Popular Science Monthly/Volume 67/October 1905/The Distribution of the Daily Time of Cornell Students

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IN the course of an address before the freshmen of Cornell University in the fall of 1903, President Schurman emphasized the necessity of a systematic distribution of the daily time of college students and urged each student to prepare and to follow as closely as possible a daily time-schedule. He recommended the following general apportionment of hours: for work, eleven; for sleep, eight; for amusement, one; for meals and athletics, two hours each. It should be added in explanation that the period assigned to 'work' was intended to include not only time given directly to the work of the student in class-room, laboratory and study, but also to work in various fraternal, religious and collegiate societies, to work for self-support, or even to other work wholly independent of the university.

Without this explanation, which did not appear in the original newspaper reports, the assignment of eleven hours daily to work naturally seemed extreme, and it was not surprising that other educators, when interviewed upon the subject, reduced this amount. Thus, President Eliot, of Harvard, advocated nine hours for work, three for meals, two each for amusement and athletics and eight for sleep. Still others, as Professor Burton, dean of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, thought eight hours sufficient for work.

In view of these differences of opinion, the writer conceived the notion of trying to ascertain how the students at Cornell University actually did distribute their daily time.

On account of the wide range of courses offered, Cornell is an unusually good field for such an investigation, as the students in the various colleges: mechanical and civil engineering, law, medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture, and arts and sciences, may be fitly compared with those of technical schools like the Institute of Technology, with those of various law, medical and agricultural schools, and with those of any of the colleges offering the A.B. degree for a 'liberal culture' course, while the several hundred women students, mainly in arts, may be compared with women at colleges like Vassar, Smith and Wellesley. It was, accordingly, the purpose of the investigation not only to ascertain the average time-schedule followed by Cornell students as a whole, but, also, for purposes of comparison, that followed by each of the various groups just mentioned.


To obtain the desired information, a copy of the following reportblank was mailed or otherwise distributed to all Cornell students in Ithaca, i. e., to approximately 2,700 students.[1]

Some of the daily papers have recently been discussing the recommendations which President Schurman, President Eliot and others have given to university students in regard to the allotment of time to work, athletics, meals, sleep, etc.

The Department of Education desires to ascertain the actual distribution of time by the average Cornell student during a typical week. To bring this about your hearty and faithful cooperation is needed. We want bona-fide, unbiased reports of the distribution of your time during the week December 7 to 12, inclusive. Kindly fill in the subjoined blank daily during that period. Do not try to vary your usual routine in order to make a 'pretty' report. Your name will not be open to inspection, nor seen by any person other than the compiler.


1. Put general reading, letter writing, etc., under amusement.
2. Put drill, gymnasium, athletics, walking, etc., under physical exercise.
3. Express fractions of an hour as a decimal part of an hour, and take care that each day sums up 24 hours.
4. Divide days at midnight in reckoning sleep.
5. Note under 'remarks' anything that will further contribute to the understanding of your returns. Especially in case you think the report does not fairly illustrate your normal habits, state what occupation has been over or under emphasized.
6. Leave the report at the registrar's office through the doorslide, or mail to Dr. G. M. Whipple, Dept. of Education, not later than Monday, December 14.




Hours Spent December 7-12, 1903.

M. T. W. Th. F. S. Total.
Shop or field
Outside study


The Results.Critical.

Limitations and Sources of Error.—Before examining the results in detail, it is well to consider the limitations under which they were secured and the sources of error to which they may be thought liable.

Number.—It may be thought that the results lose something of their meaning because only about one blank in three (940[2] out of 2,700) was returned, but this was considered a very satisfactory showing, because, in the nature of the case, the filling out and return of the blank were not obligatory. Notwithstanding the definite assurances to the contrary contained in the announcement, many students feared that their records would, in some way, be open to the inspection of officials of the university, and therefore balked at making records of their doings in 'black and white,' while more still were either too busy or too lazy and too little interested to make out reports.

It is a familiar principle, though worth mention in this connection, that the habits of relatively homogeneous groups, such as all those under discussion, may be inferred with considerable certainty from data secured from a relatively small percentage of the members of the groups, provided the representation is typical. The more homogeneous the group, the smaller the data essential for safe induction.

