College Survival Guide/Preparing for College

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Knowing how college works ahead of time will greatly improve your chance of success. By understanding life in college, you can prepare yourself for it.

What is College like?[edit | edit source]

College is an a world onto its own. Without a family member or close friend to guide you through to college, it is easy to become lost, and if they graduated long ago they likely are not familiar with the changing landscape of academia spurred by advancing technology. The choices to make, actions to take, and the many habits one must break are often not known. College is place for those who want a higher education or who want to gain employment in a certain profession.

Social factors[edit | edit source]

Social life in college often revolves around small communities, such as those sharing a residence hall, or those involved in a school club. It is vital to keep social while in college, because failing to do so often leads to anti social behavior and other negative outcomes for one's post college career. Furthermore socializing is a chance to network with peers, as well as to distinguish yourself by getting involved in extracurricular activities.

The professor is an often misunderstood position for incoming students. Most do not teach as those in High Schools do, they instruct and optionally may guide you through your education. Your education in college is not the sole responsibility of the Professor - it mostly falls on you yourself. Professors are often not trained as teachers, most have dedicated their lives to a field, and have either mastered it, or potentially even expanded it and pushed human knowledge that much further. Many professors participate in research outside of teaching, and often consider that their primary duty. It is important to remember that professors are still humans. They are not perfect, and each has their own individual quirks and foibles, some more than others.

Dining[edit | edit source]

Dining on a college campus is truly specific to the individual institution. Some institutions offer good food, or at least only slightly overcharge for their food. The worst institutions will gouge prices while serving questionably edible slop. Some institutions will cater to certain dietary requirements, and others simply offer what they offer. Ask an upperclassman what they think of the food at an institution to get an idea of what it's like at that specific institution.

One reason to join or simply pop into many clubs is that they will sponsor free meals and diners multiple times a semester. This is especially true with cultural clubs, who will often showcase the unique cuisine of their culture. Often nerdy clubs like gaming and computing societies will offer pizza and junk food.

Dining on campus is not the only option, and if it is not up to par with your expectations should be used minimally, such as in between classes when you have no time for anything else. Often a variety of restaurants and bars are established immediately off campus. These too range in qualities, but the longest lasting tend to be of good quality, offer unique items, or are locally beloved for some other reason.

By far the most economical way to eat while at college is to do what the majority of society does - go grocery shopping and make a meal yourself. This not only lets you make exactly what you want, how you want it, it also lets you save money by buying in bulk, as well as teaching yourself valuable cooking skills. The biggest downside is the time and effort required, as cooking some dishes can be an intensive process.

Malnutrition at colleges is a serious and unfortunately common issue. Many scientific and sociological studies conclude that college students aren't eating properly. Sometimes students purchase a meal plan that doesn't meet their needs. Other times they simply can't afford what they need. Often healthy food is inaccessible, or costs significantly more than unhealthy food. Many incoming students get into a habit of only eating ramen, pizza, or some other inexpensive meal, only to become sick of an unhealthy diet a few months later. Sometimes programs are available to help the food insecure - do not be too proud to take advantage of these when faced with malnutrition. After all, a malnourished brain will have a much learning and recalling information.

Choosing a School[edit | edit source]

Choosing a School on Size[edit | edit source]

Small Schools[edit | edit source]

These schools are often rural or private schools. They may not have all the amenities of a large institution, but they do typically have tight knit communities, where you will come to be known by others easily if you distinguish yourself.

Medium School[edit | edit source]

Often a smaller state university, regional college, or a larger private school, often in a suburb, rural city, or college town. These schools are often large enough to let you be unnoticed by most, but large enough to allow you to easily distinguish yourself. They typically offer most amenities a larger school would, but at a smaller scale. Most will have a few subjects they excel in, with other major subjects that are fairly average or not offered. It is rare for a medium size school to have more than one or two significant regional campuses. If offered at all, it is rare for them to offer more than one of a college of Law, a college of Medicine, or a college of Engineering, though they often offer programs that prepare students for graduate school at a different institution in these fields.

Large School[edit | edit source]

Often a flagship state university in an urban metro area or a prestigious private school. Even if it's based in a college town (Such as Ithaca, New York or Lawrence, Kansas) the shear size and importance of the school will necessitate many city like amenities. This gives students access to all the amenities of a city - museums, theaters, a huge variety of restaurants, public transit, etc. Of course this also gives students all the downsides of city life too. Such universities often include a college of law, college of medicine, or college of engineering.

The Entrance Exam[edit | edit source]

The exams usually focus on your Literature and Science skills. Some tests focus on your English and Math skills. Some tests focus on foreign language skills. Either way, a person will take an entrance exam test. What a person should do is before taking the exam, learn as much as he or she can about it. Some colleges only allow a person to take the exam twice. This is why learning about the test is important. Study and review some of the math you already know for about five days.

