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7 Things Graduating Seniors Should Know

A confident high school graduate full of knowledge

So you’ve celebrated your last day of high school and you’re off to university/college in the fall. You’re excited, a bit nervous, and preparing yourself for one of the biggest transitions of your academic career.
Here are 7 Things Graduating Seniors Should Know About Post-Secondary School:
(from The New York Times Education Blog)

1. You Have Control Over Your Courses
Usually, first year students take a set of preselected general courses. But don’t dismiss your first year as a collection of standard courses you have to take: choose courses carefully, check prerequisites for future courses, and be sure each one is the right level for you. If there is more than one professor teaching the same course, see if you can find any teaching reviews, or sit in on the first class by each prof and switch courses so you have the best instructor, if possible. Utilize the course add/drop period to ensure your first year courses are relevant and right for you (but do it early: don’t fall behind!)

2. Every Class Counts

High school courses and college/university courses are VERY different. In high school, many classes are spent going over what has been taught before, some classes are devoted solely to preparing for tests, and once in awhile, you don’t do much work at all (we all loved movie days!).

But in post-secondary school, it’s different. Professors have limited lectures to cover material, so each class contains a lot of important content. If you miss more than two or three lectures, you are likely to miss out on information that will be difficult to fill in on your own.

3. You Are Expected to Do a Lot of the Work on Your Own

You need to be your own boss and your own motivator. Take note of important deadlines, plan study time, and beat procrastination. Figure out when things need to be done and do them, week by week. The professor or teaching assistant might remind the class when an exam is or when a paper is due, but no one will contact you if you miss a deadline.

4. Testing Is Often Done by ‘Sampling’

While high school exams may lightly touch on most things you learned, exams in college/university will not cover every topic or problem discussed in class. Instead, professors often select a sample of topics, ask fewer questions, and look for more in depth answers. When preparing for exams, it is often a better strategy to study the key points in greater detail, rather than going over everything superficially.

5. College Papers Are More Than Just Reports

Post-secondary writing assignments usually require analysis and/or research. You may be asked to do evaluation of an issue on your own, or required to consult original documents and scholarly sources. Wikipedia and Google may have cut it in high school, but they won’t in college/university. Make yourself familiar with library resources as soon as possible.

6. You Don’t Have to Pick a Major in Your First Year

Though some post-secondary schools (and perhaps parents) encourage students to know their course of study from day one, it is not necessary. While you don’t want to get to your third or fourth year and discover you want to switch direction completely, it is ok to get a feel for college and what courses are offered before officially declaring a major.

7. The Professor Can Help You Succeed

While some professors seem rather distant, they genuinely do want their students to do well. They have office hours during the week, and can be great help when needing direction for studying or writing papers. With their classes often including several hundred students, it can also be beneficial if your professor knows who you are.

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