As you’ve been preparing to start college, you’ve likely been thinking of the ways—both good and bad—that it is going to be different than high school. You’re going to be living in a new place with a roommate who you’ve stalked so hard on Facebook that you know where she spent Christmas vacation in 2002. You’re going to be around all new people and have to make an entirely new group of friends. Your parents aren’t going to be watching over your shoulder and nagging you to clean your room, but they also won’t be there to cook for you or do you laundry. You’ll finally get to go to parties that aren’t constantly busted by your neighborhood cops (but beware of RAs). With all of these major changes ahead, you may have completely forgotten that college is school and you’ll actually have to go to class while adjusting to your new lifestyle. Whether you’re coming from a small, private prep school or a huge, public high school, your college courses will differ from your high school ones. As if you needed another adjustment to tackle your freshman year. But don't worry—HC is here to prepare you for the whole “school” aspect of college. We’ve compiled five ways that your college classes will differ from your high school ones and how you can successfully adapt from the get-go.
Though the size of your college classes will vary greatly depending on what school you attend and what courses you elect to take, chances are you will have a few classes filled with more students than you used to see in a full day at high school. At bigger schools, intro-level lectures often seat hundreds of students (assuming they all actually make it to class). You will find crowded classes at smaller schools, too. So what should you do to make sure you don't sink in the much larger classroom pond?
Don’t be alarmed if you see not one familiar face when you walk into the room on the first day. Yes, it’ll be intimidating, but just plop yourself down next to a stranger. Bigger classes, especially lectures, are all about listening and taking notes, so there will be minimal time to talk to your neighbors anyway.
Get study buddies
As the semester progresses and you get to know your lovely peers, you can mimic the tight-knit community of a high school class by studying in groups. Not only will this opportunity to discuss the material with others feel like a small class, but it will likely boost your grade too. Strategies for Success, a resource compiled by the University of Michigan advising center, explains that studying with others is helpful for sharing the workload, solving complex problems, increasing motivation, and preparing for the real world. “When students work in groups, they have the opportunity to explain concepts, discuss ideas, disagree with one another and reason through why one person’s answer is different from another… being able to articulate a concept to another student often requires a fuller understanding of that concept, which then also means the student will more likely be able to apply that concept in different testing formats,” the guide says. Ideally, cap the group at five or six people so it doesn’t get too rowdy, and choose students that actually go to class. If you don’t know really know anyone in your lecture, you can email your class’s list-serv asking if anyone is interested—it’ll be a great way to meet new people.
Seek out small classes
If by the end of your first semester you realize that big classes are really not for you, talk to your advisor about finding smaller courses, such as seminars or discussions, that better cater to your needs. Unfortunately, intro-level courses are almost always big, so you may just have to stick it out until you get to more advanced courses as an upperclassman.
Goodbye Notebook, Hello Facebook
In the land of high school, laptops are usually not the norm (or allowed) and you are instead forced to rely on the good old-fashioned pencil and notebook system. In college, however, laptops dominate the classroom scene. How should you prepare to make the switch?
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Before classes even begin, set up a format for typing notes. Whether you dig Roman numerals or bullet points, Times New Roman or Arial, your life will be a lot easier if you find a system that works best for you and make a template so that you don't have to fuss with that formatting palette during class. Figure out whether you prefer a Word document, Google Docs, or a different system. Also, determine a specific way to label and file all your notes so that you’re computer desktop is just as organized as you’ll be.
Before you get too excited about toting that sleek computer to class, understand that this privilege has its drawbacks. “Obviously typing is faster, but having a computer in class is overwhelming and can be incredibly distracting,” Sarah Strickberger, rising sophomore at the University of Michigan, says. If you’re too busy Facebooking, Tweeting, and Pinning, there is no way you are going to absorb all that the professor says. You may think you can just rely on the textbook or notes and lecture slides posted online, but often tests will include material taught only in class. If you don't think you keep yourself from surfing the World Wide Web, try installing a program like Self Control that will block you out of sites for a certain period of time. Or, just don't bring your laptop at all. That pencil and notebook system got you through twelve years of schooling for a reason. Some students stick to notebooks from the beginning or deter to them after their laptops fail them, so you won’t be the odd one out.