In one respect, yes - college is indeed harder than high school: suddenly, you are on your own. No one is holding your hand, making sure that you show up for class and that you complete all your homework. Your teacher may care that you’re not taking her class seriously and slacking off, but there’s only so much she’s going to do about it – you’re an adult now, and this is your future, and it is therefore your responsibility to make it a good one. So, possibly for the first time ever, you need to find a way to self-motivate. You need to teach yourself good time management skills. You need to… grow up. And that isn’t easy to do. Especially for those of us who still find fart jokes hilarious. (Guilty.)
Some students do have a harder time in college for this reason, but others thrive on their newly acquired sense of independence. They take their lives into their own hands, going diligently about their studies because it will prepare them for a better life, not just for some grade, or to get their parents off their back. If you can make this transition, this adjustment in mindset from “learning for your teachers” to “learning for yourself,” college really doesn’t have to be that hard at all. It’s amazing how easy it is to learn when that’s really what you want to be doing.
On paper, college is an absolute breeze. In high school, your first class is at 7:30, you put in 7 hours of class each day, 35 by week’s end. In college, depending on your schedule, you may not have to get up some days until 10 or 11 (and you are almost certainly going to take advantage of that fact), and on other days you may not have class at all. You can sleep 36 hours straight if you so choose. You may only have 12-15 hours of total class time in a week. Granted, you will be assigned essays and projects much more elaborate than those you were assigned in high school, so more of your “free time” will be taken up by your coursework, but the fact is that most of your time is your own. Hopefully you will use (at least most of) it wisely.
Your teachers will likely treat you more like a peer than an underling. You will be allowed much more frank, honest discussion than ever before. It is an amazing forum, not only for learning, but for doing some thinking of your own. Sounds good, right? It is. But it’s not all peaches and cream.
The thing that scares many prospective students about college is the pressure of the heightened stakes. And well it should. In high school, you were working toward being accepted at a great school – a big deal, no doubt. But in college you will be working toward the rest of your life. How much money will you make? What will you spend practically all of your days doing? Geographically, where are you likely to wind up living based on your chosen profession? Those are some big, big questions, and the level of success you achieve in college - while it does not definitively determine how successful you will be out in the real world – does bear some relation to the thereafter. Each year of college is a microcosm of that pressure. For most courses, you will take a final exam that is worth half of your overall grade. There will be certain classes that you will absolutely need to pass, preferably with flying colors, in order to graduate in your intended major. Essays are no longer 2-3 paragraphs – they are now 20-30 pages, and they had better be well-constructed, well-researched and basically brilliant in every way. That’s pressure.
It is exactly that pressure that instills such fear in students who are about to embark on their great journey, but if you make the conscious decision to learn for yourself, the road will be much easier, and a lot of that pressure will be lifted from your shoulders. We promise you that you won’t drown in college as long as you toss a life preserver out onto the water before jumping in.