Adjusting from High School Academic Expectations to College

Most incoming college students are in for a shock when they first enter a college classroom—even if they did well academically in high school. The set of expectations are quite different, and it takes some time to get used to the changes. Here are the changes you can expect.

First and foremost, you are responsible for your own education. College instructors will be more than happy to answer questions and help you if you stop by their office hours. But they’re not. It’s up to you to:

    • Read the syllabus and know when your deadlines are. In high school, you may have had daily reminders about what to read for the next class period, or that a paper is due next week. Not so in college.This information is all on the syllabus, and you’re responsible for keeping track of it.
    • Take good notes. Although the instructor might use PowerPoint or give you some kind of outline to help you organize your notes, don’t count on it. You need to pay attention and get it all down.
    • Figure out what’s going to be on the test. Yes, you might get study sheets and some information from the instructor about what to study. However, in a college classroom, anything you read or hear about in class in fair game for the test.
    • Get help if you need it. Help is available, but you have to ask for it.

Second, one big change from high school is the amount of time you’re expected to spend studying. Instructors generally expect 2 to 3 hours of time outside of class for every credit hour you spend in class. That means if you’re taking 15 credits, you’re expected to spend 30 to 45 hours outside of class studying every week. Sound like a lot? Not if you want to do well.

Another big change is the difficult level of the reading. Your reading assignments will be longer and more difficult—and you’ll be expected to complete them.

Finally, a big change is your schedule itself. Although you’ll probably have an academic adviser to help you out, no one is going to tell you exactly what you need to take. You get to choose your major, choose your electives, and figure out which classes you need to fulfill the requirements for the school and the major. If you forget to take a class that’s required for graduation, you won’t graduate–end of story. Again, academic advising can help you—but you have to seek this out. It’s rarely required for students to meet with their academic advisors, so take advantage of the help that’s available.

If this sounds overwhelming, it is—but it does get easier if you’re willing to put in the work. Come to college expecting to be a little overwhelmed, and know that you’re not alone.








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