The walk across the stage to receive that long sought-after high
school diploma is over. You and your parents have selected the right college
and it is time to leave home to begin your move into a college dorm and your
year as a college freshman.
You have prepared for this since the
beginning of high school. It will be the beginning of your life as a young
adult: instead of reporting in to your parents every day, you will make the
decision as to when you study and when you will socialize. This is your first
taste of freedom. However, there is a part of this new personal freedom that
has a bit of mystery to it.
What should you expect in your freshman
year at college? Generally, the differences between college and high school
will fall into the following categories:
- Making responsible choices
- Understanding how to succeed in college classes
- College professors
- Test taking and grades
Making responsible choices begins as soon as you enter your first
class. "A student may expect a lot of apparent free time in their first year,"
says associate professor of chemistry Joseph S. Ward III, PhD. Ward is a coordinator
of first-year advising and chief health professions advisor at Rockford College
"Typically a student is in class about 15 hours a week,
with sometimes hours between classes. Some students think this is an opportunity
to expand upon their partying and social life or maybe take on a job working
nearly full time to make extra money."
This is a misconception that
becomes clear very soon in the first semester of your freshman year in college.
"It is a common rule of thumb that for every hour you are in class, you should
spend two hours outside of class," says Ward. "So 15 hours in class and 30
hours outside of class make for a 45-hour week of just classroom-related work.
This is more than a full-time job. This is not including special projects
and extra studying for exams."
The misconception of free time is just
one of the major differences between high school and college. You are generally
following rules in high school; when you reach your freshman year in college,
you are required to make the right choices independently. According to the
article, How College Differs From High School, from Southern Methodist University
(SMU) in Texas:
"In high school you can count on parents and teachers
to remind you of your responsibilities and to guide you in setting priorities.
[In college] you must balance your responsibilities and set priorities. You
will face moral and ethical decisions you have never faced before.... In high
school most of your classes are arranged for you. [In college] you arrange
your own schedule in consultation with your advisor. Schedules tend to look
lighter than they really are.... High school guiding principle: You will usually
be told what to do and corrected if your behavior is out of line. [College]
guiding principle: You are expected to take responsibility for what you do
and don't do, as well as for the consequences of your decisions."
a high school student, if you attended regularly and made an effort to do
minimal homework and participate, you could expect reasonable success. In
high school, even if you did not complete the reading assignments, the material
would usually be discussed in class the next day. The requirements for college
success are vastly different from those for high school, however. Attending
on a regular basis is not enough. The SMU article points out the following
- You need to study at least two to three hours outside of class for each
hour spent in class.
- You need to review class notes and reading material regularly.
- You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing which may
not be directly addressed in class.
- It's up to you to read and understand the assigned material; lectures
and assignments proceed from the assumption that you've already done so.
- Classes may number 100 students or more.
High school teachers and college professors are both interested in
teaching, but the approach to teaching is very different. The differences
may come as a shock to college freshmen.
Dr. Drew Appleby, PhD, a
professor and director of undergraduate studies in psychology at Indiana University-Purdue
University of Indianapolis, gives his students a 16-page syllabus at the beginning
of the semester. In his syllabus, Appleby writes:
"Many of the freshmen
I teach tell me that their high school teachers taught them what was in their
textbooks (i.e. in the words of the ancient ... proverb, 'gave them a fish').
Whereas, their college teachers provide them with an environment in which
to learn (i.e. in the words of the ancient ... proverb, 'taught
them how to fish'). [College level] teachers assume students are mature and
responsible enough to learn by themselves. That is, teachers don't teach students;
they create and provide opportunities for their students to learn."
and grading in the freshman year of college are vastly different than in high
school. According to Appleby:
"I have found that many of my freshmen
expect to be graded on the basis of the effort they expend. They believe they
deserve high grades if they work hard, follow their teachers' instructions
and complete all assignments, even if they do not perform well on tests or
papers. At this stage, students believe the quantity of their work is more
important than its quality.
"[College level] students slowly begin
to understand that their grades will be based on their actual performance
on tests and papers, not on the effort they expend studying for their tests
or writing their papers. At this later stage, students know and accept that
they will be graded on the quality of the products they produce, not simply
on the quantity of work they have expended."
You will experience many
differences in your freshman year at college. Your teachers' expectations
may seem great. But by learning how to navigate this year successfully, you
will ease the transition to college life and set yourself up for greater success
in subsequent years.