Tips for Navigating Night Classes

When the sun is setting, happy hour consists of a stiff caffeinated drink or two for some. Their brains are still on the job.

More on liquid stimulants later, but add that sort of choice to the list when it comes to getting an education: Commute or live on campus, study full time or part time, and pick a major, to name but a few.

Once you’ve landed on a college and enrolled, it’s time to sign up for courses and plan your schedule. In many cases, schools offer courses throughout the day and evening to accommodate a broad range of students and their different schedules.

Night classes may be a convenient option for students who have to balance work and school. Given the cost of education, this is a large share of the student body. In 2018, 43% of full-time students and 81% of part-time students were employed during their studies.

Taking night classes can be an adjustment from studying during the traditional 8-to-5 window. Staying focused after a long day of work or rewiring your brain to study at night can be challenging.

Whether you’re gearing up for a degree’s worth of night school or a one-off evening class, take a look at these tips to survive night classes.

Nocturnal Animals

Generally speaking, night classes take place between 5 and 10 p.m. College night classes typically follow the traditional semester schedule, though there may be shorter timelines for special-interest topics or certificate programs.

Because night classes are geared toward nontraditional students with family and work obligations, they typically occur once a week for two to four hours, but it depends on the course credits and subject matter.

Although this condensed format may mean fewer trips to campus, it can also make for much longer days. Students may want to keep the following issues in mind.

Controlling Caffeine Cravings

When feeling tired, it may be a natural inclination to grab a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage to get a boost of energy and keep going. While this may help a student get through a night class or hammer out an assignment at the last minute, it can disrupt sleeping patterns, creating further fatigue the next day.

Caffeine can last up to 12 hours in the system after consumption. Even for night owls, a coffee or a Red Bull® or a Monster® after lunch could keep them awake well beyond when they want to go to bed.

If cold turkey seems like too drastic a change, you might want to try experimenting with less caffeinated beverages, such as tea. Everyone is different, and the goal is finding the sweet spot between staying awake and engaged during night classes and not losing precious sleep later on.

Staying Nourished and Hydrated

Staying focused during night classes can take practice and preparation. Packing healthy snacks and water is one way to maintain energy and feel comfortable as class discussions and lectures progress into the later evening hours.

If a professor doesn’t permit eating in the classroom, a student can likely squeeze in a quick bite beforehand or during break time.

Remaining Active

Between work, studying, class time, and other obligations, exercising may seem like a luxury that there isn’t enough time for. This can feel especially true on days when a full day at work is followed by a three-hour night class.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. Broken down over the whole week, that’s about 20 minutes of exercise a day.

If you’re really in a pinch, fitting in a brisk walk before night classes start or during the midway break in a three-hour seminar can help with your energy and work toward meeting the 150-minute threshold.

Befriending Classmates

Night classes can draw a more diverse student body than traditional college classes. For discussion-oriented classes, this can enrich the conversation with more perspectives.

It is also an opportunity to network and find a study buddy or two. Because night classes usually meet only once a week for a 15-week semester, even one absence could lead to falling behind or missing out on critical information. Classmates can be a resource for sharing notes and staying in the loop on what happened in class.

Also, becoming friends with classmates could make lengthy night classes more fun and add motivation to keep up strong attendance.

Creating a More Flexible Work Schedule

Even full-time students can expect to have at least one or two nights free from scheduled classes. If you have a flexible work schedule, you’re already in a position to craft an ideal balance of work, school, and social life.

However, if you’re working some version of the standard 9-5 schedule five days a week, the days with back-to-back work and class can feel like a marathon. Getting an education takes work, but you may not get the most out of it if it becomes something you dread.

Redistributing work hours to accommodate your night class schedule might prevent burnout. For instance, being able to come in an hour later on mornings after night classes and make them up later in the week can spread out the workload and help in catching up on sleep.

Talking to supervisors may feel intimidating, but if your college night classes are providing skills and knowledge to perform better at your job, you can make a case for getting some wiggle room at work while you finish school.

Avoiding Procrastination

As school traditionally runs from morning to early afternoon, conventional wisdom dictates completing homework and assignments the night before, at the latest. With night classes, the window to procrastinate can be extended later in the day.

Planning can help a student avoid a situation that requires picking between going to work or completing an assignment for class. Mapping out assignment due dates at the onset of the semester is one method to stay on track.

Managing Time

Between exams and papers, college classes often have a steady stream of readings and assignments to keep up with from week to week. Setting aside specific time frames to study for each class may counteract an urge to slack off between major assignments. Repetition can also improve knowledge retention, compared with cramming at the last minute.

After taking care of other responsibilities, such as an internship, job, or team practice, it may be difficult to recall readings and information at the end of a long day. Finding a moment before night class to review your notes could better prepare you to participate in discussion or ace a quiz. Creating a brief study guide covering key themes and topics for each week could help if you’re pressed for time.

Pacing Yourself

Before going full steam ahead with a full course load, you can consider testing the waters with one or two night classes. Education is a financial and career investment, and figuring out what’s right for your work-life balance could be the difference between burning out and graduating.

Keep in mind that whether you study full time or part time could affect financial aid or scholarships.

Exploring Night Class Options

Night classes are offered at community colleges and four-year universities alike. Researching multiple options could help a student find an ideal balance of cost, reputation, student body demographics, and campus environment.

Online courses are another option to consider. Synchronous courses may still have online lectures and discussions but allow students to participate from the comfort of home.

Paying for Night Classes

Education comes at a cost. Beyond tuition, taking night classes may require buying textbooks, paying for a parking pass, and other associated fees.

Work-study programs, scholarships, and grants could cover all or part of these expenses, but some students take out loans to pay the remaining cost for their degree or night classes.

Federal loans can come with protections, flexible repayment benefits, and loan forgiveness in certain cases.

When federal loans and other aid aren’t enough, private student loans are an option to consider. Students enrolled full or half time may qualify for a loan from SoFi, whose no-fee private student loans offer flexible repayment plans, helping students find an option that best meets their needs.

SoFi is here to help you reach your educational goals. It takes only minutes to find out what you’re prequalified for.



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