Getting Ready for College

by blackspanielgallery

Do you know someone about to go to college.. The insights here are what a college professor has observed over the years. The potential mistakes are all avoidable.

Too often a student has success in a high school, and simply thinks things will certainly go as well in college. That is fine if the student can adapt, but far too often the student will not. There are some basic differences, and it is best to be aware of them before getting to college. Once a hole is dug, it is difficult to climb back out.

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The Pace

A college course lasts one semester, and meets three times a week, or less.  Usually, a three hour credit course requires two and a half hours of class time each week.  So, the pace must be faster than it is in high school.


I once taught a mathematics course to advanced high school students taking college credit.  The course was trigonometry.  A high school trigonometry course goes the entire year, and meets five days, or about four and a half hours per week.  The college course goes into greater depth, and a semester is shorter than half of a high school year.  So, a college course covers more material in about a fifth of the time.  Well, one of my students kept being called out of class for “excused” high school activities.  Then, one day he approached me and said that he finally understood the difference in high school and college classes.  In high school he could miss a week and they would still be drilling the same material, but in college if he missed one day he was behind, and the material was no longer being presented.  It was then up to him to get caught up by reading.  And, if he did not catch up, since mathematics builds on itself, things would get worse.


The above is important, since college students often take off, since there is no attendance police to chase them down.  Sometimes they will miss two weeks at a time for vacation.   Others will be physically present, but get behind because of text messaging.  Inattention is as bad as not being in class.


The Daily Process

Many days start with an explanation of new material, which is in the first ten minutes or so of class, then the details which fill the rest of the period.  Some students always walk in ten minutes late, which means they understand little of the course.  Some plan this by scheduling a course right behind a work schedule, and assume the course will work out with them being late due to travel time.  This is a bad idea, and often leads to having to repeat the course.  The entire class is important, but the first few minutes are critical.


Memorizing Facts Will Not Be Enough

College is about developing a thought process, not learning facts.  The accreditation process requires students be able to do research, and dig things out.

Often, a student will ask for a different topic, one the student is already familiar with.  But, looking up something new to that person is the important aspect of the assignment.  

The Full Time, But Have too Little Time, Student

Students assume the class time is all there is, that nothing is expected outside of class.  It is common for a student to take a full time load, schedule on only some days, and work a full time job the rest of the time.  This leaves no time for assignments, and is a recipe for failure.  A college course requires more time outside of the classroom than inside the classroom.  

Grading Is Different

In a high school a student might get an A and an F in a period, and the teacher will record a C, the average of four and zero quality points.   College classes do not do this.  A 100 and a 0 average to a 50, which is an F. 


And, all grades are used.  I once shared an office with another college professor who had been a middle school teacher.  One day I asked why would students get three As, then miss a test and not ask for a makeup.  His response was that before college a missed test would be average out, so if one of four tests would be missing the teacher would add and divide by three, not by four.  And, even though the syllabus said a zero would be used for a test grade not made up the students did not believe this.  So, when the material got a little harder some students would miss the test to not lose their A, which unfortunately for them they did lose.  

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Updated: 04/01/2017, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 07/25/2015

Thanks for the comments.

CruiseReady on 07/25/2015

Learning to understand the things that YOU are responsible for, and then consistently taking that responsibility seriously is a big part of growing up, and college is sometimes where it really smacks students in the face!

WriterArtist on 07/25/2015

I think graduating to college from school is cool. However; as you pointed out - things have to be taken seriously. There can be difference in assessing grades and the degree of difficulty in the tests may vary. It is all about growing up and increasing your knowledge to face this competitive world that is becoming tougher everyday.

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