How to Budget Time as an Undergraduate Student at the University of Michigan

By Zane Harding June 16, 2020

Less than a week from the time this blog post is published, I will be finished with my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. After spending four full school years in Ann Arbor –– and one single spring semester remote! –– I have found that there are many different things that eat up your time on campus, and if you aren’t careful, you could wind up with far too much to do (or perhaps too much free time!). Today, I will break down a few things all students need to consider in order to strike a proper balance in their fall 2020 schedule.

Part One: Start With Coursework

Make no mistake: your coursework is the reason you are at the University of Michigan in the first place. Because of this, classes should be the first thing you consider when building your schedule. Full-time students may take anywhere from 12 to 18 credit hours at Michigan, so talk to your academic advisor and figure out how many credits you need to take in any given semester. If you’re taking a smaller amount of credits, you’ll have more room to add extracurricular activities such as student organizations or working a part-time job. But if you’re taking a higher amount of credits (or even just a few very difficult courses), allot yourself plenty of time to study outside of class.

As an example, let’s look at a week from my fall 2018 semester. During this semester, I took four courses that added up to 15 credit hours. All of the activities marked with yellow stars are classes, while all the areas marked with blue stars are times that I studied.

Although I was only taking 15 credit hours, EECS 183 and Math 116 are time-consuming courses. Therefore, I spent 16.5 hours in class every week. Meanwhile, I set aside 18 hours to study (and many people would recommend that you set aside more time than this to study for 15 credit hours worth of classes!). So, with 15 credit hours, I am devoting 34.5 hours to classwork alone. Let’s move on.

Part Two: Extracurricular Activities

Next, we must consider extracurricular activities such as part-time jobs, student organizations, sports teams, you name it. During this semester, I led two student organizations –– Michigan Sabermetrics (M-SABR) and the Michigan Football Analytics Society (M-FANS), two groups devoted to sports analytics and research –– and I was a member of a third student organization, Maize Rage (the Michigan Basketball student section). Combined between these three organizations, I only had three hours of meetings per week, but I probably spent about 5-7 hours per week doing administrative work for the two clubs I led, oftentimes over lunch or during random gaps I had during my day. Therefore, I put in around 8-10 hours per week towards my student organizations.

On top of this, I worked an internship at the LSA Opportunity Hub, a career services office on campus serving LSA students, for 10 hours every week (you can see these on the above calendar marked as “Hub”). Therefore, between my part-time job, student organizations, and classwork, I put in somewhere between 52.5 to 54.5 hours of work every single week that semester, excluding any extra time I had to put in to write papers for my English classes, or to study before a Calculus II or programming exam.

Part Three: Social Life and Mental Wellness Time

Finally, Wolverines need time to socialize and to unwind. Looking at the above calendar, I made about nine hours worth of plans with my friends this particular week, excluding any time spent studying with them. Most commonly, I’d grab food with them during a meal, but football games also served as a great time to bond with my roommates throughout the semester. On top of this, I tried to get to bed by 11 p.m. most school nights to get a full eight hours of sleep, and when I woke up at 7:15 a.m. in the morning, I had over an hour to get ready and walk to work. To be totally honest with you, I had practically no time to explore my various hobbies this semester, but if I went back and experienced this semester again, I still wouldn’t change a thing.


I’ll say this: I ran a tight ship my fall 2018 semester! I’ll be the first to admit that it became difficult to balance my work, my social life, and my health during this semester, and I took on lighter workloads every semester following this one. That said, this semester was arguably my favorite semester in college period. If I made this work for four months, anybody on this campus can. Good luck this fall, Wolverines! Go Blue!

Zane Harding
Zane Harding

Zane is a graduating senior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts with a major in English. He first became passionate about writing when he helped found the Michigan Society for American Baseball Research (better known as M-SABR) and joined SB Nation's Bless You Boys contributing articles on the Detroit Tigers. Zane has spent the past month living vicariously through his Animal Crossing villager and looking at U-M job listings to pass the time during social distancing.