That our data are typical is attested by two apparently paradoxical facts: (1) When the results are compiled on the basis of classes and courses, it is found that the averages for a given group are closely similar to those of other groups working under similar conditions, e. g., the freshmen and the sophomores in the College of Medicine give 19.72 and 19.30 hours per week, respectively, to outside study, 10.30 and 10.37 hours per week, respectively, to amusement, while the freshmen and sophomores in arts give 14.10 and 14.94 hours, respectively, to amusement. (2) In every group we note the presence of some extreme cases which vary widely from the average of the group. Thus, 41 male freshmen average 30.04 hours per week in outside study, yet one freshman records 57.00, and still another but nine hours. In a similar manner, we find that every group contains both the studious and those little given to study, both those who overindulge in athletics and those who scarcely take physical exercise at all, both leisurely and over-hasty eaters, etc., etc. In short, the reports are representative.[3] Week Chosen.—It is, of course, difficult to select a week for purposes like the present which shall be entirely typical and free from circumstances which tend to produce distortion in one direction or another. The week December 7-12 was sufficiently removed from the influence of the usual written tests, examinations and generally unsettled conditions of the week just preceding the Christmas recess, and might be regarded as a typical winter week, save that the unusually good skating increased the time of many students for physical exercise. Probably, however, the average for physical exercise is no greater than that expended during warmer weather when tennis, rowing, baseball, walking and other forms of sport and recreation combine to entice the student from his work, so that physical exercise may be considered, after all, as not far from normal in amount.

On the other hand, the amount of field work in civil engineering and agriculture is necessarily somewhat low during any winter week. A few students in chemistry reported university work slightly less than normal owing to a change from qualitative to quantitative analysis, while a few other students in various courses reported an excess of university work due to preparation for tests or preliminary examinations in one or two studies. But such disturbances are slight and tend to counterbalance one another.

Omission of Sunday.—The investigation may possibly be considered incomplete because it embraces but six days of the week.[4] Two reasons contributed to this. In the first place our object was merely to obtain the average daily time distribution of college students, and the daily routine of college work is maintained during the six week days only. Secondly, if Sunday were to be included, additional categories would have been necessary, and a separate tabulation of the week-day totals and of the Sunday items—all of which would entail labor quite out of proportion to the results achieved.

Moreover, it is not difficult to see, in the light of remarks appended by numerous students, that Sunday would have an influence significant for us in one respect alone, viz., the time credited to outside study. It is unfortunate that no attempt was made to obtain quantitative estimate of this time. We might, perhaps, add some two hours to the weekly average for outside study (and university work).[5]

Items Chosen.—As already explained, the original intent was to obtain statistics in regard to the five items cited in the president's address, viz., work, meals, amusement, athletics and sleep. It seemed desirable, however, to obtain some further indication of the distribution of the time included under work. Hence the subdivisions—lectures (including recitations), laboratories, shop and field, and outside study — which are summarized in the tables as 'University work' by the figures in parentheses following that item. The term 'physical exercise' was chosen as being more comprehensive than 'athletics,' and the 'unclassified' category was added for obvious reasons.

After the blanks had been distributed, but before they had been filled out, the writer's attention was called to the desirability of obtaining a record of the time devoted to work for self-support. Notice was accordingly given in the college papers that students who spent time in this way should record the amount as a separate item. Many observed this request; others, who did not, added explanatory remarks to their reports so that the writer was able to compute the time correctly and subtract it from the time assigned by them to physical exercise, unclassified or meals[6] as the case might be. On the supposition that some self-supporting students failed either to itemize this time or otherwise to indicate it, we may assume that the percentage of self-supporting students and the percentage of time allotted to self-support may be slightly too low.

Finally, in the light of our experience, we may mention three improvements that might have been made in the list of items.

In the first place, 'shop and field' did not prove of sufficient importance to justify the separate item, being only pertinent to students in engineering, agriculture and architecture (draughting), and the amount of field work in civil engineering and agriculture being at a minimum in the winter. All phases of university work other than class-room work might be conveniently indicated collectively under some such term as 'practicums.'

Secondly, many, especially freshmen in arts, hesitated to include recitations with lectures—a difficulty which had to be remedied by the writer in tabulation, but which might have been avoided by specific instruction.

Thirdly, a number of important student activities are not easily placed under the present rubrics, and thus fell into the unclassified category. We refer to such things as musical club rehearsals, Y. M. C. A. meetings, work for the college papers, in class politics, upon fraternity business—time spent for various university organizations. Such activity is not strictly university work, but neither is it amusement, nor physical exercise. An item should have been introduced to include this significant phase of student life.

