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The 5 Most Valuable Things to Know About College Academics at UW

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Washington chapter.

Jumping into the whirlwind of college at the University of Washington, especially when compared to the structured environment of high school, is undeniably an adventure. While high school may have offered a sense of familiarity and comfort, the transition to college brings a plethora of fresh experiences, both productive and challenging. After my first year of navigating college academics, here are five essential aspects for your consideration:

1. Flexible Class Scheduling

Say goodbye to the rigid shackles of high school schedules and hello to the freedom of creating your own weekly looks. Through UW’s quarter system, you’re the master of your schedule every 10 weeks, weaving classes around work and extracurriculars. With fewer hours spent in the classroom each week, you have ample time to structure your schedule according to your commitments and personal preferences. The rhythm of quarterly scheduling changes faster than you can say “midterm.”

2. Syllabi: Treasure Maps to Success 

Think of course syllabi as an indispensable roadmap for navigating the dense academic landscape of college. Unlike the uncertainty of high school assignments, required quarterly syllabi outline course expectations, assignments, and deadlines. Embracing syllabi as proactive tools enables students to plan ahead effectively, mitigating the risk of being caught off guard by impending tasks. My personal key to success is linking my syllabi with my Google Calendar– the two of them ensure that I won’t be caught off guard.

3. You’re the Captain Now: More Self-Directed Learning

At UW, students assume the role of architects of their educational journey. With professors emphasizing voluntary class participation and minimal hand-holding, the responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders to hoist the sails of success. This newfound freedom fosters a culture of extreme accountability: you can fly completely under the radar all four years, or take ownership of your opportunities and soar. In my opinion, investing in your education is an equal cost to the financial value. Whether it’s dragging yourself out of bed for early morning classes or completing your assignments on time, I’ve found that my level of engagement directly correlates with my success. I’m often reminded of this when I hear the closing announcement at Odegaard, realizing I’ve been there for five hours and it’s now in fact 11:55pm.

4. Networking Bonanza: Building Bridges with Faculty

Ah, the age-old art of schmoozing with the scholarly elite! Despite UW’s sprawling undergraduate population, valuable networking opportunities await those brave enough to go after them. The vast majority of professors don’t take attendance in large lectures– no one is holding you accountable to be there, and it’s all up to you to decide what’s most important. Smaller forums like discussion sections and office hours are prime opportunities for networking. With no one holding your hand through assignments, it’s even more paramount to cultivate your own rapport with professors, TAs, and advisors; providing you with invaluable guidance and support. Whether seeking academic advice or exploring research opportunities, nurturing connections with faculty members enriches your experience and opens doors into your future.

5. Embrace the Challenge: Academic Rigor Awaits

UW prides itself on its academically rigorous environment across all fields of study. College academics demand a higher level of critical thinking and analytical skills, challenging students to excel in their pursuit of knowledge. With every hurdle comes chances for growth and discovery. While rigorous coursework often feels dreadful, it offers a platform for intellectual growth and personal development. With greater expectations, extremely rare opportunities for extra credit, and no “A’s for effort,” students are challenged to do more self-directed learning. I’ve found myself completing less “busy work” in college, making what I’m actually reading, writing, and solving matter far more. These efforts yield tangible results!

In the grand scheme of things, each college class serves as a stepping stone in the mosaic of higher education, offering unique lessons and “a-ha” moments along the way. I definitely prefer college academics compared to high school, because I’m able to design my own experience. With determination and assuredness, all students are capable to conquer the complexities of college life.

Hi! My name is Sophia Sostrin, a first-year student at UW. I plan to double major in Journalism & Global/Regional Studies. I'm from San Luis Obispo, California and spend any free time reading at the beach or hanging out with my dog while I'm home. A fun fact about me is that I have dual citizenship with Switzerland! And, I'm a huge music junkie, love watching sports & am addicted to true crime documentaries. Creative writing is my passion and I'm so stoked to share my work!