Today was the first Monday after the end of classes and the official start of finals week. As my first semester of college comes to a close, I’m looking back on my classes and reflecting on how they were different from high school.
The biggest thing you, as a high school student, will hear about college is that there’s nobody to hold your hand. And while that is certainly true, I’ve found that it’s really not too different from high school. I wouldn’t have said I had many high-school teachers spoon-feed me. Yes, some were lenient about turning in assignments and there were even some who would go out of their way to get you to turn things in and give you full credit for them, but for any organized and responsible high school student, the jump to college is easy. Make sure you’re on top of your stuff, and there won’t be any problems.
And even though they won’t cut you much slack when it comes to the work, most professors that I’ve encountered have been overwhelmingly dedicated to helping their students out in any way possible. All of my professors have been obviously invested in their students–they want to see you succeed, they’re happy when you do well in their class. This is also true in high school, but my college professors have been incredibly, surprisingly accommodating. Always willing to meet and discuss papers or class material in general, sometimes in office hours and sometimes by appointment. So far, I haven’t met a single instructor that didn’t genuinely care about their students.
That being said, I’ve taken a limited number of college courses, all 40 people or less. Larger classes (and there are classes much larger than 40 people) make it a great deal more difficult, if not impossible, to seek out personal attention from the professor. Yes, it will be a challenge to meet one-on-one with the professor of a 300+ person class, but between the professor and TAs, I’d venture to say that there is at least one person that is interested in helping you. I’ll have to update my claim when I take a class with a multi-hundred person lecture.
When it comes to tests (or prelims) and finals, you definitely have more responsibility. Now, freshman year, is when a lot of people discover that they don’t really know what studying actually is. While there are plenty of exceptions, you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to reviewing for exams. My Latin teacher made a few review sheets and my Math teacher provided a practice prelim, but it’s mostly up to us to determine what we need to work on and how we should prepare. There are extra office hours for both of my classes with finals this week, which should serve as additional review sessions. Bottom line is this: while there will probably be extra resources to prepare, you need to adjust to not being told exactly what the final/test will look like.
One true thing that people say about college classes is that they’re more interesting than those in high school, and I’d say that is definitely an accurate statement. Aside from those pesky distribution requirements, you generally get to pick what you study, which means most people enrolled in a class are sincerely invested in the course and this consequently leads to more interesting and enriching discussions. I have very few complaints about the classes I’ve taken so far; they’re much better because at the very least, professors tend not to assign meaningless busy work. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve taken this semester and I can only hope that next semester will be as good.