of wasting nearly $20 per hour, would to spend as much time at parties? How would you think of that time as money being “well spent?” Personally, I think it would be well spent getting extra rest where needed, getting some extra study time in when you need it, and definitely for taking time to exercise and relieve some college stress.

Conclusion: Review and Tips for Better Grades

There will be many people who are going to read this and think, “This is stupid. I like to party and spend time how I want to spend it!” There will also be many people who are going to read this and think,”This was insightful. Maybe I should be a little more careful with my time.” Which person are you going to be?

When it comes to getting a 4.0 GPA, or at least somewhere near it, consider my advice set out in these simple rules:

  1. Take the time you need, not the time you want, for study.
  2. Relieve stress through exercise of some form. I personally like swimming.
  3. Get eight hours of sleep each night. But not more. Even on the weekends. I recommend early to bed, early to rise. By early, I just mean try to be in bed by 10 PM and up by 6 AM. You’re going to be much more awake and refreshed than your hungover friends.
  4. Never cram or stay up later than you should to study. Sleep is extremely important in the process of memory.
  5. Learn to read (and comprehend) faster. There’s a technology called Spritz. I use it and it helps a lot. They have a bookmark that you can use to use the technology on the internet in your browser for free.
  6. Try your best to have one mental health day each week. I highly recommend making Sundays that day. If at all possible, don’t do any homework, exercise, or much of anything. Read a book you like, hang out, and maybe even take a nap (you’ve earned it).

Do these rules work? Of course they do! Most of them are from my time as a missionary. If these rules help Mormon missionaries study and learn the gospel of Jesus Christ better, then it’ll help anybody else with their study skills in college. Just stick to these 6 little rules and you’ll find yourself doing better in school.


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