After taking the exam, if a person doesn't do as well as he or she hoped the first time, then he or she could try again, though this can quickly get expensive. Students who have a high level of math understanding will often be placed down to a lesser math level. Even though the student may know the math, the exam scores may say a person must take "Intermediate Algebra and Geometry".

Some people will try to study the course material by getting a few books, studying them, and retesting. Try to learn everything in the course book in 16 days. After 16 days, take the test and try to test out. If you can't, just take the course. Although, many people despise this exam system, is better to take the course and get over with it than wasting three months studying the book, taking the test, and again, not passing. Summer courses often last about one month, and if a person already knows the material, and he or she really does know the material, he or she should be able to pass the course easily. It's better to take a course and be over with it than to try and beat the system. Remember, 16 days of full devotion.

Picking your Major and Minor[edit | edit source]

What is a major?

A major is the type of career you want to obtain. You are largely focusing on certain types of courses so you can get that career. The majority of courses in your course schedule are going to help you get that career.

What is a minor?

A minor is a subject that you pick in addition to your major, and has significantly lower requirements to obtain. If you find out years later you don't like your major, you could switch to your minor. A minor is the type of career you want to fall back on. You are slightly focusing on certain types of courses as a fall-back career. The minority of courses in your course schedule will lead you towards that fall-back career.

Talking to a Counselor[edit | edit source]

When talking to a counselor, a person needs to know his or her long-term and short-term goals.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • 1. What do I want for a career?
  • 2. How much do I really know about the career?
  • 3. Have I researched the career in depth?
  • 4. What type of things does a person in that career field know?
Psychology? Sociology? Chemistry? Physics? Biology? Other?
  • 5. What courses do I need to take to get that career?

Number five becomes the most important question once you understand what type of career you want. This will be one of the questions you will focus on when talking to a counselor. Write the question down to ask later.

More questions to ask:

  • 6. Do the courses I take here for that career—transfer to a different school?
  • 7. What school do I want to transfer to?
  • 8. What courses transfer to that school?

Oftentimes, counselors are very busy with many other people and can't go the extra mile for everyone. They try their best, but often they don't have the answers. Supplement counselors with your won research.

Before going to a counselor, a person should study what courses transfer to a college or university. Make a call to the school, go visit the school, or locate the school's website on the Internet and inquire what courses transfer. Many universities and college have a website directory that tells what courses are similar to others. If you are completely clueless to the school's website, you could go to the counselor and ask for them to help you find the information on the website.

The main concept to keep here is this:

I want a certain career. I need to take certain types of courses to get that career. If my current school does not have all of those courses, but they have a few, what courses transfer to another school? How can I be assured these courses transfer? I need proof these courses transfer.

  • 9. How many courses can I transfer.

This can be tricky and annoying depending on institution policies.

Choosing Transferable Courses[edit | edit source]

When transferring to a different college or university, many students notice a large amount of credits/hours do not transfer.

Why is this?

Also, the teaching curriculum and standards of one school may be different than another school. In other words, the learning material in a different school may be more rigorous, complex, detailed, in depth, or etc. Furthermore, some schools, especially for profit institutions, may have a financial incentive for these requirements.

Talk with one college's counselor, and get that counselor to talk about courses being transferable or not. You want courses that can transfer from one college to the next. Sometimes you will have to call someone, write to someone, or meet with someone at a different college to obtain information about credits/hours that are accepted.

Making a Wise Choice[edit | edit source]

For many careers, taking English and Mathematics to a certain extent is required. Often, if a person is going to a local college, then he or she can take Mathematics and English courses for a lower price. The first two years of college for many are filled with taking courses that don't relate to their major. The wise who want to transfer to a different college may not take those unrelated courses right away.

Some Liberal Arts (Non-fiction writing 120, Shakespeare 101, etc.) courses do not transfer as well as Mathematics and Foreign language. Many universities require someone to have at least four years of foreign language from a high school. If not that, they require someone to have at least two years of foreign language from a college. Many also like the idea of students having four years of high school Mathematics. To have four years of mathematics would mean someone has taken Calculus before he or she graduates high school.

  • 1 college semester = 1 high school year
  • 4 years H.S. = 2 years college.
College goes twice as fast as regular high school.

Experiences[edit | edit source]

One of the things I've learned in college is that a few courses exist that have a better chance than others to transfer. Taking math and language courses are the best choice for an undergraduate.

Modern Language:

  • Spanish
  • German
  • French
In the United States, Spanish is the most common language for college transfer.

Mathematics:

  • Calculus and above

If a college were to be shrewd and not accept these courses, a person could simply test out; the nice thing about choosing this type of courses is its ease to be quickly reviewed to pass a test. The test usually will quiz someone on his or her current knowledge of the class material.

As long as someone takes a modern language and mathematics, it is likely the courses will transfer to a public university. If not, then someone could most likely test out.