High school is drawing to a close and your teen is probably feeling excited, nervous and everything in between. College is on the horizon—everything he or she has worked toward. It is indeed a special time of life, but there is so much coming that your teen may not even realize. Yes, your teen likely knows that college is harder and different than high school. Certainly, he or she knows the impact that college can have on his or her future. But what are some of the things your teen might not realize are coming? Here are five things for your teen to expect next year when beginning the college journey:
- It’s all on them! One of the key differences between high school and college is the expectation that students—nobody else—are responsible for themselves. Professors expect students to listen in class, speak up with questions if they don’t understand something, and keep up with reading and homework. Students are given a lot of freedom, which means they are responsible for keeping on top of it all and reaching out for help if they need it. The consequences include academic probation for grades that fall below a certain GPA and forced withdrawal if students don’t raise those grades quickly enough.
- Class sizes vary. Until they are on campus and in a classroom, most students might not fully grasp that the number of students in a college classroom can vary widely. A lot depends on whether a student goes to a large university or smaller college, but even at smaller schools, introductory, general education classes might have upwards of 100 students (and the number could approach 300-400 at a big university). Especially as freshmen, it’s important that students go to class ready to learn and take thorough notes. It’s also a good idea to visit professors during office hours if they need extra help.
- Critical thinking skills are essential. The whole goal of college is to help students prepare for successful careers—and nurturing the development of critical thinking skills is a big part of that. Professors in college want students to analyze information as they learn it, make their own inferences, and make connections about what they learn. They also want students to be self-aware about what they understand well and what they are still learning or struggling with.
- Now is the time for time management. College offers so many opportunities to socialize, get involved on campus and explore new interests. It’s easy for students to become overwhelmed by the volume of homework and studying in addition to everything else. Time management is critical for college success. Students should plan out their weeks to ensure they have time to meet all of their academic commitments, using some sort of system, whether that’s a planner, smartphone calendar, homework app or some combination of these tools. Good time managers also embrace a solid organizational system (to minimize wasted time and procrastination) and incorporate sufficient sleep and down time into their schedules.
- The major matters sooner than later. Teens who go into college without a major declared do have a little time to decide, but many fields of study start steering students toward a certain curriculum as early as sophomore year. Although students shouldn’t feel pressured to “just pick something,” they should take the initiative to discover career interests that would fit their skills and personality. The college career center is a useful resource that every student should visit early and often. They’ll help undecided students explore different fields and majors and get them on the right path sooner than later.
Hammond encourages parents to keep the lines of communication open with their college-bound teens in the months leading up to college. “The transition from high school to college is a big one and it’s understandable that teens want to kick back and relax over summer before they leave home and begin their new adventure,” she says. “We always tell parents that this summer is a good opportunity to have those important conversations with their teens about the exciting and vastly different experience that is upon them. Teens who understand that change is coming but eagerly embrace a positive, motivated attitude will experience great success.”
To learn more about how to prepare teens for college-level academics, contact the Baldwin Huntington Learning Center at 516-867-4041.
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Date: Monday, April 29