Saturday, September 10, 2011

What is college like?

Today is part one of the three-part College Q&A.  On Monday, I'll be answering questions about college social life (finding churches, organizations, making friends, being homesick, etc.) and on Wednesday, I'm answering questions about "college" in general (adjusting to size difference, favorite part, hardest part, etc).  I will still take questions for those topics, so if you are just now discovering this Q&A day and you have some questions, you can go ahead and ask them in the comments below.
I hope this helps you get a glimpse of what college life is like. :)

What classes are you taking?
As of right now, I'm taking: College Algebra, Self Defense, English Literature, American Sign Language, and Texas Government.
I am taking fourteen hours.  I started out taking seventeen, but became too overwhelmed with the sheer amount of homework and dropped out of Psychology before the second week was finished.  It was one of the best decisions I have made about my scheduling so far.  I feel so much less overwhelmed now that I have a little more time.  My schedule has become a bit more relaxed and I'm finally able to participate in some social activities.

What is your daily class schedule like?
I got pretty lucky with my schedule, I think.  My first class on Mondays and Wednesdays is at noon.  My last class ends in the early evening.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have to be in the classroom at 9:10 and my last class ends at 1:15.  I don't have any classes on Friday.  Nice, right?  It is wonderful to have a three day weekend so I can study and also have fun with friends and get-togethers.

What's a normal day like for you?/On a typical day, what would your schedule look like?
I've gotten a few variations of this question, so I hope this isn't too confusing for me to describe.
Well, Mondays and Wednesdays are similar and Tuesdays and Thursdays are similar as well.  If it's a school day, I'll wake up somewhere between seven and eight in the morning and eat a bowl of cereal in my room.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I'll study, do homework, etc. until it's time to leave for my first class around eleven.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'll get ready for school and leave right away.  On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have an hour to return and eat lunch.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I wait until my last class is over.  (Occasionally I will stay and get tutoring for algebra and I might bring a sack lunch then.)

Whenever I get home from my classes, I usually rest for a little while, possibly take a nap, and then go eat dinner in the cafeteria.  The place where I'm staying has a great cafeteria, so I have several healthy food choices to choose from... and some not-so-healthy ones, like the occasional chocolate fountain, daily ice cream bar, and pie/cake bar.  Ahh! 

I spend the evening finishing up homework, studying, and I might watch an episode of a TV show like "Lost."   I usually go to bed around midnight or one in the morning.

On Fridays, I don't have class, so I'll possibly go in for more math tutoring, run some errands, grocery shop, and etc.  I plan some social activities with friends over the weekend as well.  I can sleep in on Fridays and Saturdays, which is verryyyy nice.  On Sunday mornings, I am visiting churches, although I hope to find one church I like very soon.  I also haven't joined any organizations yet, but now that I've cut down the number of hours I'm taking, I hope to join a couple of Christian Bible studies of some sort.
There are also other little activities I spread out through the week, like laundry on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, letter writing on Sundays, Skyping just about every day with various people, and cleaning Charlie's fish bowl on Sundays.  I keep a lot of lists and planners to help myself stay organized... otherwise, I'll forget everything I need to do because there is so much.

What are your classes like?
This is another question I got more than once and I remember wondering this same thing, so I'll be sure to elaborate. 

My classes are each very different.  I was actually a bit surprised at how similar the classroom structures were to my high school classes.  I'm not exactly sure what I expected them to be like, but they still feel like school.  And class.  And fairly normal.  The strangest parts (coming from someone who graduated from a class in the low forties) are: I have different people in every single class, I'll be switching out all my teachers in a few months, and most of the professors don't really care that much whether or not I try hard.

I would always hear people say that professors don't care whether or not their students do well, but it's a bit different than that.  The attitudes I'm getting are more like this: If you try hard, then I will do as much as I can to help you succeed.  If you are unmotivated, then I don't really care if you flunk out.  In fact, I hope you do.  In high school, my teachers were all very concerned that everyone passed, motivated or not.  In fact, they were willing to go to great lengths to make sure that everyone did well. 

My class that is the most like a stereotypical college class would have to be Texas Government.  There are about eighty people sitting in a refurbished movie theatre and it's my biggest class by far.  The professor has a very, "I'm going to make my tests hard, so if you don't study, you will fail and I don't care," attitude, and each day, he stands in front of the class and gives a lecture.  What is interesting is the fact that he is very attentive to our needs if we work hard.  He has reached out to me and helped me with a project in that class already, even seeing me outside of class hours and helping me with an idea, because I have shown that I care about doing well in his class.  For those who sit in the back and don't ask any questions, he doesn't seem to care much about how well they do at all.

Self defense is my easiest class.  One day of the week is working out (and so far, we aren't doing a whole lot in that area) and one day of the week is a lecture.  Like every professor I have so far, he uses a power point presentation where he gives us notes to write down.  My professor is more of a coach than an intellectual, so he enjoys showing us funny YouTube videos about self defense throughout the lecture.

Algebra is my hardest class by far.  My professor is very eccentric and she seems to expect us to know most of the material already.  I typically have several hours of homework each week, equaling out to around a hundred problems, which can be very overwhelming.  My professor will stand up and lecture and work a few problems before leaving us with quite a bit of written and online homework, but she doesn't explain them as well as I'd like.  I will probably have to get a lot of tutoring to do well in this class.

