Advice for Freshmen Students

Academic Survival Making the Transition from High School to College (Sue Magruder)

Your freshman experience in college is an exciting time because of the changes you encounter, and because of the enormous responsibilities for personal and intellectual growth. While in high school you learned how to find, organize and absorb information and these skills will be quite valuable to you in college. Your teachers took the primary responsibility for structuring and assigning the subject matter, and for monitoring your progress as you mastered it. High school teachers must, by law, have skill and training in how learning occurs and how best to teach. By law and by school policy, they are responsible for much of their student’s learning, and tend to keep very close track of their success rates.

When you come to college you enter a very different learning environment. Professors are appointed according to their competence and accomplishments in their academic discipline, as well as their interest in education. Because college students are adult learners, the professors are not required to have formal training in methods of teaching. However, many professors gain this expertise on their own initiative because of their intense desire to share their love of a particular discipline effectively. Most professors are very willing and able to offer help when any student is having difficulty in their class. One big difference between high school and college is that it is nearly always the responsibility of the student to seek help, rather than wait passively for it to be given. It is wise to plan early in the semester to have an occasional private conference with your professors to check your progress and understanding. If there is a problem, the professor will offer to help or direct you to one of the sources of help available.

Because college classes move so quickly, it is necessary to stay current in your studies at all times. To do this, you must manage your time systematically, allowing for adequate study time each day, as well as personal and recreational time. Those who set goals and make a plan for reaching them will experience success.

High school taught you how to organize and learn factual information. In college, you will be asked to go beyond that level, analyzing and evaluating the material you read. This means constantly thinking about how new information relates to what you already know, how it fits with other topics and subjects, how it is applicable to that which came before, and anticipating its application to what comes after. Application, analysis, and evaluation are commonly called “higher order thinking skills.” They are essential elements in success in college, and in your later life as well. Higher order thinking is the basis for finding solutions to problems, making informed decisions, predicting the consequences of actions, and creative processes.

Many times freshmen students may feel some frustration, or even anger, at an educational environment that seems to have set them adrift on a sea of academic challenges. Once students understand that the basic difference between college and high school is increased autonomy for the learner, frustration begins to fade. You are in charge of your life as never before. Decisions are yours to make, plans are yours to initiate and execute, and help is available whenever you seek it. The results of accepting the challenges and responsibilities of adult life are increased confidence in your abilities to be a self-starting, self-directing individual who can work independently or in a team, assurance that you can approach new tasks with success, and an appreciation of change as an agent of growth. These qualities will enhance your entire life.

College is a wonderful time of personal, intellectual, and social opportunities for development. Welcome!