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Image from Pexels

You have heard the story before: the overwhelmed college student, staring at a mountain of textbooks in the middle of the night, pulling his or her hair in desperation. This student is either cramming for an exam or writing a ten-page paper due first thing in the morning. This student has an indescribable amount of work and survives purely on caffeine. This. Is. College!

Actually, it is not. After a semester and a half in college, I have come to believe that this picture of college students is somewhat distorted. Of course, this narrative consistently happens in dorm rooms across the world, and the pain college students face as a result of ridiculous homework assignments is not to be undermined. However, there are other important factors to be considered.

1. Studying in college is not difficult because you have less time than in high school, but because you have more time.*

Pretty weird concept, I know, and one that many will not agree with me on. But think about it: in high school, most of us were in class six to eight hours a day, came home, messed around on the Internet for a few hours, and then started work before going to bed. If there was any room to breathe, it was usually on the weekends… before or after you finished your assignments.

However, college is a whole different game. Depending on your schedule, you are not in class the majority of the day. There is actually so much free time, that you feel pressure to fill it up with something – extracurricular activities, employment, and endless Grey’s Anatomy marathons. Anything but homework, really. This is exacerbated by the fact that professors do not give homework often. I mean, who wants to start that paper two weeks early?

High school teaches you short-term time management skills; in college, you have to plan ahead for the long-term.

*Most likely does not apply to engineering majors.

2. Studying with friends becomes valuable.

In high school, I was never able to study with friends. It was way too easy to get distracted, especially since so many assignments were not worth discussing.

Now, I am in no way claiming that you do not get distracted in college; in fact, the opposite is true! While doing readings, I have noticed that college students will engage in discussions with their friends about their insights. In math and science, people repeat ideas to each other to compare interpretations of a topic. This may not be the most efficient way to study, but it sure can be the most valuable. In the end, you are in college to learn, and one great way is to master material with someone else.

This is, of course, assuming that you actually end up talking about the material! Make sure that at least one of you is good at staying on top of things.

3. Not everything you need to know is on the board.

Although I would like to think that I learned a lot from textbooks in high school, when I look back, there was nothing further from the truth. Teachers in high school, in general, teach from the board. Their assignments, tests, projects, etc., are based on what you cover in class. In high school, the classroom is where you develop your ideas.

Alas, this is not the case in college. Professors lecture about what they think is important, but students are expected to learn more about material than what is covered in class. In fact, I would argue that, in college, you develop your ideas while studying, and come to class to have them confirmed or challenged in discussion or lecture. Textbooks and readings are vital to success. No, you do not have to complete every reading, but you are expecting to contribute original ideas and perspectives to some portion of the material. In most classes, there is a far higher emphasis on engaging with the material than in high school.

I enjoy college far more than I did high school because I felt like I was not only learning, but contributing. However, the transition is hard. From rote memorization to understanding the bigger picture, from being alone to being with friends, there is a lot that is different between these two institutions of education.

Any opinions? Any advice? We would love to hear your comments below!



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the author

Lillian is a member of the Pitzer Class of 2017, where she is an anticipated Biology major. She is a first-generation college student that is interested in dental medicine (floss please!), mental health, visual arts, and political activism. Combining these interests, it is Lillian's life goal to heal communities on a micro and macro scale through medicine, art, and activism. You can learn more about her on her personal website. Since she will be retiring from TP at the end summer '14 in order to prepare for her study abroad in Ecuador, please subscribe to her blog to follow her journey!

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