Senior year of high school is all about college preparation. You take tests and fill out applications. Teachers always remind you that what flies in high school will not go over well with college professors. They scare you with visions of hours of home work and uncaring professors who would rather spit on you than help you with that math problem you just don’t get. All of these threats and advice are well and good, but in actuality, there’s no actual preparation for surviving the college experience. This lack of actual preparation creates groups of freshmen that enter college with no idea how to handle their classes and make it through the year. This lack of preparation results in a large number of college freshmen who lose their scholarships or end up trying to make up for their bad first year grades in later years. Well, for those of you who would like to avoid that kind of first year faux pas, I offer the three most important things I learned about surviving college.
1. Go to class! It sounds so easy. Everyone knows that you must go to class in order to learn right? Well, this may seem like easy advice when you come from high school where teachers take role and you have dire consequences if you are tardy or absence. High schools are government sanctioned watch dogs that will contact your parents or jeopardize your academic future if you do not attend. This is not the case in college. In college, students are expected to have grown up enough to monitor themselves. They are expected to come to class simply for the joy of learning. While this is a wonderful ideal, try remembering it when you are in a class of six hundred students and your teacher is standing in front with a microphone using slides to impart notes and has no idea who you are. It is tempting to skip class and think that no one will miss you and that you can learn much more from the book or on your own. Wrong! Fight the temptation. Going to class is the best way to know what will be on tests and to keep you academically motivated. No matter how boring the class may seem, going to class is the best way to keep up and keep on track. I know this from painful personal experience.
2. Do your reading! In high school, students often skirt by without really ever doing anything. I know that I got through with minimal effort and came out with a good grade point average. I can’t remember often having to spend hours reading text books, so there wasn’t a whole lot of practice. In college all of this academic laxity becomes the ultimate liability. Not only are the books long and expensive, but the teachers actually expect you to read, understand, and remember the information. This is a new thing to a lot of students fresh off the high school campus. Keeping up on your reading is the best way to be prepared for tests and in class discussions. I can’t tell you how many times I was not able to contribute to group discussion or able to answer questions on tests because I hadn’t read the chapter. The text books are there for a reason, to be read, so don’t forget to use them.
3. If you need help, ask for it! I remember my high school teachers telling me about cold and distant professors that don’t care if you pass or fail. Often students would receive papers and the teacher would say, “That would be unacceptable in college and your professors will not give you a second chance.” I say that this is complete and utter nonsense. Sure, there are some professors that are more concerned with their next research grant than their students, but usually professors are very approachable and want you to succeed. I spent my first several years afraid to ask questions and even more afraid to ask for help. How I wish that I would have plucked up some courage and asked for the help I needed. I can tell you that my grades would have been much better. College professors are generally warm and understanding. Yes, they do expect a high standard, but they are willing to give you a leg up to reach that standard. So, always remember, asking for help now is much better than failing later.
College is a wonderful time full of incredible experiences and academic exploration. Don’t spoil it by falling into the usual freshman pitfalls. Keep these three pieces of advice in mind and you will succeed where many will fail. Keep these three pieces of advice in mind and you will survive.