A Bit More Advice for the Big Move (High School to College)

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All best wishes to YOU

Last week, I wrote about what not to do in college. Since then, I’ve seen a couple of noteworthy web items that deal with the chasm (yes, it can be a chasm) of difference between high school and college. Read on for a few pennies for thought regarding intro or core courses, time management, and general course policies . . .

First, I ran across a pretty good article on zinch.com’s More Than a Test Score blog (8/28/12, via Teen Life) titled “7 Ways College Classes Differ from High School Classes.” It contains solid advice, though I have comments on a couple of the points.

First, they refer to “intro courses” thus:

“Once the intro courses are out of the way, you start to focus on the classes you really want to take . . .”

. . . my advice? Never say you are trying to get a certain course “out of the way” to a professor – and consider changing your philosophy a bit if you truly do view any course as something to “get out of the way.” I’ve taught a core course, English Composition, for years and while students may not all enjoy it, to call it something “to get out of the way” implies the class is undesirable and perhaps even a silly or irrelevant hoop through which you must jump. On the contrary, the core or “intro” courses are designed to give you a solid foundation for the courses that come afterwards.  So soak up the knowledge and skills they offer!

Also, they recommend “Try to dedicate around 2 hours every night to studying.”

That’s okay if you’re enrolled in just one three-credit-hour class – one that meets 2 ½ hours a week.

When planning college study time, consider this very good formula that’s been handed down through wisdom of the ages: commit about 3 hours outside of class for each hour inside of class – so, for that three-credit-hour class, you’d spend 7 ½ hours a week in study (10 hours a week total on subject Q).

If you’re enrolled in 15 credit hours, therefore, plan to study as if it were your full-time job (which actually, if you’re a college student, it is). 15 credit hours means (applying the above formula) 37.5 hours of studying per week outside of class. That’s on average – some weeks may require less, some even more time . . . but when you’re a full-time student, you need to be a full-time student (underestimating study time sinks many an academic ship).

Another article I read this week was aimed at college faculty: “This Isn’t High School: Advice for Faculty Teaching First-Year Students” (Faculty Focus, Mary Bart, 8/27/12). It mentions that first-year students may be used to very different academic policies in high school – perhaps regarding extra credit, late or re-done work, and class absences.

If you are or have recently been a high school student, please be aware: many college profs don’t offer extra credit, and in fact don’t believe in it on principle; they may or may not allow late work, but if it is allowed, it often brings a penalty of some sort; and class absences may count against you. In other words, truly, to echo that article’s title, “this isn’t high school.” The good news: you won’t have to guess about policies for a particular class. All these issues should be covered in the class syllabus, so be sure to read it carefully and keep it on hand throughout the semester!

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Summer Class: What You Should Know

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The water’s fine

Taking the summer-course plunge? Refresh yourself with the cool encouragement and success tips below!

Advantages of summer courses are numerous:

*Summer courses can be huge helpers in scheduling your degree – for instance, if you take a prerequisite course now, you may be able to take a certain course as early as next term.

*Some students like the academic continuity summer courses offer; in other words, they like to stay “fresh” in the subject, and summer courses allow them to keep working.

*In the traditional semester system, another attraction is that summer courses are typically short courses, perhaps meeting only six or eight (as opposed to 15-16) weeks. At the end of the short course, you will have earned full credit in about half the time.

But you’ll want to ponder these preparation pointers:          

Of course, the time aspect also means a summer course is particularly challenging, and not for the academically squeamish! If you’re ready to dive in, heed the following:

1. Clear your schedule; prioritize!

First, consider your life’s goings-on outside the classroom. I’ve taught students who must work alongside students for whom a summer job wasn’t as critical; as a college student myself, I worked part-time on campus while I was enrolled in a summer class.

Individuals have different life circumstances, but a short course offers a constant: it will be time-intensive, and most likely will require a re-prioritization and sacrifice of other non-academic activities.

2. Count on spending ample time on your course.

If your course is half as long as a traditional semester course, it follows that you will need to devote twice the time to the class on a weekly basis. If the class is three credit hours, you’ll spend about 10 study hours a week during a normal semester; for a short course, plan on about 20 hours a week.*

(In other words, one summer course is a part-time job.)

3. Don’t miss anything.

Attend every class, and while there, take good notes. Ask the prof when you have questions. If you’re taking the course online, log in every weekday, and stay active. It should go without saying that you do all the work ASAP, as well – you’ve no time to procrastinate!

4. Have a positive attitude.

Summer courses are intense, but scores of students complete them successfully each year. It’s extremely possible to enjoy the intensity; just make sure you hit the water with plenty of scheduled time and determination.

*For time management tips, see here.

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5 Free Organization & Planning Tools for Students

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Is disorganization your downfall? Has an assignment deadline ever slipped your mind due to plannermessy personal files? If so, you probably realize that you’ll save yourself unnecessary time and grief by figuring out how to get those files in order. Fortunately, some nifty free tools on the web can help you become a better-organized student.

Check out these options:

1.       TimeandDate.com: If you like an old-fashioned paper planner, here’s a site that allows you to print calendar pages month by month; you also may create a customized calendar with space for notes, if you wish:
http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/basic.html

2.       Soshiku is a tool designed to help high school and college students keep track of assignments. It allows you to organize assignments by class, and it will send you an email or SMS when deadlines loom:
http://soshiku.com/

3.       Ta-da Lists allows you to create simple to-do lists for yourself or to share. This would be handy for keeping track of your weekly assignments or for working on a group project:
http://tadalist.com/

4.       Toodledo offers an expanded array of options for your to-do list, such as a scheduler tool, alarm reminders, and search and sort features. Again, you can choose to collaborate with others:
http://www.toodledo.com/

5.       Remember the Milk is a robust personal task-managing tool. It’s probably most appropriate if you’re seeking a more comprehensive organizer for your school, work, and personal activities:
http://www.rememberthemilk.com/

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Your Academic Well-Being May Hinge on This

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What’s one little word that could make or break your college career?clock

Time.

One indispensable bit of advice?

Manage your time well.

Easier said than done, of course. An array of time-management resources can be found on the web (see below), but one easy way to begin planning your time is to use the out-of-class to in-class study ratio.

This is the number of hours you must study outside class for every hour you spend inside class.* What’s the ratio? I’ve always practiced and preached THREE hours of study outside class for every ONE hour inside class. I’ve also heard ratios of 2:1 and 4:1. To some extent, your ratio depends on the subject matter and your preparedness; but I’ve found the 3:1 to be a good average.

*For those taking online classes: schedule the same number of hours you’d schedule for a face-to-face course. Note that usually, students find online classes to be somewhat more time-consuming than face-to-face ones.

As you do the math, you’ll see that if you carry 15 hours of credit in a given semester, going to class and studying will be a full-time job. For more information, take a look at a few good time management sites offered by universities:

http://www.learningcommons.uoguelph.ca/guides/time_management/#home
“A Guide for Time Management” from the University of Guelph.

http://www.ucc.vt.edu/stdysk/htimesch.html
“Time Scheduling” from Virginia Tech’s Cook Counseling Center.

http://www.ucc.vt.edu/stdysk/TMInteractive.html
Companion to the above – “Where Does Time Go?” (This is also linked within a prior post on this blog.)

http://www.uwgb.edu/tutoring/resources/managing.asp
“Managing Time for Success in College” from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Tutoring Services.

http://www.clemson.edu/collegeskills/sec2pg1.htm
“Time Management” from College Survival Skills at Clemson University.

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