Benefits of a lighter workload
Throughout my four years of undergraduate studies at Western University, my workload tended to be quite intense. This was not a surprise for though; in fact, it was very predictable and naturally, I expected it. It takes a lot of time and effort to complete both an honours specialization in biochemistry and cell biology and a major in Italian language and culture in a span of four years. As someone who always works hard, always has something that I want to work on, and very used to the consequences of putting in the hard work, I was completely fine with the intensity of my undergraduate experience. I was getting a lot out of it. However, when I decided to do my capstone research project in the lab during the summer of my third year, the workload for my final year of undergrad became much lighter (at least relative to what I was used to), which I quickly noticed the benefits of. Perhaps, some of these benefits were obvious (and I did expect some of them), but they are important and interesting to point out. After all, sometimes, it can be extremely difficult to understand some very obvious ideas if one does not think about it or go through the experience themselves.
The academic/educational/professional benefit of having a lighter workload that stood out to me is that I was naturally engaging more with the material that I was learning and the assignments that I was working on. Having less work to do and less topics to learn, it was simply easier to let the core concepts and the general field of study to provoke thoughts; it was easier to be curious and inquisitive. I was able to let each topic lead me down rabbit holes. As one might expect, these differences, as well as the extra time that could be spent on each task, would increase the likelihood of developing mastery of the concepts. Ultimately, these changes in the process and the result also made me appreciate the material and the overall experience more.
The other benefit that was obvious (and also more important to me) was that it enabled me to allocate more time for other areas of interests, whether that was personal projects or self-learning goals. I find that there is a mental limit to learning and deeper-level thinking, as opposed to only a tangible time limit. With a lighter workload, my mental energy isn't as drained, letting me spend some high-quality time on these other more personal education goals. For me, this was mostly about language learning, but also it included a bit of digital 3D modelling.
The last notable benefit was that I simply had more free time for recreational purposes. This is very important for many people; they get a lot out of this, whether it is spent for hanging out, relationships, school clubs, additional classes in extracurricular areas, video games, or whatever else. For me, it isn't quite as important since I don't feel the desire to have a lot of time that I can spend on those things. I already set a lot of time every single day for the most basic aspects of my life (such as sleeping, eating without rushing, working out, and going for walks), which is the most important to me. However, I want a bit of free time for sure and the lighter workload made that much easier to find. I used the additional time for activities that I enjoyed and made my life better: playing basketball, reading, and doing the podcast (depending on the topic, this could be an activity that requires more mental energy).
Overall, I think my life was better from having a lighter course load. Even though I can more than handle an intense workload and I get a lot out of that, I think these benefits contribute to my overall fulfillment more. Going through this experience and reflecting on it has certainly changed my perspective, clarifying the manner in which I want to work hard (as I would always work hard like I mentioned in the beginning). I hope this is food for thought in your decision making process and broadens your perspective.