Eek! You’re going to college! It’s exciting, but you’re probably a little nervous about freshman year, right? You know how your high school teachers have been telling you that college is going to be much more difficult than high school? Well, they’re right.
Scared? Part of the scary part is that you don’t know what to expect academically. People keep telling you your school work is going to be tough, but you don’t know exactly what that means. So how is college different than high school?
Here’s the big difference: in college, you are responsible for your own education. In high school, teachers made sure that you were on track. In college, you are on your own. Here are some ways that college is different than high school.
- You don’t have to go to class. That’s awesome, right? Not really. To many students, skipping class is too big a temptation to resist, especially if it’s a big lecture hall class where the professor doesn’t know you. Here’s the scoop: if you don’t go to class all or most of the time, you’ll do poorly.
- You need to manage your time. In high school, your teacher will tell you to read pages 35-48 for class tomorrow and to start working on your paper. In college, the professor hands you a syllabus. It tells you when readings need to be done and when assignments are due. You need to take the syllabi from all of your classes and figure out how to best divide up your time.
- You need to study more. Professors expect you to study 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour spent in class. In college, studying has to be a major part of your life.
- The reading load is heavier and tougher. Expect many more pages and many more big words. And don’t expect the professor to go over all the readings in class. The readings may overlap with the lecture, but not always, so you have to do the reading and learn it on your own. And yes, it will be on the test.
- Taking notes is more difficult. In high school, your teacher will probably give you an outline of his or her lecture and tell you what points will be on the test. In college, the professor often just talks. It’s your responsibility to write everything down and know what is important. Here are some college note taking tips.
- You won’t be reminded about deadlines and tests. It’s your responsibility to know your deadlines. Read your syllabus frequently.
- There are no As for effort. In high school, teachers sometimes give students credit if they try and don’t do well at something. In college, you can study your tail off and get a D on the test. The only thing that matters is the end result, not the effort.
- Your parents won’t be able to help much. By law (in the U.S.), professors cannot discuss your school work with your parents. The school considers you an adult, and sharing your personal information with other adults is illegal. Your parents may be able to give you guidance about classes and your social life, and if you’re lucky, they’ll help you out financially. For the most part, though, you’re on your own.
- Help is available, but you have to seek it out. People will be happy to help you, but you need to seek out their assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your professors and TAs, and seek additional help from academic advisors, the campus study skills center, and the writing lab.
- You need to balance work and play. Your social life has to come second to your school work, and your parents and teachers won’t be around to make sure that happens.
- Discipline problems will not be tolerated. Students are expected to act like adults in class. Students who do not can be removed from class or from campus.
- You choose most of your classes and your major. In high school, many or most of your classes were chosen for you. In college, you get to choose your major and your plan of study. This can be intimidating, but also rewarding.
Sound painful? At times, it will be, especially at first. First semester freshman year is about learning how to be a college student. If you work diligently and hold yourself up to high expectations, the work will seem easier with time.
Good luck! For more helpful articles on freshman year, check out this Freshman Year Survival Guide.