English Literature is a fairly small class and I also happen to be the only freshman, which shakes things up a bit.  We have to read... a lot, which I assumed would be the case.  The professor expects us to have the literature read before we come into class and then we will analyze each piece.  It's a bit more liberal than I thought it would be, even though I attend a very conservative school.  So far, the class discussed women's lib and the problems with religion quite a bit.  Kind of a disappointment, but I am learning a lot about how to analyze literature.  At times, the reading material can be a little overwhelming, but the class is manageable.

My very favorite class would have to be American Sign Language.  My professor is actually completely deaf.  He doesn't speak, so he only communicates with us through signs.  Surprisingly, even though this is only an introduction to ASL, he is very easy to understand and I have learned so much from him.  There is a lecture (yes, there really is!), we practice vocabulary, we have games where we mirror each other or make silly faces, and then we usually act out conversations or watch educational tapes that feature signing conversations.  The class is a little over two hours long since it also has a lab.  I suppose the "normal" class part would be the lecture and the "lab" part would be acting out what we've learned.  The professor is very, very nice and helpful and funny.  ASL would have to be the most enjoyable class I've ever attended.  I'm truly starting to gain a passion for sign language and I can't wait to learn more. 

Are you liking your classes so far?
So far, yes.  My least favorite is algebra because it is confusing and involves an overwhelming amount of homework, but overall, I enjoy attending my classes.  I honestly look forward to ASL each week because it's so much fun and I learn so much without even realizing it.  Classes like Texas Government, English Literature, and Self Defense are more like "ugh, school," but I don't dread them.  They just feel like... class.

How does your schoolwork differ from when you were in high school?
In high school, I never really had to do much homework or studying.  I could get just about everything done during class hours.  In college, things seem to be the opposite.  I don't get anything done but a lecture during class and I'm expected to do all of the work and studying on my own time.  It's a difficult switch to get used to... believe me, I have had class for a couple of weeks and I'm still not quite used to the way things work.

Also, you're not babied as much.  If you forget to do an assignment, there isn't any lenience.  You're given a zero without a second thought.  The professors don't remind you that an assignment is due the following week.  They give you a syllabus with an assignment sheet and that's how you know when everything is due. 

There are fewer grades in college as well.  In high school, I would often have a test about every two weeks and sometimes a couple of quizzes each week.  For my college classes, I have only about three exams per semester and five or six quizzes.  Some classes have more homework grades than others.  Some have hardly any homework grades.  For the ones that have only a few grades each semester, you have to study hard to make sure you do well on those exams. 

Are your classes harder than you thought they would be?
Yes.  People told me over and over that I would have to learn to study and be overwhelmed at first, but I have to admit that I didn't quite believe them.  I'm an academic person.  I tend to enjoy learning and schoolwork.  It comes easily to me and I've never had to study for things before.  As I've begun college, I've come to realize that I do have to study to do well, and since I never had to study before, I'm having to learn how for the first time.

The biggest change has been the immense level of homework I have each week: reading in every single class, multiple worksheets in math, projects in several classes, and vocabulary words for ASL.  I'm having to re-learn time management, which I had covered in high school. 

Are your classes different than you thought they would be?
I didn't expect them to be so small and intimate.  My biggest class has eighty people.  The second biggest has about forty people.  All of the others seem to have around thirty students each.  I always thought I would take freshman classes with several hundred classmates, but everything has been surprisingly cozy. 

I also didn't expect to form any sort of relationship with the professors and I have begun to get to know several of them. 

I didn't expect my classes to have the feel of normal school, which I think I mentioned above.  You walk into class with your backpack.  You set out your notes and text book and pencils.  No texting is allowed.  No whispering is allowed.  The students around you are your peers.  The teacher will occasionally give announcements or make corny jokes.  It feels like school has always felt and for some reason, I always thought college would have some sort of an overwhelming adult feel about it.  It's almost a relief that it doesn't. 
I hope this has answered some of your questions about college classes. 
If you're also a college student (or you've been there and done that a while back) and you have some more tips to add, go ahead and do so in the comments below.  I'm a new college student, so I may not have covered everything important.


  1. I'm a bio major in college, so there typically isn't a lot of homework for me aside from online homework in my chemistry/physics classes. It's definitely true that there are fewer things that determine your grade in college classes. Since I'm on a quarter system, most of the time I have only three tests in each class that determine my grade. It's pretty scary to think about but I actually like it that way.

    Going to a professor's office hours is so helpful when it comes to learning material. I think it's one of the biggest things that helped me out in my first two years, and I would encourage other people to go to office hours more. Obviously just showing up unprepared with no questions in mind and expecting the teacher to tell you answers is a bad choice, so it's important to come prepared in order to not waste anyone's time.

  2. I attend a small Christian university, and your classes actually seem quite similar to ours. I am a senior now, and junior and senior level classes tend to be very small. There are usually 10-12 students per class- although this year I have a class with only 3 students! But freshman and sophomore year, most classes had around 30 students.

    The professors' attitudes are similar here too- they help those who seek it, but don't waste their time on students who don't care.

  3. Abby, there is a strict attendance policy here too! We are allowed to miss four days and then we will fail or be dropped from the class.

  4. This is so helpful!
    Hopefully, I'll be attending TAMU in the fall. I was wondering if you had any advice? On anything. Professor-wise, class-wise, finding a church, NOT gaining the freshman 15. I also struggle with homesickness. Although I lived in Bryan/College Station until I was about four, I now live a solid nine hours away from A&M and I'm pretty worried.
    Thanks so much!