4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to College by Guest Author Katheryn Rivas

The post below offers some great insight for many high school students making the shift to college. This guest contribution was submitted by Katheryn Rivas, who specializes in writing about online universities. Questions and comments can be sent to: katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

As anyone who has attended college knows, it’s a completely different experience when compared to high school classes. This is so for several reasons, not least of which if having an enormous amount of freedom after having virtually none. But more than just managing this newfound personal freedom, something many freshly matriculated college students struggle with, there’s getting used to a completely different classroom experience. Of course, classes and schools vary, but looking back on my college years, I wish I was more prepared for the transition. Here’s a few things I wish I knew before going to college.

1. Many professors will have an axe to grind.

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Whether or not professors should voice their opinions on various topics, it’s common practice in the college classroom. Of course, no professor can pretend to be completely disinterested in teaching, and many professors will more objectively treat several modes of thought in tandem with their own. Still, it came as a surprise coming from high school, where a teacher can say what he thinks only to a certain degree.

2. Learning and growing intellectually is completely your responsibility. You can still get good grades without learning anything.

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One of the biggest myths that I had bought into before going to college was that it was somehow some bastion of the Mind, where intellectual pursuits were vigorously pursued by students, professors, and the administration alike. Call me cynical, but my experience was far removed from this Elysian ideal. Still, that doesn’t mean that you won’t learn anything or you won’t develop your ability to critically analyze, think for yourself, etc. It does mean, however, that you have to make this an object of pursuit yourself. And this pursuit is not to be confused with earning high grades. I received many as in classes in which I learned absolutely nothing, and this was both my failing and the failing of a system that encourages grade inflation.

3. Visiting professors during office hours is always a good idea.

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One aspect of the college classroom experience that differs from the high school one is that the college class can be extended through what’s known as office hours. Of course, good high school teachers will be open to talking to students outside the classroom, but in college, it’s a requirement that professors make themselves available. More than answering students questions about course material, professors can serve as counselors about professional pursuits after college as well as advisors who help you unravel wider intellectual inquiry. Although I eventually took advantage of office hours, I did so much later in my college career only because I didn’t know initially, based on my high school experience, what a wonderfully enriching opportunity it could be.

4. Going to class is important for several reasons, even if there’s no attendance requirement.

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Unlike high school classes, many college classes will have no attendance requirement. Some students can take this as free license to skip class when they can’t wake up in the morning, or when they have other activities that grab their attention. Going to class regularly, even if it isn’t required, will save you a lifetime’s worth of trouble and worry. For one, attending class will indicate to the professor that you have interest, something that does count in the professor’s sometimes subjective grading criteria. Another reason to attend each and every class is that if you don’t, you’ll miss out on things that can’t be replicated by merely doing makeup work, like interesting classroom discussion.

They say that college is an experience of a lifetime. After graduating and moving on to the working world, I’ve found this to be completely true. But it’s the student who decides what constitutes that experience. And being prepared to take advantage of everything that academic institutions of higher education have to offer is important in enhancing that experience.

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