By Christie Halmick
I went from a small rural high school with a graduating class of less than 100, to a state university, the University of Missouri— Columbia, which grants degrees to more than 5,000 students every year.
At first, I felt like a very little fish in a huge ocean. I wanted to explore the campus, find my classes, buy my books, and settle in. But I didn’t know where to start. Finally, I took the plunge, grabbed the campus map, and headed out of my dorm room.
What I discovered was scary at first. Everything was trial and error. I’d stand in line at the financial aid office, only to find out that I need to be in a different line with a different set of papers. So, I’d start all over again. Everything seemed so big. The campus was huge. There were so many people around all the time and it seemed like everyone knew where they were going and exactly what to do.
The first week of classes were challenging. Trying to remember where every classroom was located, keeping track of what time classes started, it seemed like I would never be able to keep everything straight. I was so exhausted I slept through my first history class. But by the end of the first week, I was able to put away the campus map. I didn’t need the class schedule I’d taped inside the front of my notebook. I felt like a seasoned sophomore, instead of a scared freshman.
For me there were so many good things about college life. Plenty of interesting things to do outside of class, new people to meet, great places to eat, and shopping. I enjoyed the freedom from my parents and the ability to control everything about my life.
The biggest bump in my first semester was an introductory French class that met five days a week. My teacher walked in the first day of class speaking French and didn’t utter a single English phrase. I’d never read, spoken, studied, or even considered French. I was certain I would flunk out of college because of that class. After the first class I went back to my dorm room crying, called my mom, and begged her to come get me. She convinced me to tough it out, go to class everyday, do my homework, and try to manage to get a C. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this approach to everyone, it worked and I got my C. I eventually took four more French classes and ended up getting an A in one of them.
My first bit of advice to you is to find your support system, whether it’s your family or a friend. You’ll need someone to talk to when your classes are too hard, or your roommate is driving you crazy. Don’t be afraid to call home. Just hearing a familiar voice can boost your mood and remind you of why you are going to college in the first place.
Go to class. Yes, you can get away with skipping out on some big lecture classes, especially if you have a friend who takes good notes and will pass these on to you. But for the most part you need to show up for class. Even if the teaching assistant or professor doesn’t take attendance, they are paying attention to who shows up each day. Attendance can make the difference between a C or an A. If your professor or teaching assistant has office hours, drop in to see them. Ask a question about an assignment or just say hi. It may sound like you are sucking up, and to some degree you are. But if your teacher recognizes your face and name your grade might benefit. Same advice applies to study or test review sessions. Attend these if they are offered.
Study the syllabus. Every class should have this important document which outlines the materials covered in the course, test dates, assignments, and grading criteria. The syllabus will keep you on track and tell you exactly what you need to do to get a good grade.
Keep up with your reading. History and literature classes are particularly time-consuming. It’s easy to fall behind. Trying to cram an entire American literature anthology into the three days before finals is useless, unless you can speed read and have a photographic memory.
If you have access to a community college or advanced placement classes take advantage of these offerings. You can get credits either before you start at a larger university or during summer break. Take entry-level courses: math, history, science, and foreign languages. The benefits of these courses are: smaller class sizes, more individual attention, and lower tuition. Before you take any classes check to make sure the credits will transfer.
Get a part-time job. This will give you a little bit of extra spending money and a break from studying. Even just five hours or so a week will give you valuable work experience and a job reference. If you can, find a job that relates to your degree or future job aspirations.
Finally, a little bit of determination can go a long way in college. If you are determined to finish your degree, don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be a writer, or chemist or whatever you want to be. Don’t let your own fear of new situations hold you back either, grab that campus map, admit that you’re a freshman, and head out the door to your future.
>>Back To Transition Tales Articles