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How is College Different From High School? (page 2)

— State: Arizona Department of Education
Updated on Sep 30, 2009

Personal Freedom in College

  • College is voluntary and expensive.
  • You manage your own time.
  • You must decide whether to participate in extracurricular activities. (Hint: Choose wisely in the first semester and then add later.)
  • You need money to meet basic necessities.
  • You will be faced with a large number of moral and ethical decisions you have not had to face previously. You must balance your responsibilities and set priorities.
  • Guiding principle: You’re old enough to take responsibility for what you do and don’t do, as well as for the consequences of your decisions.

College Classes

  • You often have hours between classes; class times vary throughout the day and evening.
  • You spend 12 to 16 hours each week in class.
  • The academic year is divided into two separate 15-week semesters, plus a week after each semester for exams.
  • You arrange your own schedule in consultation with your academic adviser. Schedules tend to look lighter than they really are.
  • Professors may not formally take roll, but they are still likely to know whether or not you attended.
  • Classes may number 100 students or more.
  • You need to budget substantial funds for textbooks, which will usually cost more than $200 each semester.
  • Graduation requirements are complex, and differ for different majors and sometimes-different years. You are expected to know those that apply to you.

College Professors

  • Professors may not always check completed homework, but they will assume you can perform the same tasks on tests.
  • Professors may not remind you of incomplete work.
  • Professors are usually open and helpful, but most expect you to initiate contact if you need assistance.
  • Professors expect and want you to attend their scheduled office hours.
  • Professors have been trained as experts in their particular areas of research.
  • Professors expect you to get from classmates any notes from classes you missed.
  • Professors may not follow the textbook. Instead, to amplify the text, they may give illustrations, provide background information, or discuss research about the topic you are studying. Or, they may expect you to relate the classes to the textbook readings.
  • Professors may lecture nonstop, expecting you to identify the important points in your notes. When professors write on the board, it may be to amplify the lecture, not to summarize it. Good notes are a must.
  • Professors expect you to think about and synthesize seemingly unrelated topics.
  • Professors expect you to read, save, and consult the course syllabus (outline); the syllabus spells out exactly what is expected of you, when it is due, and how you will be graded.

Studying in College

  • You need to study at least 2 to 3 hours outside of class for each hour in class.
  • You need to review class notes and text material regularly.
  • You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing, which may not be directly addressed in class.
  • Guiding principle: It’s up to you to read and understand the assigned material; lectures and assignments proceed from the assumption that you’ve already done so.

Tests in College

  • Testing is usually infrequent and may be cumulative, covering large amounts of material. You, not the professor, need to organize the material to prepare for the test. A particular course may have only 2 or 3 tests in a semester.
  • Makeup tests are seldom an option; if they are, you need to request them.
  • Professors in different courses usually schedule tests without regard to the demands of other courses or outside activities.
  • Professors rarely offer review sessions, and when they do, they expect you to be an active participant, one who comes prepared with questions.
  • Mastery is often seen as the ability to apply what you’ve learned to new situations or to solve new kinds of problems.

Grades in College

  • Grades may not be provided for all assigned work.
  • Grades on tests and major papers usually provide most of the course grade.
  • Extra credit projects cannot, generally speaking, be used to raise a grade in a college course.
  • Watch out for your first tests. These are usually “wake-up calls” to let you know what is expected—but they also may account for a substantial part of your course grade.
  • You may graduate only if your average in classes meets the departmental standard—typically a 2.0 or C.
  • Guiding principle: "Results count." Though “good-faith effort” is important in regard to the professor’s willingness to help you achieve good results, it will not substitute for results in the grading process.
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