College is an exciting and rewarding experience, but it can also be confusing and intimidating. When it comes time to take college courses, the very first thing the student is confronted with is a book that describes all the programs and course requirements that is hundreds of pages long and a schedule of classes that lists thousands of courses. The challenge doesn’t end there–when you take college courses, it becomes very clear that the workload demanded is much heavier than in high school. This guide outlines a strategy for sorting out the confusion and developing a realistic strategy to take college courses.
- Start early by choosing and preparing for your college courses. Schedule a meeting with your academic adviser (many colleges and universities require you do this). The academic adviser will help you be sure you are taking the required courses to stay on track to graduate and can suggest courses to take as electives. You can also ask professors for suggestions, especially in your major department. Avoid taking too many difficult (or easy) courses in a single semester. The best strategy is to try to balance your workload so you don’t find yourself facing a semester with a load of “killer courses.”
- Register early to get the courses and professors you want. Once you’ve registered, go to each professor and get a copy of the course syllabus (or at least a reading list) and buy your textbooks. This not only avoids those long bookstore lies, it insures you won’t get stuck without a copy of a book you need because they bookstore as run out.
- Use a calendar to list all your assignment due dates, test dates, and how much each assignment counts toward your final grade. Mark days when you will need to set aside time to review for tests. Finally, choose days early in the semester to start work on big projects like term papers.
- Get another calendar or day planner that you can update each week. Work out a study schedule that allows enough time weekly reading and homework. Each week, look at your semester assignment calendar (from Step 3) and plug in time for working on term papers and test preparation. Keep an eye on how much each assignment counts toward your grade, and make sure you spend more time on the things that count most.
- Follow your schedule. This is the toughest part for most students. But it’s the key for success when you take college courses. Develop a habit of putting in time each day just as you got up and went to school each day while in high school. Resist the temptation to skip a day or a study session. The workload in college is heavy and if you let yourself get behind, it’s all but impossible to catch up.
- Take advantage of the resources available to you outside the classroom. All good colleges and universities have tutoring labs or programs if you need extra help. In addition you can get assistance in the form of seminars on study skills and time management. Your best resources are your professors and their teaching assistants. Make a note of their office hours and don’t hesitate to visit them if you run into difficulty with course material. The time to ask for help is when you first run into a problem, not after you’ve been struggling along for weeks getting more and more frustrated.