College Prep 101: How Different is College?

As the fall semester begins without me this time around I cannot help but feel a little lost. I’m not moving into a dorm, I’m not purchasing my stacks of books and I’m not required to attend classes. I’m in the real world now but I’m not just ready to move away from my life at college just yet. Through out the rest of August and into September I will be writing a series of posts specifically for the incoming class of freshman. While my posts can be read and used by anyone, I’ll be covering those questions that are daunting for new college students. As a freshman I felt alone in my worries and apprehension, I felt like some questions were too silly to ask and that I wasn’t really prepared for college like my peers were. I always thought to myself, “What in the world am I doing here and how could admissions ever think I was ready for this caliber of school”. While this may not be your particular battle or obstacle during the upcoming year, I’m sure that I’ll find a way to touch on yours.

College Prep 101: How Different is College?

How different will college be compared to high school?
Throughout the series you’ll see more and more of these differences highlighted but for now, I’ll just leave it to two that you will immediately notice as you are packing for school or are just settling into your dorm room.

The first thing that you will notice is that your book list might not actually consist of a huge textbooks you usually used in high school. Some classes especially if you are a science, math or business major you may find yourself ordering massive textbooks but if you are in the humanities department then you will most likely be purchasing 6-10 smaller books. I was an international studies major and the only times I purchased a $200 textbook was for my science courses, math and language courses. There will be times when you purchase books and you will never use them, I learned this quickly after my freshman year and never ordered books before receiving my syllabi again. It got to the point that some books were listed on the syllabi and we still didn’t read them so I started to purchase books as they came up. I would order the book about one-two weeks before the assigned readings started. This did mean that I couldn’t get a head start on a new book but it also meant that I saved money on books that weren’t necessary. Another great way to save money on books is to purchase a Barnes and Noble membership and purchase your books through them. Not only do you get free shipping but you also receive a discount on your purchase. Also do not fool yourself into thinking that a used textbook with highlighting will be helpful, some may very well be but remember that students may have used your particular textbook for a different kind of course and this will curtail the highlighting and margin notes to their course in particular. I bought one textbook with highlighting thinking that it would help me study, it ended up being very distracting and sometimes confusing when I was reading on my own and when I went to class. It’s not bad to have a book with notes or writing in it, look at Harry Potter he got lucky with his potions book but if you haven’t developed your own study methods or highlighting/note taking skills it may give you a harder time.

College Prep 101: How Different is College?

What you may notice next is that you don’t actually have “homework” in most of your classes. You’ll have class readings due more than anything else and yes you really do need to read. The only time I had actual hand in homework was one math class I took and we only handed in homework once a week, the rest was just preparing for exams and possible quizzes. Typically your grades will relay mostly on only a handful of papers (maybe 4 in the semester) or exams (also maybe 4 in the semester which will typically include your midterm and final). You don’t have the ability to mess up and make up for it on another exam. One bad paper or exam grade can really hurt you and this is why it’s so important to keep up with your syllabus.  In high school you often had grades for participation, homework, in class assignments, quizzes, exams and then finals. You had the opportunity to make up points and slack on a homework assignment or two but you can’t do that in college. You’re paying a lot of money to be at your school to learn not to watch netflix instead of reading before your next lecture. I’m not trying to stress anyone out or make you feel bad when you fall behind in work, it happens, it happened to me many times. I want to make you understand that the decisions you make concerning work really do matter in a greater way than in high school.

College Prep 101: How Different is College?

This will leave you with a taste for what’s to come with this series. There will be many how-to guides and tips coming up in the following days and weeks. I will also be writing some in depth post’s about the keys to having a successful semester both academically and socially. If you have a question or thought that you might want to see in the series be sure to either leave me a comment or contact me! I would love to answer anything that may pop into your head.


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