Should You Take Morning, Afternoon, or Evening Classes?

It can be challenging to create the perfect college schedule, but it can be done! Follow these quick tips to help optimize your academic potential.

portrait of Kim-Ling Sun
by Kim-Ling Sun

Published on July 2, 2022 · Updated on July 6, 2022

Edited by Tyler Epps
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Should You Take Morning, Afternoon, or Evening Classes?
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There's a lot to think about when scheduling classes — the professors, the days of the week to take classes, and even the physical distance between classes.

Something students often overlook, however, is choosing the best time of day to schedule their classes.

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Ready to start your journey?

There are many factors to consider when making your schedule. And recent scientific research on sleep, productivity, and learning shows that people who function better in the afternoon and evening outnumber morning people 2 to 1.

This means that figuring out which kind of person you are — morning, afternoon, or evening — will help you craft your best college class schedule and set you up for success.

What Is the Best Time to Take College Classes?

Statistically, most people are not "morning people."

Current cognitive research informs us that the best time of day to take a college class is after 11 a.m. This study both challenges universities to reconsider their course offerings and informs students on the importance of learning your chronotype, or natural sleep pattern, before planning an academic day.

Altering your natural sleep pattern can negatively impact the brain's ability to process and retain class lectures. With the study in mind, students develop the most advantageous schedule based on their individual needs and preferences.

Morning College Classes

Although a majority of students find optimal cognitive functioning in the early afternoon, there are still a significant number of college students whose chronotypes function at their peak in the early morning.

There are several advantages to early morning classes that should not be overlooked. For example, 8 a.m. classes tend to be less crowded and quieter. This means that in class there will be limited distractions, and you'll have more opportunities to ask your professor questions.

Campuses are also quieter earlier in the morning, allowing you a more peaceful start to your day. Students may find that with the quiet and lack of distraction comes an increase in productivity.

Pros

  • Beginning earlier will help you start the day right and keep you in the productive zone.
  • Your classes will be smaller, allowing you more meaningful interaction with your professor.
  • You will have limited distractions in your learning environment.
  • You will have a more open schedule to join afternoon activities on campus or get a part-time job.

Cons

  • If you are not motivated to go to the class, hitting the snooze button becomes all too appealing.
  • For classes where dialogue and debate are the norm, higher levels of participation may be expected of you.
  • If you like to pull all-nighters studying and prepping for exams, early morning classes may be difficult.
  • If the class requires group work or projects, you may have group members who are unreliable in attendance or less motivated to contribute.

Afternoon College Classes

There are some really great reasons to schedule your classes in the afternoon. A student who might prefer a midday class is someone who takes time to get their morning going — eating a leisurely breakfast or hitting the gym before class. This student may also prefer staying up late to study.

Another benefit to classes at this time is that if you are more social, afternoon classes are a great way to meet people.

Pros

  • Your body has already had time to wake up and adjust, so you are more likely to focus.
  • You will have time to establish a morning routine and are less likely to oversleep.
  • These classes are usually fuller sections, and oftentimes require less seminar participation.
  • Afternoon classes allow you more time to complete assignments or prepare for exams beforehand.

Cons

  • Afternoon classes fill up faster, which may make it difficult to get the professor you want.
  • Classes later in the day may make it harder to secure a job or an internship due to your lack of availability.
  • The larger number of students on campus during that time of day makes finding quiet study spaces more challenging after class.
  • Afternoon classes can often overlap with campus events that you may want to attend.

Evening College Classes

Classes in the evening are a great option for students who are night owls or who have hectic day schedules.

One of the many benefits of taking an evening class is that they are usually less crowded. The classes also tend to have a more relaxed vibe since most people are coming to class after a busy day.

To accommodate working students, many universities offer classes that meet once a week for three hours as opposed to 2-3 times in the same week. This provides flexibility to those with daytime obligations.

Pros

  • Professors tend to be more easygoing in evening classes.
  • You can seek out internships in your chosen field and gain real-life experience during the day.
  • Evening classes benefit those who need to work or take care of families during the day.
  • You have all day to prepare assignments for your class.

Cons

  • If you have been working all day, having the mental stamina for an evening class can be challenging.
  • It may be more difficult to socialize because people are usually arriving after a busy afternoon and want to rush home after class.
  • Your class will sometimes conflict with evening student activities.
  • Because evening courses are typically longer, you cover more information in each class.

Morning Classes vs. Evening Classes: Which Should You Take?

Whether you take a morning class or evening class, the course material is all the same.

Overall, research shows that most students should elect to build a class schedule for later in the day or evening because it matches with your level of alertness.

Evening classes also give you the opportunity to prepare assignments and study before an exam without pulling an all-nighter.

Some may still opt to do morning classes if it best meets their needs, but being aware of your personal preferences will help you make an informed decision.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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