When it comes to high-school classes, you are in the passenger’s seat — half paying attention to where you are going and half enjoying the ride. In college, it’s all you. You’re in control, and you’re in the driver’s seat.
The direction you take and the way you handle obstacles are your decision. There aren’t parents or teachers to step in anymore. Your success is in your hands. As frightening as that seems, you’ll actually never be alone. You’ll have a GPS, roadside assistance and pit stops along the way. Your advisors, professors, mentors and even resident assistants are always available in to help.
Yet the ultimate responsibility remains yours. As a college senior, I’ve learned a few things about succeeding in classes. Here’s my advice for making the transition from high school to college courses and for being successful, regardless of the professor and subject.
The difference in being prepared for a college class versus a high-school class lies largely in the time you put in outside of the classroom. This could be something as simple as taking notes while completing readings, or looking over your previous notes the night before your next class. Or it can be as high stakes as seeking tutoring from the writing center or math lab to get extra assistance where you need it.
Independence can be overwhelming to new college students. High-school teachers tend to be willing to hold your hands and guide you, while college professors take a more reactive approach. Your preparedness can work hand-in-hand with responsible independence: You are in charge of your own learning because no one is going to hover over you or babysit you to get your work done.
Advocate for Help
Because you’re in control, you need to be able to advocate for your success. In high school, you might have relied on your parents or counselors to mediate between you and your teachers. In college, it’s up to you to visit professors, ask them questions or seek clarification on your grades.
Go to your professors prepared with questions and specific needs. Be self-aware and don’t be afraid to admit when you need help. Know the resources your institution offers such as tutoring or study labs. And trust yourself to be able to take care of your responsibilities.
College is meant to get you closer to becoming a self-sufficient adult; being able to independently prepare and advocate for your goals is part of that process.
Laura Irwin is a Writing and Rhetoric major at St. Edward’s University. Her favorite class at St. Edward’s was Rhetoric and Composition II, which she took the first semester of her freshman year. “My professor was beyond excellent, and I really made an effort to have a relationship with her by visiting her office hours,” she says. “We’d talk about rhetorical theory the entire time. It was a challenging course, but it was the most rewarding.”