Fidelity of the Reports.—There is no way to know whether the reports are truthful and reliable statements of the students' activities save by the internal evidence of the reports themselves. Judged in this way and in the light of the general interest manifested in the matter at the time, the writer feels confident that a high degree of reliability can be attached to the 895 reports which were admitted to tabulation.

Accuracy of the Reports.—About one third of the reports contained inaccuracies, chiefly errors in the addition of the totals, or, less often, errors in the number of hours recorded per diem—25 being a favorite amount! These errors obviously rendered it impossible to tabulate the reports with any accuracy, so that every one of the 895 reports had to be added anew—an operation requiring some 75 hours of solid work for two persons.[7] Obvious errors were corrected on the spot; many reports were returned to students for revision, but, in a few cases, where this was not feasible, minor errors were corrected by the writer in accordance with his own judgment.

Averages and Variations.—For economy's sake the mean variations have been omitted from the tables which follow, for, although they afford a concise index of the uniformity of the individual instances summarized in the average value, their computation would consume more time than they are worth. In place of the mean variation we have recorded the two extremes of individual variation for each group, as 'high' and 'low,' respectively, while the index of uniformity which would have been supplied by the mean variation is afforded by a comparison of the average values for the same item in different groups and classes. Thus the high uniformity of the time registered for sleep is shown by comparing the final average for sleep, 7.90 hours daily, with the same average in the table by classes (8.00, 7.96, 7.77, 7.83) or in the table of courses (8.00, 7.86, 8.22, 7.75, 7.90, 7.91, 7.62, 7.76, 7.95, 7.74, 8.02). Or, again, the relative uniformity of the results for the various groups and classes can be shown fairly well by computing what might be called the 'mean group-variation,' both in terms of absolute hours and in percentage of the final average. Thus, when we compare the averages found for sleep for freshmen arts, sophomore arts, junior arts, senior arts, first year law, etc., through the 39 primary groups, with the final average for all students taken collectively, we mid (Table 5) a mean variation for these group averages of slightly less than three per cent., while that for meals is eight per cent., and so on.

The Results.Statistical.

Explanation of the Tables.—With these apologies and explanations we are ready to examine the results themselves.

The reports were first classified into 39 sets, each set representing a single class within a single college, the electrical engineering being considered separately from the mechanical engineering students, and the sexes being treated separately within the College of Arts and Sciences. A miscellaneous group was introduced to comprehend the few graduate and special students who represented activities too heterogeneous to form a typical set.

In this series of tables there was indicated the average and the highest and the lowest weekly record of each class in each college. Only a single specimen (Table 1) is here printed—that of the civil engineering freshmen. The figures in parenthesis after 'meals' denote the number of students who gave six hours or less, i. e., an hour a day or less, to their meals, while similar figures after 'support' denote the number of students therein represented.

'University work' is the sum of the first four items.

Table 1.

Specimen of the first series. C. E. Freshmen. 43 cases.

Topic. Average. High. Low.
Lectures 11.55 23.00 7.00
Laboratories 8.28 26.00 2.5
Shop and field 4.96 22.00 0.00
Outside study 26.27 44.50 10.00
(University work) (51.06) . . . . . . . . . .
Amusement 12.55 29.00 0.00
Physical exercise 11.93 25.00 3.50
Meals (12)8.55 16.25 2.92
Sleep 48.11 57.50 34.00
Unclassified 6.71 21.50 0.00
Support (12)5.09 35.00 0.00

The chief interest of the investigation attaches, however, to the second series of tables, which are derived from the first series by division by six (to reduce to a single day basis) and by combination in various ways. We thus are able to secure (1) a comparison of classes, (2) a comparison of courses, (3) a comparison of the sexes, and, finally, (4) the daily time of that hypothetical being, the average Cornell student.[8] Save in the last, the extremes of variation have been omitted in these derived tables.

The division into 'courses' corresponds, naturally, to the division of the university into colleges, viz., arts and sciences, law, medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture, architecture, civil engineering and mechanical engineering.

The College of Medicine in Ithaca has two classes (1st and 2d year); the Colleges of Law and Veterinary Medicine have each three classes, which are here treated as first year, junior and senior; all the other colleges have four years. In comparing the classes, the women are included with the men, though their number is specified; in comparing the courses, they are separated from the men in the arts and sciences group only.

