Tips for college from WO alumni


Lily Kilpatrick

Jessica breathes a sigh of relief after unpacking her last box. It is finally time to start her first year of college and she is already feeling a little homesick. Rumors had floated to her ears earlier in the summer that the transition between high school and college was hard, but the homework load was already crazy. She logged on to her new school email the week prior to find out she had homework already. Jessica knew it was going to be a long year.

  The following West Ottawa Alumni speak about their struggles as their freshman year of college began and their tips for juniors and seniors on how to prepare for college.

How hard is the transition between high school and college?

“The transition can be difficult if you’re not mentally prepared. Classes move at a faster pace and grades can be weighted heavily on a few exams. Even high achieving high school students can’t afford to rest on their laurels for too long, or else risk falling behind,” Alumni Matthew Misiak said.

“I didn’t think the transition was that hard for me. Being in the marching band really helped, as it gave me a group of friends who were also going through the same transition. I also learned good study habits in high school,” Alumni Josh Hahn said.

“It wasn’t too bad. I had a lot of preparation with AP classes, so my classes didn’t take me too much by surprise. But you have to be independent and get yourself places, do your own cleaning, and get your homework done without anyone telling you, which is new for a lot of people,” Alumni Rebecca Jones said.

“It truly depends on the person. Some people such as myself, transitioned easily, while others are still trying to adjust. Know that no matter how many times you say you’re not homesick, you still eventually be homesick, even if the only thing you miss is your pets,” Alumni Delania Byerley said.

“It was really hard. I wish I knew saying goodbye to my parents was gonna be as hard as it was. I was so excited, but also really scared because I was going far away and I was going to be (temporarily) alone,” Alumni Cameron Miller said.

Did you have any struggles with studying for classes in college compared to high school?

“Yes, it can be challenging unless you already have a rigid study system that works for you. The irregularity of a college schedule means you have to budget time wisely to study,” Misiak said.

“Not particularly. Although, I have had to learn a lot of material outside of class from the textbook because professors don’t always cover it during class,” Hahn said.

“My biggest struggle was keeping up with reading and studying. You can get homework in on time and still not do any of the reading, and then you don’t know the material. Cramming doesn’t work very well in college either, so you have to be responsible and not get behind,” Jones said.

“Yes, I never had to study in high school, so I never developed good study skills. In college, you definitely need study skills. You can’t get by with just doing the homework. Develop those study skills or you’re going to have a horrible time with classes in college,” Byerley said.

“Yes. There’s just so much at first, it’s quite overwhelming. I struggled for the first month but after that you start getting a rhythm; but it’s way harder than high school. My first exam was the third week of school, and my class learned the hard way that there wasn’t a curve,” Miller said.

Are AP classes similar to what college classes are like?

“In terms of content, AP classes do cover most of what you’d see in, say, a freshman level physics or calculus class. Where they differ greatly is approach; an AP class still has a high school teacher working closely with the students to make sure they understand the content. In a college lecture; it’s up to the student to make sure he/she knows the course material. Some classes might expect you to know the lesson ahead of time by reading ahead or watching a video,” Misiak said.

“Not really, college classes can be a lot harder. I think AP Biology was the one class that was most similar to a college class,” Hahn said.

“The AP science classes I took are very similar to what I’m taking now in college. You have to do the reading and homework on your own, and you are mostly graded on exams. I would say the difficulty level of freshman classes for other subjects are similar to AP classes too. A big difference is that you’re in a huge lecture hall where the professor doesn’t know your name, and so if you need help you have to contact them yourself,” Jones said.

“AP classes are both the same and different. While the workload is about what you’d expect, most of it can be done in labs or during your free time. Homework doesn’t seem like a lot simply because there’s more time between classes to do it. The biggest difference is that there is no “hand holding”. Many AP classes are structured to where the teacher tells you what to study and answers all of questions during class. In college classes you’re just expected to read the textbook and learn things that aren’t  covered in class. While some teachers answer questions in class, many don’t because there’s not enough time. To get help you have to go to professor’s office hours, and sometimes those aren’t the best either,” Byerley said.

“Yes and no. Yes, to the fact that they’re pretty decently hard; and no because I could get away with not doing homework in AP classes, but if don’t do your homework in college you’re in for a bad time,” Miller said.

Do you have any tips for juniors/seniors on how to prepare themselves for college?

“Be able to work with others well, and view failure as a learning experience; but it’s your attitude that matters the most. Of course, learning good study habits, time management skills, and self-discipline are all necessary for college,” Misiak said.

“Learn time management skills and study skills while you are still in high school,” Hahn said.

“Make good study habits now because once you’re halfway through the semester and if your grade is dropping, it’s hard to bring it back up. Have an idea of what you are looking for in a college before you visit. Also, when senior year starts, apply for scholarships even though it seems like a lot of work, in the end it’s worth it. Lastly, learn how to do your own laundry so you aren’t clueless when you walk into the laundry room,” Jones said.

“My tips for juniors and seniors are to get your study skills together now. Also, for math classes get your algebra skills down, because the math gets harder and most professors combine three to four steps into one. Secondly, don’t worry too much about MLA formatting or having perfect grammar. At Valparaiso University, we have a book that helps us with the formatting, and all of my teachers walked us through how to format our papers. Also, figure out time management as well. That’s super important. When you get into college, get to know the academic help centers; even if you don’t think you will need the help, you will. I went through high school perfectly fine on my own, and here I have a tutor for math. It’s perfectly normal. Lastly, just be yourself and you’ll have a great time in college,” Byerley said.

“Learn how to study now. It will save your grades in the future. Also plan your time well. Use a planner, checklist, anything to keep track of your workload (because there’s going to be a lot). Most importantly, make sure to have fun,” Miller said.

With many seniors receiving their college acceptance letters and the pressure of college growing day by day, seniors need to begin preparing themselves for the long road ahead. College is often described as a “never-ending uphill battle.” Begin now by developing good study habits, time management, and to start applying for scholarships.