It won’t be quite like what you’ve gotten used to in high school. Say goodbye to the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., five-day-a-week schedule, and hello to creating what works best for you! With adulthood comes responsibility – but flexibility too.
Choosing Your Credit Load
Full-time college students typically take between 12 and 18 credits each semester. If you’re thinking of high school credits, that seems like a lot! In high school, a credit corresponds to a course taken for an entire school year and a half-credit would be a semester-long course. But college is different!
All classes in college last a semester but can be worth between one and five credits. The number of credits usually corresponds to the number of hours in class. Music or dance courses may meet less and be worth fewer credits, lab courses are often additional credits, but most lecture-style courses will be three or four. So, a schedule with 12-18 credits could only be between three and five classes. That’s certainly different than the seven or eight on your typical day in high school.
Utilizing Your Advisor
At this point, you might be overwhelmed, but you don’t have to make all these decisions alone! College students are assigned an academic advisor to help reach academic goals and graduation – similar to a high school counselor. They’ll make sure that you fulfill general education requirements, meet course prerequisites, and help you step by step toward your degree.
The first step for most incoming students – regardless of whether they’ve chosen a major – is to complete general education requirements. These courses are centered around providing an interdisciplinary, problem-focused educational experience and preparing students to think critically. General education courses also give students the opportunity to explore different interest areas, which can be extremely helpful for undecided students.
It’s highly recommended for students to meet with an academic advisor when planning courses; some colleges even require it. Your advisor will be an incredibly helpful tool to assist you with building your schedule. Regardless, your advisor will be an incredibly helpful tool when building your schedule!
Making Your Schedule
In addition to your reduced number of classes, you won’t attend every class, every day. Some classes are two days a week and others are three, but the odds of a course being four or five days a week is quite small. The frequency of classes gives you some added flexibility when making your schedule.
When you register for classes, you’ll be able to see what days of the week and at what times your desired classes are offered. Often, there are multiple combinations to choose from. So, if you’re looking to have room in your schedule for an afternoon nap, build it in! Need to work at 3 p.m.? Keep your classes in the morning on those days. Hate waking up early and know you can concentrate better later in the morning? Start your day at 9 or 10 a.m. You have some extra control!
The added flexibility that a college schedule gives to you also includes different learning modes. While most courses are delivered in-person, other options may be available! Some common class modalities include online (completely virtual), hybrid (in-person instruction with added virtual resources or assignments), and blended (mostly online with occasional in-person portions).
Different modes work for different people so choose what’s best for you. If you already know how you learn best, your assigned academic advisor can help you sort through the class offerings and register you in that modality when possible. If you’re unsure of which modality you’d like to try, advisors can give you an idea of what each course entails and what modality students utilize most often for that course.
As you develop your learning style, you can continue to tailor your schedule and course modes to your liking. You may not be able to take every class in your preferred mode, but your advisor can help you decide the next best option.
Getting Your Work Done
With all the fun to be had, don’t lose sight of your studies. There aren’t any scheduled study halls or work periods built in for you, so you’ll need to make time on your own. A good rule of thumb is to estimate two hours of studying per credit, per week. So, if you’re taking 12 credits during the semester, you’ll want to build in 24 hours of studying per week.
Depending on jobs, extracurricular activities, and campus involvement, students’ study patterns can be very different. Some will study a couple hours each night, and others will do all their work on the weekend. Find the pattern that’s best for you, and be consistent.
It’s also helpful to figure out where you study best – whether it’s the library, your residence hall, or somewhere else. Some students prefer to study alone in a quiet environment. Others prefer studying with classmates or working with tutors on campus. And there’s always the option to turn to your professor for additional support or clarification. Use all your academic resources!
Spending Your Free Time
College is more than studying. After you close the books, you’ll have some extra time. Now what? Students spend their days several different ways, but many will choose to pick up a part-time job or join a student organization – or both! Campuses are filled with student employment opportunities but check the surrounding community too. You never know – you might just find a job or internship in your area of study.
Joining a student organization can be another way to get experience in your future field or just a great way to meet new friends! Your college of choice could have many types of student organizations: professional development groups, hobby-based, cultural, and community service-oriented. Even if you don’t join all the clubs, attend the events that your campus has to offer – you could learn something new or discover a new interest!
As you work toward graduation, the college lifestyle will become more and more familiar. You’ll figure out what classes you’re interested in, what course mode works best for you, and how to manage your time, but you can lay the foundation now. Build good study habits and begin to explore your interests – college will be here in no time.