Myth: Everything in College is Different than High School

There’s no doubt about it, the transition from high school to college is a big step. Graduating high school seniors hear all sorts of things about what to expect during their freshman year of college. Unfortunately, a lot of those things can be both intimidating and not entirely true. Here are a few myths that will hopefully ease your worry about heading off to college.

Professors won’t remind you about due dates

One of the biggest themes high school seniors will learn is that college demands a lot of independence and self-policing responsibility. I know one of the most often repeated things my high school teachers said was that college professors don’t warn you about due dates and test dates.

This one isn’t entirely true. On the very first date of class, the professor will hand out a syllabus, which is basically the Holy Grail of college time scheduling. The syllabus will have due dates for assignments, papers, and tests. And more often than not, the professor will remind you of upcoming deadlines in class. They want students to perform well in their class, but they will also treat you like the adult you are, so don’t solely depend on their word alone. It’s up to you to keep everything in order, but that doesn’t mean you’re totally on your own either.

Midterms and finals will make or break your grade

Obviously exams are an important part of your grade, nobody is denying that, but they aren’t the one and only factor. In college, just like in high school, there are usually weekly or daily assignments to be turned in and graded. There are projects and papers, group activities, and participation points. What grade percentage exams cover depends on the individual class or professor, but rest assured that there are additional scoring opportunities. (Sometimes there will even be extra credit, though it is rarer than in high school).

Professors won’t have one-on-one time for you

The mere concept of office hours is enough to bust this myth. It’s easy to think that a professor won’t have time to answer your specific question in a lecture class of 600 people, but that’s what office hours are for! The professors set aside a certain time each week and invite students to talk one-on-one about the coursework, exam questions, difficulties in the class, among other things.

Getting to know and regularly visiting your professor is one of the most offered pieces of advice by college counselors, and so it’s surprising that so few students actually take advantage of it. I had a professor who always said “Office hours are the loneliest part of my week, stop by and visit with me. I don’t care if we talk about the class or the weather.”

You have to study five times as much and five times as hard

True college coursework will be more challenging than classes you took in high school, but there’s no need to panic about not having enough time to study just yet. In college, it’s more important to study smart than study for long periods of time (in fact, super-intense nose-to-the-grindstone marathon study sessions are actually detrimental to your learning).

Studying smart means studying often (aka not cramming), studying without distractions, actively engaging with the material (for the most part you can highlight and write things in the margins of textbooks, even if you plan to sell them back at the end of the semester), quizzing yourself, asking questions to clarify, thoroughly reading any and all assignments, and reviewing your notes.

Having unblocked classes will promote laziness

College gives you the opportunity to schedule your classes in a way totally unlike high school. Some students prefer a couple of hours between classes so they can study up or grab a bite to eat. Others prefer to have back-to-back classes and be finished at the end of the day like a traditional high school schedule. Some prefer the structure of a 6 or 8 hour full school day, others like to spread it all out. It might take a semester or two to figure out which method works best for you.

Many fear that having unblocked classes, or even whole weekdays without a single class, will promote laziness. While it can be a temptation, most students will use that “free” time to do their reading assignments, review lecture notes, get a head start on a paper assignment, or even put in hours for their part-time job.

Yes, many things about college are different than you’re used to in high school. Still, you will find many similarities. You’ll make friends with your classmates, have group projects, have your teachers make cringe-worthy jokes in an overenthusiastic effort to seem cool. The biggest similarity that links the two, however, is that you will learn more than you ever thought possible.