My college, the University of Minnesota, has about 45,000 students. My graduating class in high school had 45. You might imagine a step up like that comes with its growing pains, and in my case, you’d be correct. In particular, the academic leap from a tiny high school to a major university proved difficult.
I know the academic rigors of high school are different for everyone, but damn was the schoolwork easy at my school. My friends and I would take pride in not bringing our schoolwork home. Every single night I would devote my time to more important things like video games, texting girls and watching television.
When did my homework get done? Well, that was what the class before it was due was for. Also, study hall sure helped. Out of 45 students, I placed third in my class (first boy) and got into every school I applied for. So the craziest thing about my lack of attention to studies was how it always met with success. At that point, I certainly thought I was just some sort of genius (I had quite the ego too in case you couldn’t tell). Then college happened.
I don’t want to throw my school system under the bus, because there were some great teachers at my high school who I learned a lot from, but smaller schools have limited resources to work with regarding student’s academic careers. For what it’s worth, I think my school worked great with what it had, but I’m told that bigger high schools have things called AP courses, but that sounds so foreign to me that it might as well be Japanese, which coincidentally is another course I’ve heard the bigger schools offered (we just had Spanish, sort of).
We could go to the community college one town over to take some classes, but why go to college before you have to go to college, right? Anyway, I entered college with the same false sense of genius/horrible studying habits that never failed me in high school, and flopped on my face first semester. I like to compare it to some baseball player in single A minor league ball all of a sudden getting called up to the major leagues. That guy was hitting balls over the fence in single A, and now all of a sudden he has to adjust to a Roy Halladay curveball. The curveball for me was the amount of studying needed to do well in a college course. I came in with absolutely no study skills whatsoever, so I literally did not have the tools to do well. High school just came too easily for me, and I slipped into horrid habits. It took about one semester for me to gain my bearings in college and feel confident in my study skills.
Your new colleagues can overwhelm you at times. In high school, you’re probably used to being one of the brighter kids in your small class. Then, all of a sudden you’re surrounded by other kids coming from that same situation. You start to question whether you belong and college seems even more daunting. This is usually just all in your head, and if anything should push you to do even better. While your competition (although your colleagues should hardly be considered “competition”) increases, so should your work ethic. It’s corny, but staying positive and believing in your ability to succeed at the college level goes a long way during this adjustment stage.
There was also the fact that my great motivator (my mom) was no longer there to push me to work harder. With her around waking me up, getting up for school was easy. Now, all of a sudden my 9:45 am class seems reaaaaally early, especially since I’m up until three every night because no one is telling me to go to bed. Yes, 18 year olds should be able to motivate themselves and be responsible with schoolwork, but when you’ve spent your entire life under one roof with your parents reminding you to do the important tasks in life like eating and going to the bathroom (kidding), it can be difficult when they’re not around.
I don’t in any way feel that my small town high school education failed me, but I do think that the academic ceiling there is lower than that of a big high school. This forced a tough transition into a big university. Looking back, there were a lot of ways I could have more seamlessly adapted to college.
Starting in high school, I could have obviously spent more time on my homework. Sure, I always got it done and did well, but how you do on your school work is perhaps less important in the long term than how you do it. You can’t expect to all of a sudden flip a study switch and be able to properly prepare for college exams. That needs to start in high school. Since anyone reading this is most likely done with high school and/or in college, it’s already too late for you. You will fail in college. Totally kidding, there’s advice for you too here. For starters, go to your classes. This seems obvious, but the freshman me didn’t realize this.
One class I took just didn’t interest me whatsoever, so I skipped one class. It’d be fine if it ended there, but one skipped class turned into a handful of skipped classes. It would be an understatement to say skipping classes when you already don’t have any study skills is a bad idea. Certainly have fun once you get to college, but stay on top of your classes. That will make your transition from a small school to a major university a hell of a lot easier. Also, not being as big of an idiot as I was will help as well (you’re probably set there).