How does university in the US work? Do you just, like, study all day? I got in Urdu lessons, a few hours a week of religious education and some weeks 10+ hours of volunteering because uni is such a piss take in the UK... Also Hindi movie nights and stuff.
Most US schools use semester-hours to track academic progress. A semester-hour represents 1 hour of time in-class each week, and most lecture classes are 3 or 4 hours. A rare few classes are 5 hours, and natural science science labs are generally 3 hours of lab time each week for 1 hour of credit (presumably the first hour of lab is instruction time with the following 2 hours being for experimentation). Classes generally fall into one of 4 categories. Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes are 1 hour a day, 3 days a week. Tuesday/Thursday classes are 1.5 hours a day, two days a week. Night classes start at start late in the evening and go from 6-9pm or 7-10pm one night a week for adult students that may be working around a full-time job. And finally, there are summer classes, taken in a 5 week blitz of information, 1.5 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 5 weeks. For me, summer term is for classes you really love and want to spend a lot of time on, or classes you really hate and want to get out of the way in a very short period of time.
A typical 4-year program requires between 120 and 130 semester-hours of credit to complete, with approximately 50 hours of general education courses (math, science, history, writing, speech, literature, computer sciences), 50 hours related to your major, and 20 hours in your minor (or as electives if your major doesn't have an associated minor and you haven't chosen one).
A student is considered part-time if they take 11 or fewer semester-hours in a semester. Being classified as part-time limits the amount of financial aid available and, at some schools, part-time students have a lower priority for signing up for classes. Full-time status is for students taking 12 hours or more (and to graduate in 4 years, a student actually needs about 16 semester-hours of classes each term).
So, all that being said, a typical traditional student spends 12-20 hours per week listening to lectures and/or working in a science lab. The rule-of-thumb most professors I've had is that there should be 2 hours of homework for every hour of lecture, so add another 24-40 hours of time spent studying to the time in-class. There is a federal work-study program that pays students for working on campus, and these average 10 hours a week. Including commuting, being a full time student can take anywhere from 40 hours to 90 hours a week. I'm on the upper end of that with a 1.25 hr commute each way, 18 semester-hours this coming term, and working as a math tutor). Edited, Jul 26th 2012 8:53am by AstarintheDruid