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Homework before the semester begins: Plus or a pain?

The beginning of a new semester brings new classes, new professors and new friends but despite the excitement a lot of students have to deal with course work before the semester starts.

Homework before the semester begins is given largely on a professor-to-professor basis. While instructors have different teaching styles, attendance policies and exams, they are also given the choice on whether to give students homework before classes start.

Some professors see pre-semester homework as an opportunity for students to get introduced to a class ahead of time, so that once the class begins, they can dive right into the course material.

From a student perspective, having to do work for a class before the semester begins is not only unnecessary, it is an extra worry. This is especially true of students who are new to their college campuses and will likely already have anxieties about making new friends and living in a new area.

While the beginning of a semester is less of a worry for returning students (in fact, settling into a new semester may feel like a routine to them), there is still some adjusting to do, as students will be taking classes they have never taken before, meeting unfamiliar professors and classmates, and maybe even living with different roommates, starting a new job, or joining a new extracurricular.

Requiring students to complete coursework before a semester begins is an additional stressor that today’s already anxious students do not need.

The 2015 National College Health Assessment found that 30 percent of surveyed college students reported stress as a factor negatively impacting their academic performance, more than cold/flu/sore throat (14.6 percent) and work (13.9 percent) combined. Pre-semester homework will only exacerbate this problem. Additionally, many students spent the last few weeks of the fall semester studying night and day to pass their final exams.

After the intense work that students complete towards the end of a semester, they need winter break to mentally recharge and they should be entitled to a full winter break, not one where assignments are pushed onto them too soon.

However, while pre-semester work is generally unnecessary, there are some situations, from a professor’s standpoint, where it could make sense. For example, if a professor wanted to start the first day of class with a discussion, or if the course covers more content than most and it would be logical for students to start working as soon as possible.

Freshman English major Emily Ball noted, “If there is a lot of course material to cover or there is something [students] need to learn before they dive into the material, then [they should have pre-semester homework].”

However, she also recognized that if the homework is for the purposes of “busy work” or causing students to get through the class more quickly, it maybe should not be given.

Her general stance?

“I think overall I’m probably against it,” Ball said.

In any case, if a professor decides to give homework before the semester begins, the amount should be reasonable as to not overwhelm students, who already have a lot of adjusting to do at the beginning of a semester, and may have pre-semester homework for multiple classes.

Although pre-semester homework makes sense to assign in some cases, it is often an unnecessary stressor to students in what is already a stressful time for them. Generally, it is best to steer clear of pre-semester homework — for students’ sake.



Staff writer

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