Freshman year at William & Mary, I had 2-3 classes each day, except Friday in the fall, where I only had one in the morning. Sophomore year at St Andrews was similar. Now, as a third-year, my week at St Andrews looks like this:
Monday 9-11 am: Art and Archaeology of Minoan Crete
Tuesday 9-11 am: Greek Painted Pottery
Sorry, what? Only 2 classes? Two days per week? Let me explain…I skip class a lot.
I’m kidding. It’s just how things work at St Andrews. Underclassmen must take three classes, which meet multiple times a week. Upperclassmen (3rd and 4th years) only take two. And each class only meets for 2 hours per week. (Either 1-hour class twice per week or 2-hour class once per week)*
In the Programme, we like to explain this by saying “William & Mary is breadth and St Andrews is depth.” At William & Mary, students take 4-5 classes (typically) both inside and outside of their major. It’s breadth. St Andrews is depth. You take fewer classes and go deep into your major. Underclassmen might have space to explore outside their major (I took Astrobiology and two Art History classes). But once you reach 3rd year, it’s only two classes and they must be in your major.
Advantages of 3rd Year
Since I only have class on Monday and Tuesday, how I spend the other five days of my week is completely up to me! I could take any random day off (I don’t usually though).
My classes are extremely in-depth. I feel that I learn so much after completing a class. Right now, even halfway through, I know a lot more about Minoan Crete than I ever anticipated. Topics can get really interesting when you have time to study them deeply.
Classes in my department are capped at 15 people. When we meet, it’s a lot of talking about what we’ve learned throughout the week from our readings, and a bit of lecturing. I have fun discussing topics with other students and look forward to class every week.
My classes are currently worth 7.5 credits each. That means the classes weigh heavily on my GPA. Also, final grades are determined by only 2 or 3 big assignments plus an exam. This can be a huge positive because I could go weeks without anything graded. But when assignments are due, they are really important and high pressure. My final exam in Painted Pottery is 50% of my grade, so technically it’s worth 3.75 credits. That’s more than entire classes I’ve taken at William & Mary.
My professors give me a list of suggested readings for the week, not expecting us to do all of them. I choose which books/articles interest me and how much I want to read. There is little direct supervision. In some ways, this freedom is great. But also, it can feel like I’m never on top of things since I always could have done more. And I worry that I might’ve missed out on influential or helpful pieces.
I like the thrill of half-running from one class to another in less than 10 minutes (especially the Sunken Garden to the 3rd floor of Morton) and the satisfaction of making it just in time. I thrive on having a busy schedule and I feel very productive by going to class. It’s fun to explore classes outside my major. I love Classical Studies, though, and it’s been amazing to take such in-depth classes. It’s great to only have class twice a week and have the rest of the days to learn on my own. Neither system is better in my opinion. The best is having the opportunity to experience both!
*N.B. This applies to humanities classes. Science/Math is different. Only humanities majors are offered in the Programme at this time, however.