Above: The late actor John Belushi portrays the typical image of college in the comedy Animal House. Belushi plays a college student who skips classes, parties, and drinks too much beer.

I like to re-post this article about this time every year. I was talking to an old student the other day when he mentioned all of the misperceptions he had about college while in high school. Because of that conversation, I decided to write a post regarding 10 things high school students get wrong about college. This list is not a top ten list nor is it in any particular order. Essentially, it is what came to my mind at the time.

10. Classes are easier since I am taking only courses that I care about. There is a problem with this statement. One would naturally assume that students who do go to college care about ideas and knowledge; however, I knew plenty of students who went just to make lots of money. The tables have turned over the past 15 years. The saying used to be that students should expect to make more than their parents; however, economists now contend that wages are not keeping pace with inflation. Students should use college as a time to develop new ideas while formulating an analytical mind that will help them move in a number of professional directions. Students who take easy high school classes or did not have challenging instructors struggle the most. Furthermore, students who concentrate in easy fields tend to have more free time. These same students tend to lack the analytical skills needed to do complex job related work.

9. Everyone goes to college. This is true. 76% of people do attend some form of post secondary training; out of 76%, roughly only 34 – 35% matriculate. The two major reasons have to do with finances and/ or poor preparation.

8. I do not have to attend classes since teachers will not take attendance. True; I had instructors who only took attendance on exam days; I also had a few who took daily attendance. This is the biggest freshman trap. Too many students sleep in with the assumption that it is just one or two skips. Remember, most classes only meet two – three times per week. You do the math. Think about how you feel when missing one class under the block scheduling system. It is easy to miss a class. Thus, it becomes a very easy and bad habit.

7. I will be granted special privileges since I was a 1300 SAT kid or an ALL STATE athlete/ band performer in high school. The biggest mistake students make in college is assuming that other college students, teachers, coaches, and directors care what they did in high school. People do not care about your SAT scores or rushing yards. College athletes face the toughest challenge here. Many teachers have already decided that you are only in school to play sports. I recommend that you get off to a good start. And if you are a black athlete, you are marching uphill.

6. If the coach and/or teacher make me mad, I will complain and have my mommy call the school and complain. By law, teachers cannot talk to anyone but the student. This is according to the Family, Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. These students usually do not last very long. This is a great reason for one to become a researcher and work at a university. No parents!

5. Teachers will teach to my learning style. Yeah, good luck with that. There are programs that assist students with learning needs; however, the extent is usually taking an exam in a supervised learning center. Due to the number of large classes, the primary method of delivering information is via lecture (more seminar style at small colleges or in upper level courses). The expectation is that students who make it to this point are independent learners. They know how to write essays, read tons of pages, take class notes, and deal with complex examination questions. Moreover, students can take an assigned reading and address its contents on an exam, although the instructor never discussed it in class. I found this to be true in chemistry, history, and English.

4. I am going to college with my high school boy/ girl friend. Or, we are going to different schools but will always be in love and together. Sure, believe this if you want to. Note: Bigger pond with more fish. Focus on yourself and your overpriced education.

3. I was a poor student in high school because nothing interested me; now that I am in college, I will do much better. This can and does happen; however, usually not the freshman year. Statistically speaking, poor high school students usually do poorly during their first year. A large number of them drop out at the end of their first year. Think about the number of HCHS students who came back home. Also, a lot of this has to do with poor skill development. I often hear students talk about being a lawyer. The problem here is that many of these students did not take any advanced courses in high school to prepare them for the amount of reading and writing they will face. This is also true of engineers. How can one go to college to be an engineer without taking any advanced math class in high school?

2. Once I am in college, I can drink all of the beer SPECs has to offer. I do not know where this comes from amongst students. Most likely, you will be under age thus making it against the law. Also, I am not sure what beer has to do with college. I do know that a number of women are date raped on campuses due to too much alcohol consumption. Sexual promiscuity increases causing the STD rate to increase. And, too many men prey on young co-eds, especially naive freshman.

1. Because I am in college, my teachers will be great. Again, good luck here. I have found that teachers at smaller liberal arts research schools tend to be the best. Remember, unlike Carson who writes and presents various academic papers as part of his academic inclination, I am not paid to do that. I am a teacher. The term teacher offends many college instructors. Teaching for some is secondary. Their job and academic reputation is based according to the number of papers they write, publish, and present. I have found that the best teachers are those who do research. This is driving my former student, Alejandro, crazy. He just graduated from American University.


6 thoughts on “College

  1. This list is great! I wish all freshmen would read this before they come to university. It’s funny how many negative comments on Comp I teacher evals are based on one or more of these misconceptions. I’m especially interested in #6. Do you think that it’s because we live in a litigious society that so many students believe that if they are loud enough and persistent enough in their complains that universities will back down and give them what they want? Or is it simply entitlement mentality? Or (and this may be it) because of helicopter parenting?

  2. Stephanie:

    My wife worked at the University of Houston and UALR for a number of years as an administrator. She would tell me that is is not unusual for the parents of even seniors to march on campus demanding to speak to faculty members; I suspect much of this is an outgrowth of the helicopter parent mentality that has dominated much of today’s youth. Why do it myself when I can do nothing then complain in the end.

  3. Haha this is great. Very valid points! A lot of people who started off in engineering with me are not around anymore because of some of these “myths” they believed to be valid. Someone should of read this at yall’s graduation.

  4. I actually read this article last year before starting freshman year and once I attended class, it was clear that many of my peers had no clue how to adapt to college life. Thanks to you and my parents, I think I was better off 🙂 haha.
    I know many students graduating from HCHS this year who have asked me about college parties and drinking and how they can’t wait. I tell them that yeah, the parties are fun but 1) you have to be with people you trust; 2) you HAVE to know your limit; 3) you have to be careful; 4) if you don’t learn to balance social and academic life, you will fail and be asked to leave. AKA, expelled. There goes party and education.
    But anyway, this is definitely a list to share. Also, we really need to catch up soon 🙂

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