The percentage of enrolled students actually represented is indicated in every instance. It ranges from 19 per cent, to 43 per cent.

Comparison of the Classes.—As will be seen from Table 2 it is difficult, if not impracticable, to assert any general differences in the distribution of the daily time of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. The only generalization that is suggested is that freshmen and seniors give less time to university work than do sophomores and juniors. This statement is borne out by the table, and by inspection of the tables of the first series it may be discovered that the least work is done by freshmen or seniors in eight of nine courses; conversely, most work is done by sophomores or juniors in six of nine courses. The shorter time of freshmen is evidently due to the fact that prescribed work in certain professional courses calls for less laboratory and field work in the first, than in succeeding years. Thus the courses in which the hours of the freshmen class are shortest are law, veterinary medicine, civil, mechanical and electrical engineering.

Table 2.

Totals by classes, all courses.[9] Average Day.

Year. Freshmen. Sophomores. Juniors. Seniors. Specials and
Total number 253 201 204 185 36
Number women 21 18 12 25 8
Per cent. represented 24 37 43 43
Lectures 1.95 2.25 2.19 2.50 1.71
Laboratories 1.38 1.81 1.62 1.79 2.90
Shop and field 1.02 1.40 1.06 0.36 0.28
Outside study 4.34 3.69 4.42 4.38 4.01
(University work) (8.69) (9.15) (9.29) (9.03) (8.90)
Amusement 2.17 2.34 2.26 2.28 1.89
Physical exercise 1.96 1.69 1.59 1.63 1.29
Meals 1.49 1.36 1.34 1.41 1.44
Sleep 8.00 7.96 7.77 7.83 8.02
Unclassified 1.21 1.25 1.42 1.52 1.76
Support 0.48 0.25 0.33 0.30 0.70

Comparison of the Courses.—As shown in Table 3, the several colleges of the university may be arranged in the following order in terms of the average number of hours given in university work: medicine, veterinary medicine, mechanical and civil engineering, architecture, law, agriculture, arts.[10]

Table 3.

Totals by courses, all classes. Average Day.

PSM V67 D552 Daily breakdown of students time at cornell.png

It will readily be seen that the high averages of 10.79 and 10.37 hours accredited to medicine[11] and veterinary medicine, respectively, are due to the large amount of laboratory work required by these courses. Medicine has, in fact, the smallest number of lecture hours and the smallest time given to outside study. In a similar way the one hour excess of architecture and the courses in engineering over law and arts is easily traced to the large amount of time expended in draughting, shop, laboratory and field work of various kinds.

These figures raise the interesting question as to whether we can assert that the students in professional courses work harder as well as longer than those in arts. It seems to me manifestly impossible to get behind the figures and answer the question positively by assigning any qualitative value to time spent in 'practicums' as versus lectures. At any rate, it would be unfair to manipulate the figures in accordance with the correlation generally observed in this and other universities that two and a half hours laboratory, or three hours shop or draughting, work are equivalent for university credit to one hour of lecture or recitation. If this relation is based upon the assumption that the lecture-course student spends from one and a half to two

hours in outside study as a preparation for each hour of lecture or recitation work, the relation is evidently unfair, because the laboratory student, in most cases, is obliged to put preparation or outside study time in some form or other upon the work which he has been doing in the practicum. And this will be seen to be true even though, as our figures indicate, the average lecture course student spends more than one and a half hours outside study for each hour of lectures. Thus, if we take the women in arts, who have a small amount of laboratory work, we find 2.52 hours lectures accompanied by 4.63 hours outside study, or, if we take students in law, whose laboratory hours are practically nil, 2.52 hours lectures are accompanied by 5.75 hours outside study. If we may assume, then, between lectures and outside study, a general relation of one to two, we should expect students in medicine to accompany 1.27 hours lectures with 2.54 hours outside study, whereas their actual time as reported is 3.25 hours. Similarly, veterinary medicine reports 4.06, instead of 3.70 calculated, hours of outside study. Either these students have lectures which are more difficult to prepare for than are those of other students, or their laboratory work demands time outside the laboratory. The latter is presumably the case. It seems, therefore, fairly evident that in so far as our reports are truly representative, students in the two medical colleges work both longer and harder than students in other courses in the university.

