Most college freshmen are surprised by both the length of their out of class assignments and the quality of work they are expected to produce. In fact, most freshmen will tell you that the adjustment to college academics is significantly more difficult than the social adjustment.
But, the adjustment to college academics need not be too lengthy or traumatic if you follow ten pretty straightforward rules.
1. Do not cut class. Cutting is the quickest way to dig an academic hole for yourself.
2. There are no days off. Don’t get behind. Don’t procrastinate. Never. Catching up in high school may be fairly easy; that’s not so in college.
3. Take clear, comprehensive class notes (and revise them later). Listen for clues about what your instructors think is most important (and highlight those areas for use when reviewing for exams).
4. Never let a day end with unanswered questions in your mind. Visit with your instructor, talk with a classmate, review your text, get help in the learning center, or do whatever else it takes to be sure you understand your coursework. Unanswered questions will come back to bite you in a place that will make sitting painful.
5. Put together a calendar which includes the dates of all of your exams and the due dates of projects and papers. Then, schedule the times and dates when you do the necessary preparation.
6. Use a highlighter when reading. It will make your review work much faster and easier.
7. Save and review all of your exams. They can help give you an idea of what to expect from an instructor in the future.
8. Talk to students who have taken courses with your instructors. They can often provide valuable insight. I’ll never forget how much I was helped by a student a year ahead of me who told me that my Western Civilization professor asked at least one question about the church on every exam and often focused on Popes and timelines.
9. Study groups can help motivate you, discipline you, and expose you to the insights of others. If you work well as part of a team, consider them seriously, especially in courses in which you think you might struggle.
10. Be prepared to defend anything you say in class, on a test, or in a paper.
College academics, like life, can be an up and down ride. You’ll almost certainly experience some highs and at least a few (hopefully short lived) lows. But if you have a reasonable amount of ambition, manage your time well, and follow the suggestions above, you have little to worry about.