Every month, I receive emails and questions from parents and students alike as to what type of changes and differences should they expect making a transition from high school to college. I always begin by making it clear that many changes can be expected when making the transition from high school to college, yet, I believe there are three specific things students can focus and prepare themselves for that can potentially ease the transition somewhat. So, what are these essential skills that are important to develop if you want to increase your chances of making into your sophomore year and with competitive grade point average.
1. Time Management. I know, it’s one of those skills which we all believe we have under control, mainly because we really don’t and are not as disciplined enough to take a closer look at the things we spend as time on. For students in grade school, since kindergarten, scheduled school days are primarily fixed and structured based on a portion of time during the day that remains the same. Students experience this for some 12 years and then within a 90 day span from the end of their senior year to the first day of college classes they must make a drastic change to a schedule that is more flexible and unpredictable. This can be challenging for students as they will have to decide what time the will take their courses and how those courses will align with other obligations. A student taking a course at 9:00am in the morning and having a class gap until 1:00pm in the may be challenged in what to effectively and efficiently do with that time.
2. Academic Workload. Man first year students are surprised their first semester at the amount of reading and the length of the research papers they must write in college. Let me be clear, students in high schools complete substantially more assignments than college students, it is the type of workload that will change. The greatest demand will be reading and preparing for class. This is a challenge because many students report not having to complete any substantial reading for classes in high school and being able to study for the test 15 prior to class and perform well simply based on memorization. The difference in college is that you will have homework every day even if none is officially assigned, you still have required readings which must be done. As mentioned in many high schools very little reading is required outside of class, some college students find themselves reading 2-3 chapters each night. A good model to follow is that for every 1 hour of class, you should be spending 3 hours outside of class studying and preparing yourself.
3. Personal Responsibility. Personal responsibility means an understanding by students that the buck stops with them and they are ultimately responsible for what happens in their lives. During the years we’re young, it’s easy to place blame on parents, teachers, or siblings in order to psychologically make ourselves feel better about our own fault. Yet, the truth of the matter, both failures and successes should be accredited to the person individually. In college, personal responsibility is a wake up call, as no one will be there to make sure you make it to your 8:00am class when you would rather sleep in. Your professor may not remind you to complete and turn in your research paper on time. You will not be able to blame you brother or sister for you missing pre-registration and not being able to get the courses you need.
In closing, making the transition from high school to college can and will be for many students, the most challenging experience they have faced in their lives. Students should take the time to plan out their schedules from week to week and month to month. This will allow students to celebrate the success they are experiencing and begin to develop good habits. Students should use any time gaps efficiently in the form of studying and preparing for upcoming classes or reviewing notes from previous class. And finally, students should place a sign on their mirror in their room or bathroom, which reads “the buck stops here” so they will see it as a frequent reminder. With a keen understanding and awareness of the most significant challenges first year students face, addressing these issues may allow students the time to prepare and develop the skills noted above to help ease their transition.