It is very doubtful whether we can make such an assertion in the case of the students in the various branches of engineering. In the first place, such a discrepancy as that just discussed is not observable. The ratio of outside study to lectures is very close to the two-to-one ratio shown in arts and law. Hence we may suppose that shop and field work require very little outside study and that the laboratory work has been more equably adjusted than in the medical courses. In the second place, field work in engineering, and probably shop work, too, demand less persistent attentive work than laboratory and lecture work in general. The various forms of surveying, for instance, consume much time, but it is seldom that all the members of a surveying section are actively and continuously employed. We shall, therefore, be inclined to think that most engineering students expend more time, but not necessarily more energy, than students in law or arts. Yet the actual discrepancy in the time of these three groups of courses—arts and law, the engineering courses and the medical courses—is considerable; students in the last named courses working two hours, and students in architecture and engineering, one hour, more per diem than students in arts, law or agriculture.[12]

The one or two hours time gained by the arts student over his mate in the other courses is expended largely, as might be expected, in amusement, physical exercises and unclassified pursuits, as the hours for meals and sleep are fairly constant, though law and arts do exceed other courses slightly even in this respect. It is perhaps not without significance that students in the two medical colleges have the least amount of time that can not be classified, whereas, of all the courses, arts and law give the longest time to amusement, the longest time to physical exercise, the longest time to sleep, and arts the longest time to miscellaneous activities.

On the other hand, the average student in agriculture, who has a relatively short period of university work—less, in fact, than law—devotes the time thus gained very largely to work for self-support, giving from 0.68 to 1.18 hours more time daily to this sort of work than the students of other courses.

Comparison of the Sexes.—Of special interest is the comparison of the daily time of the sexes in a coeducational institution.

In examining Table 4 we must remember that a large majority of the women (69/86) and but relatively few of the men (178/809) are arts students. Hence it is not surprising that the men exceed in the

Table 4.

Totals by sexes, all students. Average Day.

Per Cent. Represented.
Men. Women.
809 86
34 24
Lectures 2.16 2.34
Laboratories 1.73 1.29
Shop and field 1.03 0.06
Outside study 4.17 4.39
(University work) (9.09) (8.08)
Amusement 2.25 2.17
Physical exercise 1.75 1.42
Meals (215)1.39 (5)1.55
Sleep 7.90 7.86
Unclassified 1.21 2.72
Support (121)0.41 (5)0.20

time spent in laboratory, shop and field work, the excess here more than counteracting the slightly greater time spent by women in lectures and 'outside study,'[13] so that the average man spends an hour a day more at university work than the average woman.

Now, to make the comparison entirely fair, let us contrast the men in arts with the women in arts (where they are mainly to be found). We discover, however (Table 3), that the conditions are practically the same even here, though the differences are less exaggerated. Men exceed women in time spent in laboratories; women exceed men in time spent in lectures and outside study (with the reservation as to Sunday study just noted). Even so, the men in the College of Arts and Sciences, who give less time to university work than the men of any other college, give more time than the women of the college. In other words, the women at Cornell give the least time of any group to university work. Those who fear lest women are overdoing in their attempt to work with men in a coeducational institution may find some comfort in these figures.

With regard to the remaining items, we find that, whether we compare the women in arts with the men in arts or the women with the men in the university at large, women spend less time than men in amusement, in physical exercise, in sleep and in self support, but spend more time at meals and over an hour a day more in the miscellaneous activities recorded as unclassified.

Our general result, then, is that women give less time than men to university work, to amusement, to physical exercise, to sleep and to self-support; they give more time to meals and unclassified pursuits.

The Final Average.—In Table 5 will be found the final averageday of all students taken collectively. For the purpose of discussing the relative uniformity of the figures for the various items this average is supplemented by two further groups of figures. The last two columns indicate the extreme individual variations found in the entire student body (reduced to a 24-hour basis). The second and third columns express what we have ventured to term the 'mean group variation.' This was computed by comparing the average of each of the 39 groups comprised in the first series of tables with the final average of the present table. Thus the averages for the four classes in arts, the three classes in law, etc., vary from the final average by a mean of three quarters of an hour in absolute time (second column), which is equivalent approximately to a variation of 21 per cent, (third column).

