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A Week in the Life of Chemical Engineering Student

So at this point don’t forget to check my previous articles on what chemical engineering is all about, what modules you are going to study if you choose to study chemical engineering at university and how difficult is it. Another concern I want to address is time management. One main difference between school and university is the freedom that you have, and that comes with a responsibility. At school, we have to be at school from like 9 am to 3 pm and we have set homework to be completed at home. In my opinion, at school it’s much easier to predict the amount of time required to be a successful student. Be present at school and finish homework at home, and then you can have the rest of the time free. At university, we don’t have that. Classes time are scattered throughout the day and we don’t really have homework. So one of the main questions asked is, how much time do I need to devote to studying to get a good grade? This article aims to answer that question, not by giving you the straight answer because there is no simple answer to that, but by sharing my experience. Hopefully it gives you some idea on how much time does chemical engineering degree demand from you.

The schedules I’m going to post are just few examples that I’ve used in the past and do not reflect what everyone is doing. Each student have different preferences and we are all different, so it doesn’t make sense if we all have the same schedule. What I hope is that it gives you some rough image on what you might experience if you come to study chemical engineering.

Average Week in Manchester

My first year schedule is really messy and I don’t have a fixed schedule, but I do have a more fixed schedule in second year and it helped me a lot, because I don’t waste time thinking on what I want tot do at that time.

5:30 – wake up, do my morning routine.

7 – go swimming. I swim around 3x a week. On the day when I don’t swim, I start studying especially towards the end of the semester when I have many deadlines.

9 – classes start. From year 1 till before design project, I always have a 9 am start. Not sure if it’s really the pattern, but in my observation most engineering students have 9 am classes. It’s okay for an early bird like me, but the late owls will come half awake to the class.

12 – I always live very close to uni, so I would come home to have lunch.

1 – if I have lab sessions, then it’s 2-3 hours straight spent in the lab. If not, I use the time to study when there’s a lot of work to do. I also use this time to cook or do groceries. I have a system to prepare my food so I don’t spend too much time in the kitchen, which you can read here. In my first year I volunteered to teach maths at school every Wednesday, so this time would be used for that.

5 –  I normally use time after 5 to do other activities outside academic. For example, meeting friends, having my dinner, trying to work on my blog, read books, having a chat with my mentor (I joined a mentorship programme), plan my class for my maths volunteering project or other stuff. There are so many stuff to do at university!

9-10 pm – Go to bed.

Exam week

Study between 8 am – 9 pm, incorporating lunch, toilet and dinner breaks. Lol. Can’t afford time to relax, hahah. It’s basically an extended sprint of studying, which is quite unavoidable.

Average Week in Maryland

I escaped to Maryland in my third year, haha. It was such an amazing time and I would definitely do it all over again in a heartbeat. Compared to previous years, this schedule works the best for me. The workload in Maryland is quite crazy compared to Manchester but at the same time I know I need to make the most of it because I was only there for one semester. I wanted to visit a lot of places and spend a lot of time with friends, but I couldn’t afford to let my grade drop because my grades are converted back to Manchester grade. And so, this schedule really helped me to achieve everything I wanted to do.

6 am  – wake up and do my morning routine. Have breakfast, etc.

8.30 – cycle to uni and start class. I would also bring packed lunch with me to uni. I don’t have any class until 5 pm on Tuesday and Thursdays, so I normally use this time to cook my large batch of food or do groceries. Or go swimming, we have free gym membership in Maryland. I swim only once a week in Maryland, because I get most of my exercise from riding bicycle.  And the rest is spent studying.

10 – finish class. 1.5 hours of revision/doing homework, 0.5 hours having lunch.

12 –  process control class.

1 – 6 pm – going to office hours (read here on reasons why you should come to office hours) and my production management class. The rest is spent studying.

6 pm – cycle home and have dinner.

6-9 pm – time to meet friends if I scheduled any, blogging or studying for an extra distance learning module I take in Manchester. During really busy weeks, I would cycle back to uni and study until my bedtime.

9 10 pm – sleep

Using this strategy, I rarely had to study on weekends unless there is an exam coming up the next day. I used my weekends to explore Maryland, go to church, meeting friends and doing other activities.

And the conclusion?

The strategy that works best for me is to work really hard during weekdays and then not touching any work on Sundays and some Saturdays. The worst scenario for me is to keep working throughout the week without having a complete rest, because thinking that I have unlimited time to study makes me procrastinate all the time. Having a complete day of rest helps me to start the week feeling refreshed.

Some people say that by working 9-5 from Monday-Friday will be sufficient, but in my case this doesn’t work. I just can’t seem to finish studying during this time. If it does work for you, then it’s good. Keeping a fixed schedule also works best for me. I don’t waste any time thinking on what should I do in the day or finding time to study. Everything is already planned out and I just need to execute. Once the habit is built, I do it automatically and this discipline helps me to not get too stressed out during exam time (and of course, to get good result).

As what I’ve told you, I’m just sharing what works best for me. Feel free to try it out (and ask any questions in the comments section). But ultimately, it’s your time and your choice. One part of being an adult is to make right choices and stick to them. Your time is  yours and it’s up to you to manage.

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