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Undergraduate Time Use and Academic Outcomes: Results from the University of California Undergraduate Experiences Survey 2006


by Steven Brint & Allison M. Cantwell — 2010

Background/Context: Previous research has established the significance of academic study time on undergraduate students’ academic performance. The effects of other uses of time are, however, in dispute. Some researchers have argued that students involved in activities that require initiative and effort also perform better in class, while students who engage in mainly passive entertainments perform less well. Other researchers have argued that students who are connected to the campus through residence, work, or extracurricular activities perform better, while those who are separated perform less well.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The purpose of this study is to develop a theory-based framework for examining the academic consequences of student time and to test hypotheses drawn from this framework using survey data.

Research Design: The framework focuses on three dimensions of student time use: study/non-study, active/passive, and connecting/separating. The survey analysis is based on more than 6000 responses to the 2006 University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES).

Findings/Results: Controlling for students’ socio-demographic backgrounds, previous academic achievements, and social psychological stressors, we find that study time is strongly connected to both academic conscientiousness and higher grade point averages. We find that “activating” uses of time, such as physical exercise and volunteering, are associated with higher levels of academic conscientiousness, but not directly to higher grade point averages. Time spent on “passive” entertainments show negative associations on academic conscientiousness. Uses of time that connect students to campus life showed relatively weak and inconsistent effects, as did uses of time that separate students from campus life. Off-campus work was an exception. It showed a strong net association with lower grade point averages.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Our findings have implications for theory: They lead to a stronger focus on academic study time as the central key to positive academic outcomes, and a renewed focus on off-campus work as a major obstacle to positive academic outcomes. They suggest further that college and university administrators should find ways to “unplug” male students from their computer entertainments and to help minority students who need to work to find employment on campus.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 9, 2010, p. 2441-2470
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15953, Date Accessed: 5/24/2017 9:38:11 AM

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About the Author
  • Steven Brint
    University of California, Riverside
    E-mail Author
    STEVEN BRINT is Professor of Sociology and Associate Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the University of California, Riverside. His work focuses on the sociology of higher education, the sociology of professions, and middle-class politics. Recent articles include "Middle-Class Respectability after Thrift: Work and Lifestyle in the Professional-Managerial Stratum," in a new Oxford University Press book on Capitalism and Moral Life edited by Joshua Yates and James Davison Hunter; "Focus on the Classroom: Movements to Reform Teaching and Learning in U.S Colleges and Universities, 1985-2005" in a new Johns Hopkins University Press book edited by Joseph Hermanowicz; "Who's Right about the Right?" in the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion; "General Education Models: Continuity and Change in the U.S. Undergraduate Curriculum, 1975-2000" in the Journal of Higher Education; and the "Market Model and the Rise and Fall of Academic Fields in U.S. Four-Year Colleges and Universities, 1980-2000" currently under review. He is working on a new book, 'Creating the Future': Organizational and Cultural Change in U.S. Higher Education, 1980-2000.
  • Allison Cantwell
    University of California, Riverside
    ALLISON M. CANTWELL is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Riverside. Her work focuses on identity processes, sociology of higher education, and the undergraduate experience.
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