Study connects morning classes with higher grades

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Signing up for a dreaded 8 a.m. class could help boost your grades, according to a study performed by researchers at New York’s St. Lawrence University.

The study surveyed 253 college students and found students in earlier classes had higher grade point averages. Participants completed cognitive tasks once a week, kept a sleep diary and recorded their class schedule, substance use and mood.

Researchers found students who started later in the day did get more sleep. But Pamela Thacher, one of the study’s main researchers, said in a press release that there are some unlikely variables involved in class schedules which negatively impacted those who had later classes.

“Those who chose later classes also tend to sleep longer and consume more alcohol and other substances, while those who elect earlier classes may be more motivated to find ways to offset the early start time by making healthier choices about their daily living,” Thacher said.

Excessive alcohol consumption is the main negative influence on academic performance in college, according to the press release. Drinking alcohol is known to disrupt sleep and may reduce the benefits of getting more sleep.

“The effects of later class start times might include more sleep,” Thacher said. “But this might be offset by lower quality of sleep, which in turn might affect students’ ability to engage intellectually with their coursework.”

Thacher said in an interview with The New York Times that for every hour earlier a class is, you get about a 0.02 difference in grades. She said students with a late morning class might earn a 3.0 average, while students with earlier classes might earn a 3.2.

Students said the time of day for courses does not affect the grade received but is more of a personal preference.

Donny Devitt, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said he chooses to take 8 a.m. classes. Devitt said he has had 8 a.m. class at least three days a week during his time at Marquette.

“I like to compact everything into the morning so I can be out of class by 2 (p.m.),” Devitt said. But he said he notices how students’ class schedules affect their lifestyles.

“People who want to drink on weeknights try to start their classes later, especially on Fridays,” Devitt said.

Vicki Vlach, a sophomore in the College of Communication, said she opts for 9 a.m. classes.

“I want to start early and get done with class but (9 a.m. classes) are not as bad as 8 a.m.,” Vlach said.

Robert Matuszewski, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he has taken fewer morning classes as he has gotten older. Matuszewski said his 3000- and 4000-level courses have all started later in the day.

“Most classes at 8 a.m. are (Core of Common Studies) courses,” Matuszewski said.

Kerry Grosse, an associate registrar at Marquette, said the university cannot release student records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Student information covered under FERPA includes students’ grades and class schedules.

The university does not retain information about what sections fill up the fastest during registration. For this semester there were no open spots in 8 a.m. sections for English 1001 or 1002 at the end of registration.  There were, however, open spaces in mid morning and afternoon sections.

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