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Managing Your Course Load

By Steve Thompson

The academic aspects of adjusting to college can take some work, particularly for students who rarely hit the books in high school. New college students should expect to spend more time reviewing notes, reading textbooks, writing papers, and preparing for exams, but without the homework load to help guide them through the process.

Learn Note-Taking Skills

Perhaps the most important and valuable lesson you can learn while adjusting to college is how to take good notes. Listen to what your professor says, and write down anything he or she stresses or repeats. Develop your own shorthand so you can keep up with the lectures, and get to know other students in your classes so you can trade and compare notes.

Some students prefer using notebook paper and pens while adjusting to college, while others find it easier to manage the course load with a laptop computer. Whatever your choice, remember that lectures can be even more important than textbooks for studying purposes.

Participate in Class

You'll absorb more information if you raise your hand every once in a while and participate in class discussions. College classes are slightly more liberal than high school classes in terms of how students and teachers interact. You might have classes in which round-table discussions are the norm.

If you have questions after a lecture or need clarification, talk to your classmates to get their perspectives. Professors are also more reachable now than previously; many college teachers will share their e-mail addresses with their students for questions, and most have office hours for meeting with students.

Take Advantage of Learning Labs and Tutoring Centers

You might feel alone as you start adjusting to college, but nearly all universities have resources for struggling students. If you find that your course load is too tough to handle, find out if learning labs are available at the library or in another section of campus. There might also be a tutoring program where professors, graduate students, and others donate their time to help other students catch up.

Find an Ideal Location

Adjusting to college means navigating the treacherous waters of academia while learning to live in a high-energy environment. You might find that your dorm room is the worst place to study because your roommates are loud or there's too much activity. Consider the library, a coffee shop, the campus grounds, or another nearby location where you can easily concentrate and steer clear of distractions.

Put Course Work First

Part of adjusting to college is learning to balance your time and your responsibilities. This means going to class, finding time to study, and saying "no" to social engagements that might interfere with your course load. If you make academics a priority, you'll spend less time worrying about whether you'll pass your classes.

Talk About It

You might have bitten off more than you can chew. Or perhaps your schedule is too concentrated. Whatever the case, most colleges assign each student an academic advisor who can make recommendations and resolve scheduling conflicts. Make a point to visit him or her at least once per semester so you can iron out the kinks of college life.


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