If you’re like me or the typical overachiever, you’re looking forward to doing everything that is possible to do in college, in order to make the absolute most out of your college experience. You might think that taking a heavy course load in college is no big deal due to your success in high school with millions of AP and Honors classes.
A few of you may even have had community college classes or other extracurriculars on top of this heavy work load like I did. I remember when I was taking 3 community college classes on top of 5 AP classes and still maintained an A average.
Although I did go to a relatively inflated and underperforming high school, I was confident enough to continue my overachieving patterns with a very heavy course-load in college. I recently finished 20 college units my first semester at the University of Notre Dame. My intense and mixed experience with this course-load has given me a unique perspective which I hope you will find helpful in your college journey. I present to you my pros and cons of taking a heavy course-load in college (in my case, this is 18+ units/credits).
Pros of taking a heavy course-load
1. Colleges will see that you are motivated, determined, and willing to work your butt off.
2. Putting yourself in stressful and challenging experiences prepares you for the stressful and challenging experiences you will face in the future.
3. You obtain a very broad range of knowledge
4. A 4.0 with 20 units shows much more than a 4.0 with 12 units. A 3.7 with 20 units still shows much more than a 4.0 with 12 units.
5. You get to meet more people because you have more classes.
6. You have a better chance of finding Professors who are willing to go the extra mile to get to know you.
7. You can drop a course and still have plenty of units to spare to still be a full-time student.
8. You’ll be a much better performer if you decide to take a few units off the next time you make a schedule. It’ll be like an athlete taking off his running weights that held him back but made him stronger. Without those weights, he’ll run faster.
9. You’ll get your requirements done faster than most, which will also give you more flexibility in adding another major or minor.
Cons of taking a heavy-course-load
1. The time spent in an extra classes takes away from the time you could have spent in another, maybe more relevant, class. Your school may not have a limit to how much units you can take, but time is definitely limited.
2. Why aim for a broad knowledge when society perhaps values more knowledge in a specific subject?
3. College is not just about academics. College is also an opportunity to socialize, serve others, and find interests/hobbies.
4. Sleep is important.
5. Quality over quantity. This is why a better GPA in fewer units is much more valuable than a lower GPA with more units. Those extra units take away from your effort in another class, leading to less knowledge in that subject and a lower GPA.
6. Working hard is pointless if you do not reflect on why you’re working hard. What’s your motivation for taking so many units?
7. It’s easier to collapse completely under the stress of so many units.
We all work at different paces. Do not let a standardized education system victimize you with an education that does not meet your needs. Find what you want and pursue it with all your heart. I completed 20 units last semester, and I am currently enrolled in 18. I may be adding another one or two units.
My last semester was not necessarily difficult, but just make sure you have enough of a work ethic to maintain a heavy course-load before enrolling in more units than you can chew. Balance is everything, and everyone’s balance is different, so try to find yours. It may not be the best idea to take extra units during your first semester of college because the first semester presents many other challenges of adapting to college, but future semesters are all fair game to your judgement.