Archive for August, 2007

What to Expect from College Classes

Classes in college are different from high school classes. Here’s a little breakdown of what to expect.

Difficulty
First of all, I can almost guarantee that at some point in your college career, you will have a professor who says, “Look at the person to your left and the person to your right—one of the three of you will not pass this class.” Don’t believe him (or her). A lot of times professors try to intimidate kids to drop out to lower their class size, but you CAN pass college classes, its just a matter of learning what each professor values and tests on. Talk to other students to find out how hard a class is—they’ve actually taken the class, not just taught it.

Class Size
For one thing, a class of 30 is considered small in college. Classes that small are usually labs or liberal arts (literature, writing, visual arts) courses, where you need more individual attention. Lecture classes can be anywhere from 50 to 400 or 500 students, depending on the college and the necessity/popularity of the class. I had several biology and psychology classes that were literally held in a movie theater. (The exception is smaller private schools which tend to have smaller classes overall.)

Class Time
Class times vary by school. At my college the shorter classes, which met 3 times a week, were about 50 minutes. Medium classes, which met twice a week, were about 1 hour and 20 minutes. The longest classes varied up to about 3 or 4 hours, but usually met only once a week.

Course Length
Unlike most high school courses, you only take college classes for one quarter or semester (depending on the school). That means you have about 10 (quarter) to 16 (semester) weeks to learn everything there is to know. It also means that a class you dislike is over faster.

Homework and Tests
Homework was a staple in high school (and a lot of times a nice buffer to even out bad test grades). In college, there is less homework that gets turned in for a grade. You will also notice that you will be assigned a LOT more reading, so be sure you allot time for that. Often homework will be more geared toward test preparation, because tests are worth a lot in college. In some classes, your entire grade is based on the grades you get on a midterm and a final—that means you really need to study.

Yeah, college is different than high school. But just because classes are different doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get good grades. You just need to give yourself the chance to adjust to them—it’s a new learning style, but you can figure out how to do it.

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2 comments August 30th, 2007

Ten Useful Things to Add to Your ‘Take To College’ List

If you’re going away to college, you have probably already gotten a list of things to bring to college—like a refrigerator, a computer, and extra-long twin sheets. That list is a good place to start, but it’s amazing how important little things can be once you don’t have Mom’s stockpiled cabinets to rummage through (especially if you don’t have a car). Here’s my top 10 list of things to take to college that might not have made the school’s list.

  1. Bowl, Plate, Cup, and Silverware
    College students tend to have late hours; campus cafeterias don’t. Having your own dishes and such on hand means you can eat cereal or ramen noodles (both staple college foods) any time, day or night.
  2. Quarters
    These mean access to the wonders of the laundry room, soda and candy machines, and parking meters. College kids can be surprisingly reluctant to share quarters, so it’s better to bring your own.
  3. Comfortable Pillow, Blanket, & Mattress Pad
    Maybe you think it sounds silly to bring a mattress pad to college, but remember that nice comfy mattress you have at home? That’s not what dorm beds feel like. The comfier your pillow, blanket, & mattress pad, the better your college experience. Really.
  4. Dry-Erase Message Board & Markers
    These are a great investment (and just kind of fun)—it’s the best way to get messages when you’re gone, especially if your roommate isn’t really motivated to take messages for you.
  5. Fan
    In warm climates, a good fan is your best friend. Though some dorms have thermostats, they are not necessarily reliable (I had a friend whose thermostat wasn’t working, and when they checked into it they found that the wires inside the wall weren’t connected to anything).
  6. Extension Cord & Surge Protected Power Strip
    Power outlets can be set in pretty inconvenient places, so an extension cord can make a huge difference (but make sure to pay attention to the safety precautions). Also, with so many people using so much electricity, it’s better to protect your more expensive electronics with a surge protector (I lost a really nice TV to a power surge).
  7. Tools
    Even just having a screwdriver and a hammer can make assembling desks, fixing bikes, & hanging new dorm decorations a million times easier—and you can bet a lot of people forgot these, so it’s also an easy way to meet people.
  8. Mini-Refrigerator
    I know this is probably already on the list from your college, but it really is a life saver when you get hungry in the middle of the night (see item #1). If you can, find one with a little freezer. Also, it’s usually more cost-efficient to buy one than to rent. Microwaves & toaster ovens are pretty nice, too, if you’re allowed to have them. (Check with your roommate so you don’t bring two of these!)
  9. Decorations & Photos from Home
    Dorm rooms can look pretty depressing at first—bare walls, bare shelves, bare beds. Even with some of your stuff in place, the bare walls can kind of get to you. Bring posters, photos, and decorations in colors you like to liven the place up and make it feel more like home. (Most colleges let you hang this stuff with painter’s tape, so bring that, too).
  10. Anti-Virus Software for your Computer
    If you don’t already have an anti-virus program, get one. College networks mean a lot more exposure—and more file sharing goes on, too. That means a way higher risk for your computer (I got a virus the first DAY). Better to catch it early than to have your computer crash in the middle of a final paper.

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1 comment August 27th, 2007

College: An Introduction

So, you’re about to start college. You’re excited. You’re scared. And you’re not really sure what you’re in for. I guess that’s part of the fun—especially if you’re living away from home for the first time.

So, what’s college really like?

It’s active. It’s social. It’s independent. Like a lot of things, it’s about balance. You have to balance between work and play, friends and studies, homesickness and excitement, family life and independence.

In a lot of ways, it is probably the biggest jump into adulthood you’ve made yet. You’d be surprised how hard it is to get yourself to eat three solid meals a day (my freshman year my roommate and I ate a whole pint of ice cream every night… Not the best idea). Oh, yeah, and do you know how to do laundry? That’s a whole adventure in itself.

It can also be one of the most exhilarating times of your life. You get the opportunity to step out on your own—mom and dad don’t get your report cards, you choose your schedule and your classes, you can stay up until all hours of the night (or at least until your roommate freaks out and tells you to get to sleep). You will meet a multitude of new people, and have opportunities to find out where your passions lie.

You will also have to study harder than you ever have before, but don’t worry—you’ll get the hang of it. It just takes some time to get used to things.

And that’s true for the entire college experience—even if you feel a little homesick or out of place at first, it doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it later. Just relax and give yourself some time to adjust. It sounds a little cheesy, but college really is all what you make of it.

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Add comment August 22nd, 2007


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