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What to Expect the First Year of College

Home > What to Expect the First Year of College

By Dante Sweet
Contributing Writer to RNDegrees.net

college students

Today, many high school graduates are choosing to continue their education and go on to college. In addition, with the recent changes in the job market, many workers have decided to return to college, expecting a degree will give them the edge needed for a better, more secure job. Neither of these groups of students may realize what to expect as a freshman. Some basic knowledge about what the freshman year in college is like can make the experience much happier and more useful.

Why Do I Have To Take General Education Courses?

One thing students can expect is that the freshman year in college will in some ways be similar to high school. The first two years of college are usually taken up largely with basic courses such as composition, algebra, social sciences and physical education. Many of these classes actually cover the same material as some high school courses. Sometimes students expect freshman coursework to deal more directly with their intended major or explain something other than the fundamentals, but those courses are not likely to come about until the junior year.

One reason for this repetition is that not every student took psychology in high school, for instance, and building on that information would then be impossible for those students who don't have the base. States or college systems also often have specific requirements about what information must be included in a class, such as the types of essays in composition. High schools are usually exempt from those requirements, so in order to ensure that system or state college graduates have covered what the policy makers consider the most important elements, the basic courses must be offered.

What will likely be different about these classes is the pace at which the material is covered and how the grade in the class is achieved. Freshman courses may have little or no graded homework or other outside assignments, so studying for exams becomes much more important. Although sometimes attendance and/or participation is part of the grade, points are often lost for absences or lack of input rather than gained for positive action. A freshman will often expect to get points just for showing up to class, but such is very seldom the case.

What If I Miss A Class?

The expectation about absenteeism is another major difference students should expect when entering college. College instructors don't typically want to hear why a freshman missed class; they just want students to make sure they find out what was missed and turn in any assignments on time. It is best to discuss make-up work with the teacher in high school, but the expectation in college is that students will find out what they missed from a classmate. Late work may not be accepted, no matter what the excuse. Such policies are usually outlined in the thesis given out the first day, so freshmen should hang on to that paper and refer to it when needed throughout the semester.

The urge to party and blow off classes, particularly if those classes don't have attendance requirements, is tremendous. Without a parent there to push them out of bed when the alarm goes off, many freshmen sleep in, feeling that a few missed hours won't matter. Such actions quickly become habits, however, and missing classes means missing material. Most instructors give exams that cover material in the text as well as that discussed in class, whether it be lecture, a film or a group activity. Constantly asking other students for their notes will quickly earn a student a reputation as a leech and still will not get the experience that was missed in class.

Learning To Manage Your Money

Freshmen should also expect that this is a time of major financial changes for themselves, especially if they will be living away from home for the first time. Students who live off campus will need to be prepared to budget their money carefully to be able to pay for December and January rent, times in between financial aid disbursements. All students should expect to pay at least $300/semester for books, even those that are used. Money will be required for laundry, cold medicines and probably some lab fees.

Being a freshman in college, although often a difficult transitional period, can also be a great time in students- lives if they know what to expect and do some preparation. Once they know what to expect, the choices they make affect how positive the first year in college can be. The power is in their hands.


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