Monday, March 2, 2015

Pet Rocks Are Allowed: Q and A About What College is Like

Triogenius discovered some interesting questions asked by high school seniors getting ready to go to college:

How much homework will there be?
The general rule of thumb is, for each credit, expect three hours' homework. Thus, if you have four classes at three credits each, that's 12 credits....  x 3 hours equals 36 hours of homework. Every week. The whole semester. Also, the whole class time will be lecture--you won't get time in class to do your 'homework.' It's supposed to be done 'at home.' You'll need to plan how you can manage your homework---three hours each night? Five? When? Organize your studying: have a calendar where you write due dates of assignments...and check it daily. Your instructor isn't going to remind you.

                            This student might be multi-tasking a little too much.

How big are class sizes?
Typically, a lecture class is 30 or more students, and might be double or triple that number. If it's a lecture, you are there to listen and perhaps participate. Lab classes will usually-but not always-be less students due to the hands-on teaching and learning that needs to happen.

                        Quick: If one in ten students in this lecture  hall is asleep, how many are awake?

Are there cliques?
Generally, no. You'll be starting over and making new friends. You'll have no history with them, and won't that be interesting?

Is there a lot of drugs and alcohol?
You can always find drugs and alcohol, and there are always parties that will involve chemicals. It's your responsibility to avoid using them.

Do I need to worry about fashionable clothing?
No. Really. Nobody cares what you're wearing, and the majority of students have no money as they go through college. When you are in college, you finally learn that you can't judge someone based on his or her wardrobe: you have to get to know him first. That doesn't mean you should stop showering, though.

There's a reason these "students" look perfect: They are models hired by an advertising agency to appear in college brochures and websites.

Are pets allowed?
No. If you need a 'pet,' get yourself a pet rock.
                                         Ike: No vet bills, no food, no cleanup. Perfect pet.

I'm afraid I'll be so homesick that I can't handle it.
You probably will be homesick, the first few days. Your best bet is to meet some new people and/or go somewhere besides your dorm-don't just stay in, feeling sorry for yourself-although chances are your roommate will also feel the same. See if he or she wants to do something together. Join a club that sounds interesting, even if you only attend a few times. You can't help but meet people that way. Hopefully, you'll be in a first year experience class, which will help you feel comfortable. Go out and become more familiar with your campus, find a coffee shop, talk to someone in a class of yours....but don't sit in your dorm feeling sad. It won't take long and you'll feel at home on campus. It's part of growing up. You can do it.

Which is better, living on campus or off campus?
They both have their advantages, but to feel connected and for convenience, your best plan is on-campus housing, if you have a choice. Sometimes when you transfer from another college, you don't get first choice.

Do you have to go to all your classes? Do they take attendance?
You should ideally go to all classes all the time, and yes, many professors will take attendance. When your grades tank, they'll have a good idea why.

Are all professors old?
No. You need a master's degree to teach at the college level, therefore, you may have instructors who are only 25 years old. But give the older ones a fair chance: they know their stuff!

                       ....although this person might be a little too young to be an instructor...

I have no idea what my major will be. Do I really need to make up my mind now?
No! How can you be sure what you want to do when you're only 17 or 18? Lots of people 'declare a major,' and then switch it the next year.  Some will switch more than once before settling on one major. It's perfectly OK to take general subjects to get used to college, and then start thinking about a career.

Also, beware that when you switch majors, the classes you have taken may or may not apply to your 'new' major, even when they seem like similar fields. For example, credits meant for a degree in Physical Therapy do not usually apply to a degree in Nursing. That's a good reason to take generals first.

What about sororities and fraternities?
You are certainly not required to join a sorority or fraternity. Be sure to check them out thoroughly before you decide you want to join one. Many of them have social agendas and do fund-raising activities. Does that interest you? Do you think you'll have the time?

My college and/or instructors aren't going to check my Facebook/Twitter/Tumbler account, are they?
They very well may check it when you turn in your application, and possibly at other times. Be really careful what you post, especially pictures, and remember you can be tagged in photos that are posted by your friends, which can also reflect badly on you. Colleges usually have their own FB and Twitter pages, so don't assume they are full of stuffy old people who don't know what social networks are. They're not.... and they do.

What if I get sick?
Colleges almost always have an on-campus clinic. Go there and be seen. If you don't have an on-campus clinic, ask someone in Advising and Counseling for the name of a clinic where you can be seen. That includes counseling for depression: if you feel like something's wrong, get some help. It's confidential and could make all the difference for you.

And, P.S.: there are plenty of people seeking help for depression, at any age. It's not unusual, so just take the help they can give you.

If you are under age 26 and single, before you leave for college, be sure you or your parent(s) check to be sure that clinic is covered by your insurance; chances are that it is.

I'm going to need a car, right?
Nope. You only need a car to go home, if you are out of town, and you shouldn't be running home every weekend. When you do go home, you can usually get a ride with a friend; some campuses have bulletin boards with people posting that they're going home--there may be someone close to your home- and would give you a ride for some gas money.

Otherwise, your parent will probably come and retrieve you a few times a year. If you keep a car on campus, you'll have parking and parking fees, scraping your windows in the winter, gas, and maintenance to deal with: who needs that?? And BTW, your dad/brother/uncle/friend won't be any too happy to jump in a car to come down and fix yours while you're living 2+ more hours away.

If you do have a car, check with your insurance agent about dropping all but Comprehensive coverage while you're not driving it. If you do drive in your college town, there may be a discount if the area is more rural than your parents' home.

Don't worry: It will be fun. Really, a lot of work, but fun.

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