Early morning classes forced me to sacrifice my health

A student explains the physical and mental tolls having early class times had on her while also being a commuter student.


I had my first 8 a.m. class, Analytical Reading and Writing, during the spring semester of my freshman year. Because I lived on campus at the time, having an early class didn’t affect me. I woke up 45 minutes before my class and had enough time to get ready, eat breakfast and arrive at class on time.

While I didn’t enjoy having class this early because it reminded me of high school, I tolerated it.

Last semester was my first time as a commuter student, and I quickly realized I didn’t have the same luxuries I had during my freshman and sophomore years.

I lived an hour and a half away by train, so to make it to class on time I had to wake up at 5 a.m. to catch a train at 6 a.m. The fact that I had a night class the day before, where I wouldn’t get home until 10 p.m., certainly didn’t help. Going home, doing homework and waking up at the crack of dawn for class began to stress me out.

I only got between three to four hours of sleep, which hurt my performance in class. I struggled to pay attention because of my drowsiness, which led to missing a few assignments. 

After a few weeks, I thought staying with a relative in West Oak Lane, Philadelphia, would help because I would be closer to campus. However, it didn’t improve my mental or physical health because I still wasn’t getting enough sleep or eating like I needed.

I skipped breakfast on Tuesdays and Thursdays because I was afraid I’d miss an important lesson and fall further behind if I stopped to eat, even though I had an hour break before my second class. Instead, I would catch up on homework I couldn’t finish the night before.

Despite how hard I tried to plan out my day to accommodate my 8 a.m. class, I always sacrificed valuable time my body needed, whether it be more sleep, better eating or relaxation. I never felt like I had enough time to get my assignments done.

I was getting overwhelmed with assignments, not only in my 8 a.m. class, but other classes I was taking. I wasn’t participating as much as I used to, and my test scores were dropping significantly. It was my worst semester, and I felt like a complete failure because of it.

I recently learned high schools in the Philadelphia School District will move their start time from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. next school year. The shift will help students who have to make their own way to school, and will make travel safer in the morning and afternoon, according to a letter from the School District of Philadelphia. 

Their decision surprised me because Philadelphia’s school district had a short history of not caring for their students, like when some elementary students didn’t receive lunch on Sep. 23, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. However, their decision was the right one to make because it shows the school district prioritizes the health and safety of their students. 

Many college students work full-time jobs, manage campus organizations and commute more than an hour away, all while being full-time students. All of these responsibilities contribute to college students — especially commuters — poor performance.

Students perform at their best from around 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to Frontiers, an open access publisher.

Although I didn’t work full-time last semester, I took an 18-credit course load and got involved in a few clubs like The Temple News, while taking an early class.

Offering more courses later in the day rather than leaving commuter students with no choice other than taking early classes will allow more students to put their health first. Later classes offer more hours in the day for students to sleep, eat a healthy breakfast and be refreshed for their classes.

The decision made by the Philadelphia School District shouldn’t just be for high school students. If Temple offered the class I needed at later times, then I wouldn’t have a problem with managing my schedule, prioritizing my health, or feeling overwhelmed with my assignments.

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