This is “What Is College, Really?”, section 1.4 from the book Success in College (v. 1.0).
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While most high school classes are fairly small, many college classes are large—up to several hundred students in a large lecture class. Other classes you may take will be as small as high school classes. In large lecture classes you may feel totally anonymous—even invisible—in a very large class. This feeling can get some students in trouble, however. Here are some common mistaken assumptions and attitudes about large classes:
These comments all share the same flawed attitude about college: it’s up to the instructor to teach in an entertaining way if I am to learn at all—and it’s actually the college’s or instructor’s fault that I’m stuck in this large class, so they’re to blame if I think about or do other things. But remember, in college, you take responsibility for your own learning. Sure, a student is free to try to sleep in a lecture class, or not attend the class at all—the same way a student is “free” to fail any class he or she chooses!
In a lecture class, avoid the temptation to cruise the Web or engage in other activities that will distract you from paying attention.
If you dislike large lecture classes but can’t avoid them, the best solution is to learn how to learn in such a situation. Later chapters will give you tips for improving this experience. Just remember that it’s up to you to stay actively engaged in your own learning while in college—it’s not the instructor’s job to entertain you enough to “make” you learn.
There is one thing you need to know right away. Even in a lecture hall holding three hundred students, your instructors do know who you are. They may not know your name right away or even by the end of the term, but they see you sitting there, doing whatever you are doing, looking wherever you are looking—and will form a distinct impression of you. Instructors do have academic integrityAn instructor’s or student’s honesty and responsibility related to scholarship and academic interpersonal interactions. and won’t lower your grade on an exam because you slept once in class, but the impression you make just might affect how far instructors go out of their way to offer a helping hand. Interacting with instructors is a crucial part of education—and the primary way students learn. Successful interaction begins with good communication and mutual respect. If you want your instructors to respect you, then you need to show respect for them and their classes as well.
Every college has its own course requirements for different programs and degrees. This information is available in a printed course catalog or online. While academic advisors are generally assigned to students to help them plot their path through college and take the most appropriate courses, you should also take this responsibility yourself to ensure you are registering for courses that fit well into your plan for a program completion or degree. In general there are three types of courses:
Most important is that you understand what courses you need and how each counts. Study the college catalog carefully and be sure to talk things over fully with your advisor. Don’t just sign up for courses that sound interesting—you might end up taking courses that don’t count toward your degree at all.
In addition, each term you may have to choose how many courses or hours to take. Colleges have rules about the maximum number of hours allowed for full-time students, but this maximum may in fact be more than you are prepared to manage—especially if you work or have other responsibilities. Taking a light course load, while allowing more time for studying and other activities, could add up over time and result in an extra full year of college (or more!)—at significant additional expense. Part-time students often face decisions based more on time issues. Everyone’s situation is unique, however, and all students should talk this issue over with their advisor each year or term.
Most colleges now offer some online courses or regular courses with an onlineReferring to a computer connected to other computers, typically through the Internet; online education, for example, may occur entirely through the computer. component. You experience an online course via a computer rather than a classroom. Many different variations exist, but all online courses share certain characteristics, such as working independently and communicating with the instructor (and sometimes other students) primarily through written computer messages. If you have never taken an online course, carefully consider what’s involved to ensure you will succeed in the course.
Online courses are increasingly common at colleges and require independent learning.
If you feel you are ready to take on these responsibilities and are attracted to the flexibility of an online course and the freedom to schedule your time in it, see what your college has available.
In some classes at some colleges, attendance is required and absences can affect one’s grade in the course. But even when attendance is not required, missing classes will inevitably affect your grade as well. You’re not learning if you’re not there. Reading another student’s notes is not the same.
Arriving to class promptly is also important. Walking into a class that has already begun is rude to the instructor (remember what we said earlier about the impression you may be making) and to other students. A mature student respects the instructor and other students and in turn receives respect back.
A college campus is almost like a small town—or country—unto itself. The campus has its own police force, its own government, its own stores, its own ID cards, its own parking rules, and so on. Colleges also have their own policies regarding many types of activities and behaviors. Students who do not understand the rules can sometimes find themselves in trouble.
The most important academic policy is academic honestyFundamental principle that a student does his or her own work and does not interfere with the honest work of others; violations of academic honesty include cheating, plagiarism, fabrication of false authorities, misrepresentation, inappropriate assistance from others, acting to prevent others from accomplishing their own work, and so on.. Cheating is taken very seriously. Some high school students may have only received a slap on the wrist if caught looking at another student’s paper during a test or turning in a paper containing sentences or paragraphs found online or purchased from a “term-paper mill.” In many colleges, academic dishonesty like this may result in automatic failure of the course—or even expulsion from college. The principle of academic honesty is simple: every student must do his or her own work. If you have any doubt of what this means for a paper you are writing, a project you are doing with other students, or anything else, check the college Web site for its policy statements or talk with your instructor.
Colleges also have policies about alcohol and drug use, sexual harassment, hazing, hate crimes, and other potential problems. Residence halls have policies about noise limits, visitors, hours, structural and cosmetic alterations of university property, and so on. The college registrar has policies about course add and drop dates, payment schedules and refunds, and the like. Such policies are designed to ensure that all students have the same right to a quality education—one not unfairly interrupted by the actions of others. You can find these policies on the college Web site or in the catalog.
To be successful in college, you need to be fully informed and make wise decisions about the courses you register for, college policies, and additional resources. Always remember that your college wants you to succeed. That means that if you are having any difficulties or have any questions whose answers you are unsure about, there are college resources available to help you get assistance or find answers. This is true of both academic and personal issues that could potentially disrupt your college experience. Never hesitate to go looking for help or information—but realize that usually you have to take the first step.
The college catalog has already been mentioned as a great source of many kinds of information. You should have an updated catalog every year or know where to find it online.
The college’s Web site is the second place to look for help. Students are often surprised to see how much information is available online, including information about college programs, offices, special assistance programs, and so on, as well as helpful information such as studying tips, personal health, financial help, and other resources. Take some time to explore your college’s Web site and learn what is available—this could save you a lot of time in the future if you experience any difficulty.
In addition, many colleges have offices or individuals that can help in a variety of ways. Following are some of the resources your college may have. Learn more about your college’s resources online or by visiting the office of student services or the dean of students.
Your college has many resources and many professionals available to help you with any issue that may affect your success as a student.
Everyone needs help at some time—you should never feel embarrassed or ashamed to seek help. Remember that a part of your tuition and fees are going to these offices, and you have every right to take advantage of them.
For each of the following statements, circle T for true or F for false:
|T||F||If your instructor in a large lecture class is boring, there’s nothing you can do except to try to stay awake and hope you never have him or her for another class.|
|T||F||In a large lecture hall, if you sit near the back and pretend to listen, you can write e-mails or send text messages without your instructor noticing.|
List three things a college student should be good at in order to succeed in an online course.
Use your imagination and describe three different actions that would violate of your college’s academic honesty policy.
Where on campus would you first go for help choosing your courses for next term?
For help with your math class?
For a problem coping with a lot of stress?
To learn about your options for student loans?
To find a better apartment?