Transition to College by Arielle Silverman

From the Editor: Arielle Silverman is the immediate past President of NABS. She has completed her PhD in Social Psychology at the University of Colorado – Bolder. Now, she is serving as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington. She frequently posts insightful and thoughtful discussion topics to the NABS discussion list. This one was timely and exceedingly useful, so we snapped it up for the Student Slate Blog. Here are Arielle’s thoughts on why college is better than high school:

Hi all.

For those of you who will be transitioning from high school to college this fall, or seniors getting ready to apply to college, I wanted to send along this hopefully-encouraging post regarding why, in my experience, college was far better and easier than high school.

Disclaimer: This post is mostly opinion (though some of it will probably apply to most college students). Some of you may disagree with some of what I say, and if you do, feel free to comment below.

1. You have much more free time in college.

Typically, high school involves five or six hour-long class periods five days a week, plus lunch. That adds up to 30 plus hours on campus every week. In college, most students take 12-15 hours of classes per week. Most college classes (except for language classes) don't meet every day. So you will have lots of extra time to spend as you want.

2. You get to make your own schedule.

Are you a night owl? Sign up for night classes, or at least don't sign up for any classes before 10 a.m. Want to take Fridays off? Set your schedule so your classes are all Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday. Okay, sometimes that's not a possibility, but you have far more flexibility when setting your schedule in college, since most classes are taught multiple times during the week. Many universities also have online course offerings, giving you even more schedule flexibility.

3. Less homework!

That's right! Yes, you do need to keep up with the assigned readings, papers and at least look over your notes before each test. But if your high school experience was anything like mine, there are probably a lot of "busy work" worksheets and study guides you have to fill out for a grade (which often weren't available in Braille on time). In college, they don't care so much how you learn the material as long as you understand it well enough to pass the exams and/or write coherent papers. Math classes will have regular homework, but for most other classes there will only be a few assignments. Plus, professors are required to give you a schedule of when everything is due at the beginning of the semester (a "syllabus") so you can plan ahead. While papers can be a bit overwhelming at first, the long time you get to complete them means that you can easily enlist help from tutors and the professor. (see next point).

4. Your teachers are experts in their subject who set up regular times to help students.

Most university professors have to have a doctorate in their subject in order to teach. That means they've voluntarily spent 4-7 years studying the subject in depth and then wrote a short book (dissertation) about that subject. Trust me, nobody would go through the dissertation process and finish it if they didn't really really love that subject! Even lower-level instructors (which you may get for intro classes or community college classes) typically have to have a master's degree which involves at least 2 years of intense studies in that subject. While I can't promise that all professors are good teachers, they will usually be far more knowledgeable than your high school teachers are about the specific subjects they teach. Furthermore, college teachers are usually required to hold office hours, the sole purpose of which is to help students with their classes on request. Office hours were most likely not available to you when you were in high school, but in college, it's a wonderful opportunity to get clarification on something in the lesson, or feedback on a draft of a paper. In addition to this, most colleges have other free resources for students like tutoring and writing assistance.

5. College is a chance for you and your classmates to grow up!

One of the first things I noticed was that in college, I no longer had to deal with kids crowding me in the halls, jumping on or over my cane, grabbing me or making rude comments. I enjoyed the freedom of being treated like an adult by both teachers and peers. Of course, growing up is bittersweet, but with the myriad of options for social clubs, communal living, and diversity that you will find on a college campus, you will find that almost anyone can identify a place where they fit or a class or extracurricular activity that they love. As you move through college, you will learn a lot of exciting things about yourself, what you enjoy and what you want to do in the next phase of your life.