Dear Mom, College is So Hard!

Students around the country are now settling in for their first week at college. Clothes are neatly organized into drawers smaller than they have ever seen before. Many deep conversations with complete strangers who will become best friends have taken place. Legs, aching from multiple walked across campus between classes, dorms, and administrative offices, cry out in pain. Teachers have handed out several hundred pages of assigned reading and have announced quiz and test dates, expectations for assignments, and criteria for grades. Students have awakened in a New World as similar to high school as a hurricane is to a rainstorm. “What did I get myself in for?” Students across America are saying to themselves. “I thought college was going to be easy.” 

But did you really think that college was going to be easy? Did you really think this was going to be another four years of high school? And for those of you who thought that high school was difficult, welcome to a new world! Single-chapter reading assignments have been replaced with whole-book reading assignments. Two-page papers have been replaced by ten-page papers. Four minutes to get to a class down the hall has been replaced by 15-minute walks across campus. And, when the rain, wind, snow, and cold weather come, you’ll still be expected to arrive on time, ready to listen, to take notes, and to absorb more information than you ever thought possible. 

This is college. Classes are taught by subject-matter experts, lifelong professional educators, and those who have succeeded in industries related to their subjects. Expectations are high. Further, there is no one looking over your shoulder. You are on your own. Your mom and dad are not there to push you. You are expected to get reading assignments done on time, to prepare for tests despite numerous distractions that exist across the campus, and to organize your time so that it is possible to eat and sleep between study sessions. 

To survive and flourish in college, you have to learn how to master your time, to understand your study cycles (when you study best, and when studying is futile), your sleep cycles, your biorhythms, and your motivation. You have to be willing to ask for help, which is readily available for those who seek assistance. Your teachers are available, but only if you ask them. You have to organize study groups, and find appropriate places to study.

Because most of your time is spent reading and writing, you might consider getting some additional instruction in both of these skills. Yes, you can absolutely become a faster and better reader! While there are whole programs written about this subject, you can try a technique called multi-word reading, where you train your eyes to stop fewer times on the line of text. If you can train your eyes to see two words at a time, you can cut your reading speed in half! That is because reading time is a function of eye mechanics rather than comprehension. Your brain is fully capable of processing information much faster than your eyes can move across a line and down a page.  

You can learn how to organize your writing assignments so that they are far more manageable. You can set a time limit for your introduction, for your main points, and for your conclusions. In some cases, it is better to write your main points prior to writing your introduction and conclusion, simply because you may not know how to introduce and conclude an essay until you have written the body of the writing assignment. Later, you can add elements of style that make your writing sound better. Some of these elements include: alliteration, personification, oxymoron, and repetition. You can choose words that sound good together, rather than those that just fit your meaning. Yes, good writing is like music. Not only is it sensible it sounds great as well. 

So, you thought college was going to be easy? Now you know differently. For those of you who have not yet started college, heed this advice: fine-tune your reading and writing skills now. Further, expect that college will be challenging and be ready to meet the challenge. For those of you who are already in college, in next week’s article, I will provide details on advanced reading skills and writing skills that cannot only help you survive, but thrive, in your new alien environment!

Neil Chyten
NC Global Education Founder
College/Private School Admission Counselor
Member NACAC

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