Head to head: Night classes far from ideal

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Last summer, when I signed up for a four hour chemistry class that met four nights a week at Johnson County Community College, my parents asked me if I had lost my mind.

“No,” I assured them. “It’ll be just fine. I’ll be so awake and ready to take on chem. Plus, since it’s at night, that means I’ll have all day to take care of everything else.”

Oh, young Maggie. So naïve, so unprepared for the unrelenting hell that the next eight weeks would bring.

Mistake number one was thinking that taking chemistry was a good idea. Mistake number two was signing up for a night class.

Opinions can be pretty divided on night classes. Some argue that the timing helps students finish their assignments, rather than rushing to complete them early in the morning. Then there are students like me, who believe with every fiber of their being that night classes are soul-crushing entities that one should avoid at all costs. Dramatic? Perhaps, but my experience with late classes has always been less than pleasant.

For one thing, it’s constantly on your mind. From the moment you wake up, that class is hanging over your head all day. I’m the type who likes to get things out of the way. On days when we had our chemistry exams, I would walk around all day looking like a condemned man. Who wants to spend all day like that?

Additionally, it’s difficult merely getting to the class, and not just because parking on campus is a joke. University Language puts it best, “After a long day at work, you need willpower to convince yourself to go to class rather than home to relax. Further brain-strain in the evenings can be difficult. You might even consider leaving work early on the days you have class to give yourself some rest.” A study by Citigroup and Seventeen Magazine reports that nearly 80 percent of students work at least part-time while in college. In addition to work and other day classes we might be taking, many may just want to call it quits at the end of the day. Like dragging yourself out of bed in the morning, dragging yourself to class late at night can be a challenge.

There’s also a certain safety factor that comes with going to a night class. I live off-campus, and it’s close enough for me to walk to and from class. Great for me, because I don’t have a parking pass or competent driving skills. But at night, walking back home makes me think I’ll someday be the focus of a Discovery murder mystery show. To avoid this, I’ve taken what I feel is an inconvenient amount of safety measures; multiple safety app downloads, burning Wildcat Walk’s phone number into my memory and heavily investing in pepper spray. I can’t say the same about my 9:30 a.m. class.

Maybe some people are just born night owls, and can tackle any major concept long into the wee hours. For the rest of us, who may neither be morning people or night owls, late classes prove to be a challenge.

“Typically one’s attentiveness and alertness is lower than in the afternoon, so it’s somewhat more difficult to stay focused,” Austin Svancara, one of my chemistry classmates at JCCC, said.

He’s got a point. The late hours not only hurt your focus, but take away precious hours of sleep. Dr. Adam Knowlden, assistant professor at the University of Alabama’s health and science department has been studying the sleep habits of college students, and what he found suggests that students should forgo the late classes and go straight to bed.

“Poor sleep has short-term consequences on mood, concentration, higher learning and can lead to the dangers involved in drowsy driving,” Knowlden said. “It also has long-term ramifications on our overall health. Research has found links between poor sleep and diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.”

Late hours, long class, a professor’s continuous monotone voice spewing long lectures on hard concepts can lull even the most determined learner into a stupor, even a slumber. This begs the question, if learning during a night class is made even more problematic, what’s the point of a night class?

Since we’re college students, I’ve got to factor in the social aspect brutally killed by late classes.

“I missed hanging out with a bunch of people,” Svancara said.

President Schulz may hate me for saying this, but college is more than purely academic. Socializing, relaxing and unwinding from a stressful, class-filled day is essential for any college student. Night classes simply pile on the stress without a chance for a break or a brief meetup with friends.

But perhaps we’re talking about the wrong demographic. Instead, we should focus on the non-traditional student. Stamats, a marketing research company, estimates 43 percent of college students are 25-year-olds and older. Many of these students lead very different lives outside of school; full-time jobs, married, have children or all of the above.

Night classes have been touted as being perfect for the non-traditional student, as University Language continues to explain, “College night classes allow you to work a daytime job and save money while still earning your degree.” Schools like Canada College, Berkeley City College, and Chabot College offer degrees designed with full-time students in mind; using exclusively night classes.

However, Brie Maitland, a working mother of a 2-year-old would disagree. “I don’t get to see my daughter. I get home late so any homework I have to do I’m up super late completing it.” Yikes, that sounds far from perfect. It seems like night classes simply add more work at the worst possible times.

The four hours a night, four days a week chemistry classes strained, stretched and stressed my brain till it hurt just thinking about chemistry. Obviously, I was thankful when it ended.

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