Tips to Prepare for a Successful Transition from High School to US University: Part II
Some students, particularly those who have attended a US boarding school, arrive at a US University prepared for the challenges that lie ahead and may not notice a huge difference between their boarding and college experiences. They have essentially had a pre-college experience at boarding school, where they learned to live independently, manage their time, and achieve academic success. For others, the difference may take some time to get used to.
Difference Between Studying in High School and College
First, let's talk about the course load. At college the work you will receive will be harder and there will be more of it. You will have a shorter timeline to complete the work and many assignments are completed outside of class. The professor may give you multiple readings to reinforce the importance of a topic, or to help you to understand a topic from multiple perspectives. Unlike high school where you got credit for most work that you complete, much of the work in college is not checked by the professor, but instead it should be used as practice to prepare for your exams. Most high school seniors report that they think they will need to study between 3-5 hours for a college exam. With this type of commitment, it will be difficult to distinguish yourself from the pack. The actual time spent to do well on a college exam is reportedly more like 12-15 hours.
Most high school students spend at least 40 hours per week in the classroom and students get a lot of encouragement and hand holding from their teachers. Attendance is taken, and if you are not in class, someone will notice. In many high schools, students have many opportunities to gain points towards their final grades. Teachers may arrange study sessions for students and provide reviews before exams, and may give students extra points for class participation, pop quizzes, and even provide extra credit projects.
In college, you will spend only about 16 hours per week in classes, and have complete ownership of what you do with your time. Memorization no longer is valued or rewarded. The days of regurgitating facts or figures and earning an “A” on an exam or quiz are over. College is more about discussion than memorization, internalizing the information, and applying what you learn. Additionally, for the most part what you study in high school is determined by the school, yet in college once you pass any required core subjects, there are more opportunities to study what you want. At most universities, there a only a few assessments, and maybe only a final paper, so you need to make the most of each evaluation and prepare accordingly. If you do not go to class no one will notice. If you just don’t feel like showing up for that 8 am class, no one will miss you, and there is no one to check on you if you are sick.
In college, you will be living and learning with similarly motivated students who you can collaborate with on a regular basis. To help you grasp the materials, you may find it beneficial to find other students to study with. Be sure to seek out students of a similar ability and motivation level so that you do not become the tutor. Don’t form a study group to meet for the first time the night before an exam. We encourage you to have prior experience with this group to know that the time used in the study group will be helpful to your preparations.
Successful university students develop skills to succeed in the classroom; they follow instructions, think critically, manage their time, take responsibility for their learning, and are committed to being active learners.
In high school, the teacher will remind you of due dates. In college, everything you need to know is found in the syllabus. You are not told what to do explicitly but instead you are expected to figure out what works best for you to meet your responsibilities. The professor may provide additional information via a lecture, but you are expected to be familiar with the material ahead of time. In college, the professor expects the student to be more involved in the learning process. As much as you learn from the professor, he/she is learning from you, the student; it can be seen as a partnership. In high school, your day ended when class let out, but in college when class lets out you must go back to study that day’s material and fill in any missing pieces.