Let us first consider the relation of the final average to the amounts recommended by the authorities mentioned in our introduction, and then take up the various items for further consideration in the light of the variations and extremes.

By a curious chance, the period of university work for the average Cornell student is exactly nine hours, or precisely the time advocated by President Eliot. Even if we add the time given to self-support (0.39) the time given to work (in the wider use of the term) is not materially modified. Only if all the unclassified time is assumed to be of the general nature of work—an assumption entirely unwarranted—can we obtain anything like the eleven hours advocated by President Schurman.

Table 5.

Final totals, all students. 895 cases (33 per cent.).

Topic. Average. Mean Group Variation. Extreme Individual Variation.
Absolute. Rel.(Per Cent.). Highest. Lowest.
Lectures 2.17 0.45 21 4.00 0.00
Laboratories 1.70 1.14 67 9.50 0.00
Shop and field 0.94 1.31 139 10.33 0.00
Outside study 4.19 0.82 20 12.67 0.00
(Univ. work) (9.00) (0.88) (10)
Amusement 2.23 0.25 12 6.87 0.00
Physical exercise 1.72 0.31 18 5.50 0.00
Meals 1.40 0.11 8 3.50 0.47
Sleep 7.90 0.21 3 10.00 5.50
Unclassified 1.36 0.44 32 7.43 0.00
Support 0.39 0.31 81 7.33 0.00

It is evident that eleven hours is much more than the time given to work by the average student, and in my opinion, much higher than can be expected. For, judging from what I know of the conditions in other universities, especially in the east, I believe that Cornell students devote more serious and longer attention to their studies than the students of most institutions of learning, and I should certainly be surprised if further investigations of this sort should reveal institutions of a comparable type whose students average more than nine hours daily in university work.

Comparing our results still further with the hours recommended, it will be seen that the eight hour period uniformly thought desirable for sleep is very closely approximated.

The time given by the average student to amusement, however, is about a quarter of an hour longer than that suggested by President Eliot and an hour and a quarter longer than that suggested by President Schurman. This may be due in part to the fact that our term 'amusement' includes letter writing and general reading not directly connected with university work—both items that might possibly be regarded as 'work' in President Schurman's use of the term. On the other hand, the discrepancy is not uniformly present, for we ma} note, by reference to Table 3, that less than two hours of amusement is indicated for students in the medical colleges and for the group of graduate and special students.

In contrast to amusement, the time given by the average student to all forms of physical exercise, including military drill, walking, skating, gymnasium, out-door games and athletics is less than that recommended. This is true of every course, of every class and of both sexes.

Precisely the same thing may be said of meals, the period being uniformly less than that assigned—about half an hour less than the figures of President Schurman and an hour and a half less than those of President Eliot. We shall return to this point in a moment.

Let us next turn to the variations and extremes as related to the final average. The variations here expressed are necessarily somewhat high and should not be confounded with mean variations of individual cases, because they represent merely the variations of averages of groups, each one of which stands for a particular set of conditions and thus tends to exaggerate some one or more items at the expense of the rest. Under these conditions we should expect just what the table shows—that the hours for sleep and meals, which are little affected by course or class, are the most constant, the variation being but 3 per cent, for sleep and 8 per cent, for meals. In the case of university work, we may note that there is considerable variation in the distribution of the type of work, e. g., 67 per cent, for laboratories, 139 per cent, for shop and field, but that the final outcome is fairly constant, being slightly under 10 per cent, variation.

When we glance at the individual extremes many of the figures are surprising. Thus, while we know that many students give no time to laboratory or shop work or to self-support, we should scarcely anticipate that there are students who give no time (at least for this week) to outside study, and others who have no lectures or recitations. It is equally unexpected to find that some students give more time by an hour or more a day to a single phase of work, like laboratory or shop work, than the average student gives to all phases of university work combined. The highest lecture time is that, of course, of a student who is attending as an auditor several courses in which he is not registered. With regard to amusement, the chief interest lies in the fact that four students, two in medicine, a freshman in civil engineering and a junior in electrical engineering—report no time for amusement, while periods aggregating only an hour a week, i. e., about ten minutes a day, are reported by several others. Similarly, we find six students who gave no time at all to any form of physical exercise, notwithstanding the temptations of fine skating.

