Spending hours on Facebook chat and sifting through your friend’s recently posted photos as a means of academic procrastination probably sounds familiar. In fact, UC Riverside sociologists show that this, coupled with other leisure activities, dictates the majority of student attention among UC students.
A recent survey conducted by UC Riverside sociology professor Steven Brint found that of the 63,600 UC students surveyed, students on average dedicate 41 hours per week to social and leisure activities, allocating only 28 hours to academics. 10.7 of the 41 hours, according to the study, are spent on non-academic computer usage.
“A lot of the academic work I have requires a computer, but somehow I always end up on Facebook instead of being productive,” said sophomore community and regional development major Susan Haynes. “It gets to the point where I’ll have my roommate change my password so I can’t access my account.”
Brint and colleagues developed the questionnaire, known as the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey, as part of a collaborative effort intended to show a relationship between productive uses of time and positive academic outcomes.
Though the largest amount of time was dedicated to Internet usage on sites like Facebook, 10.5 hours were spent, on average per week, on socializing with friends and partying. Only 5.4 hours went to physical exercise and sports, five to watching television and 3.5 to attending entertainment events.
“I think that college students have too much free time on their hands because they don’t know how to time manage,” said Will Lipinski, a junior managerial economics major. “We don’t have enough structure and it’s the first time being on our own. Since I’ve gotten a job it’s been a lot easier to focus and figure out how to allocate my time.”
Since 2003, the time spent on leisure activities has sharply increased from 25 hours per week to 41 hours per week. Researchers attribute some of the increase to a change in question wording between 2003 and 2006, replacing “recreational or creative interests” with “partying.”
Steadily advancing technology has also resulted in an increased amount of time spent on the computer, contributing to the overall time increase students dedicate to leisure and recreation.
“At every type of institution, in every major, every demographic group, there’s been a longtime increase in leisure time,” Brint said. “There’s something about the college experience as something that has to do with friends, social life, organizational involvement, recreation, and not just academics.”
The 28 hours per week allocated to academics includes time studying outside of class as well as time spent attending lecture. Students who spent 13 hours per week of studying outside of lecture maintained roughly a 3.60 GPA, while those who studied just an hour less per week tended to maintain lower GPAs, averaging out to 2.79. While student attention to leisure and recreation has steadily increased, time allocated to academics both inside and outside the classroom has remained virtually the same.
“The old Carnegie rule had it that students should spend two hours outside of class for every unit of credit,” said sociology professor John Hall. “At, say, 15 units, that would translate into 45 hours per week on academics, counting class. Now, I never believed that Davis students were all following that rule, but it’s a little challenging to think that students can succeed at college at [a 28 hour] level of time commitment.”
REBECCA SHRAGGE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.