But it is with regard to meals that the extremes are most interesting. We have already noted that the average time is considerably below the time allotted. One student, a freshman in engineering, reports three and a half hours daily for meals; a sophomore in civil engineering reports 3.22 hours, and four students report three hours each. In other words, only six (less than seven tenths of one per cent.) give the time to meals recommended by President Eliot. But it is equally true that but few students give even the two hours recommended by President Schurman. Indeed, no group or class of students, women excluded, average even an hour and a half daily for meals, while the women students average but 1.55 hours.

This is the feature of the president's speech which, next to his advocacy of eleven hours for work, appears to have aroused the most comment on the part of the student body. Thus, a freshman in agriculture adds to his report: "It may not be out of place to remark that, if President Schurman went to a Huestis Street boarding-house, he would not require two hours for meals."

So, as a matter of interest, a record was made of all the individual students who give six hours or less weekly to meals. As summarized in Table 4, 215 men and 5 women, or 24.6 per cent, of the students who answered our inquiry, give but 20 minutes or less to each meal. When it is remembered that most of the students eat in boarding-houses where more or less time is lost by the slowness of the service, some idea is afforded of the unwarrantable haste with which students eat.[14]

Furthermore, numerous students report 45 minutes, others 40, 35 or 30 minutes; last of all, a junior in architecture gives 26 minutes daily to his meals. Certainly we should welcome any influence which could make the student's dining-table more attractive as a place for leisurely eating and beneficial conversation.[15]

The time given to sleep is very uniform, with the variations wider below than above; the longest sleepers are two young men, a senior in law and a junior in mechanical engineering, who demand ten hours daily, while one student reports but six hours; two, five and two thirds hours; and one, a freshman in agriculture, only five and a half hours, daily.[16]

The unclassified time is regularly higher in women's than in men's reports, while the extreme of 7.43 hours daily not otherwise accounted for is found in the report of a young lady in sophomore arts. Very many men, on the other hand, especially those in the medical and engineering courses, were able to account for all their time under the rubrics we employed.

As already explained, the time assigned to self-support may be somewhat understated, because of the lack of the item in the original blank. We know, however, that at least 121 men and 5 women, or 14 per cent, of the students here figured, work for their support. In the extreme case, a special student in agriculture, seven hours and twenty minutes daily are devoted to earning a livelihood, while a freshman in the same course, as previously cited, devotes seven hours similarly.

In Table 3 we have incorporated figures to show the absolute and relative distribution of the cases of work for self-support. It appears that not only is it the average student in agriculture that devotes the most time to support, but also that a greater percentage of such students (about one in three) are so engaged. The lowest percentage, 2.9, is that of mechanical engineering (apart from electrical engineering), which is even lower than that of the women in arts. Or, if we combine mechanical and electrical engineering, we observe that only 6.5 per cent, of Sibley College students work for their livelihood, as against 19.1 per cent, in arts, 19.5 per cent, in law, 20 per cent, in civil engineering, and 17.2 per cent, in the two medical colleges (by combination). This relation seems significant enough to demand attention. In the opinion of a Sibley College professor, it is to be explained on the ground that a larger proportion of Sibley than of other students are the sons of wealthy or well-to-do parents. If the explanation be correct, it is of interest as showing the increasing tendency of those who are identified with large business interests to give their sons a 'professional' rather than a 'liberal culture' training.


On the basis of returns from about one third of the student-body, and subject to the limitations which have been discussed at length above, the following propositions may be laid down in regard to the daily distribution of the time of Cornell students:

1. Freshmen and seniors give slightly less time to university work than do sophomores and juniors.

2. The average length of time given to university work is greatest in the colleges of medicine, and progressively less in those of engineering, architecture, law, agriculture and arts—the extremes varying from 10.79 to 8.03 hours daily. Though these differences are largely due to the varying amounts of laboratory, shop and field work required, the courses in medicine still seem to demand not only longer, but also harder work than others.

3. Students in arts and law exceed those in the other colleges in amusement, physical exercise and sleep. Students in agriculture exceed those in other colleges in the number devoting time to self-support, and in the amount of time thus spent.

4. Both in the university at large and within the College of Arts and Sciences, men give more time to university work than do women, whose time is the lowest of any group. Furthermore, women devote less time than men to amusement, physical exercise, sleep and self-support, but more time to meals and over an hour a day more to the miscellaneous activities recorded as unclassified.

5. Taking the university at large, the average student devotes just nine hours daily to university work, which are distributed as follows: lectures and recitations, 2.17; laboratories, 1.70; shop and field work, 0.94; outside study, 4.19. The average student sleeps 7.90 hours, devotes 2.23 hours to amusement, 1.72 to physical exercise, 1.40 to meals, 0.39 to self-support, and 1.36 hours to unclassified activities. Of these amounts, that given to university work is less than that recommended by President Schurman, precisely that recommended by President Eliot, and more than that recommended by Dean Burton; that given to sleep closely approximates the eight hours generally cited; while that given to amusement is longer, and that given to physical exercise and to meals, particularly the latter, is shorter than that recommended by any of the educators quoted.

6. Some 14 per cent, of the students give some time to occupations that assist them financially.

In conclusion, the writer suggests that similar investigations, undertaken with the modifications and precautions which this study has shown to be advisable, would afford an interesting basis for the comparison of student activities in various institutions of learning.[17]

  1. Members of the section of the Cornell Medical College at New York City, about 278 in number, are therefore, not represented in the returns from the College of Medicine, but only the first two years of the medical course.
  2. Of this number 45 were rejected, most of them as being incomplete — lacking a day, or a statement of course or class, etc. About 35 per cent, of the undergraduate, 20 per cent, of the graduate, students sent in reports.
  3. If any allowance is to be made, possibly we should discount somewhat the average time found for university work in general and outside study in particular, and increase that for amusement or exercise, on the ground that the class of students who are less studiously inclined would be less likely than others to fill out and return bona-fide statements of their negligence in these matters.
  4. We are, for instance, in receipt of a lengthy letter from a student condemning the investigation on that score.
  5. But it is, of course, impossible to make any quantitative allowance for this increment in computing the average day from our returns, save by obtaining a full record for Sunday and averaging for seven days, which was inadvisable for the reasons already cited. We can feel, at any rate, that this increment more than removes the discount for lack of representation from the unstudious.
  6. In the case of those who waited upon table.
  7. My thanks are due to my wife for her assistance in this laborious undertaking, and in the subsequent task of tabulation.
  8. Hypothetical because, of course, the time would never correspond in actuality with that of any single student.
  9. Includes all but 16 specials in agriculture (14 men and 2 women).
  10. The special group is excluded in this discussion, being too heterogeneous to be classed as a graduate group. Its place would be between architecture and law.

    Electrical and mechanical engineering, if computed separately, are found to be almost identical. Since the work required is identical during the first two years and closely comparable in the last two, we have an additional confirmation of the value that may be placed upon the results as truly representative.

  11. It must be borne in mind here that we are comparing a two-year with three-and four-year courses, though there is every reason to suppose that the same tempo is observed in the two years of the medical course taken at New York City.
  12. Very possibly the time given in agriculture would be higher in the warmer months of the year.
  13. But if we assume, as seems highly probable, that more men than women study on Sunday, we may suppose that the total time per week given to outside study is as great, if not greater, for men than for women.
  14. Doubtless many of these 220 students prepare their own breakfast, and make a very simple fare of fruit, cereals and milk. If ten minutes sufficed for this, they might spend 25 minutes each upon the two remaining meals at some boarding-house.
  15. The trouble may lie in part in the fact that the atmosphere of the typical college boarding-house is one of haste: the table service, and even some share of the preparation of food and the resetting of tables and washing of dishes, falls to student waiters who must hurry their fellows to save time enough for their own meals. And, at Cornell, this haste is augmented by the prevalence of 'eight o'clocks,' and by the restriction of the noon interval, in many cases, to the single hour between one and two, and, still further, by the fact that nearly all the students board off the campus and must take practically a mile walk for their lunch. Some confirmation of this opinion may be seen in the higher average for meal hours of the women who board in commons on the campus.

    But the trouble lies even more, in my opinion, in the fact that the average student has never been 'educated' to a proper recognition of the possibilities of the dinner-table as a place for general conversation, for the exchange of views, for the leisurely discussion of college news and of the events of the day in the world outside. The 'talk while you eat' habit should replace the 'bolt and run' habit.

  16. This young man rises every morning at four o'clock, and works seven hours every day for his support.
  17. Since this article was prepared for publication, a similar study has been reported from Harvard University, but it has not been possible to incorporate a comparison of results here. According to newspaper comments, the average time given to university work was much less than that found at Cornell.