Four Things Nobody Told You About College

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Published on April 22, 2016

The transition from high school to college and the real world is a scary time in any person’s life. There are few things that school and other authority figures will teach you about the real world and higher education, but many are left stumbling in the dark.

Photo by Tom Williams  for Roll Call Photos Inc.  Used by permission of Brittanica Imagequest.

Photo by Tom Williams for Roll Call Photos Inc. Used by permission of Brittanica Imagequest.

Luckily, for those still fumbling for the light switch, here are some things you’ll want to know- from the experts and people who learned the hard way and wish to pass on their knowledge to those in need.

  1. Focus on your studies


All of us are going to have points in this period of our lives where we question if we really want or need to attend college. The thing is: college is like the net that catches you when you lose your footing and fall off the treacherous tightrope that is life.

If something goes wrong, you have the skills you’ve learned or the degree you’ve earned to fall back on.

Karen McPartland, a 54-year-old mother of two, attended college for a brief time after high school, but dropped out eventually due to (among other things) not feeling like college was “her thing.”

In retrospect, she advises pursuing an education in spite of the mental hang ups one may face. “Getting an education is important,” McPartland says. “It’s a good springboard for getting where you need to go in life.”

Her husband, Chris, dropped out of high school at a time when nobody would bat an eye. He had a job of his own, an aspiration to become a mechanic, and a lack of a support system. At the time, he felt like continuing school wasn’t necessary.

He eventually was able to get his G.E.D., but he still voices that he wish things had been slightly different in that regard. “School is something best to do when you are young and life is more flexible,” he recommends. “When you have a home, a job, and all that- it’s a lot more difficult to get an education.”

At this point in your life, you’re still a student and still learning. It’s best to take time to stick with college and grow while you still have all that room to grow and explore.

  1.  Think (and learn) outside of the box

College is, as you may have already guessed, a great deal different from high school. Your first order of business, if you haven’t done so already, is to stop thinking about school in high school terms.

As Van Hendrickson, one of English professors here at HCC, puts it:  in college you need to “Think like a professor, not like a student. That’s the main difference.”

Whereas public school didn’t teach you everything you really needed to know outside of the classroom, don’t expect college to teach you everything in the classroom.

College is amazing, but no one is a miracle worker.

“What they don’t teach you is the business aspect of things,” says Noel Sepulveda, an instructor of Nutrition here at HCC. “They’ll teach you how to be a doctor and give you your degree, but they don’t tell you how to open up your own practice.”

If you have specific subject you’re trying to pursue, one way to gain knowledge outside of the classroom is an internship.

Sepulveda also emphasizes that, “Internships help you adjust to the work environment. The not only look better on your portfolio, but they help teach you things that you might not learn about that type of work in the classroom.”

If you have a specific degree you’re striving towards, make sure to talk to your professors or counselors about any chances for interning or opportunities to gain experience outside of the HCC campus.

  1. Try to have some kind of plan

Now not everyone has everything figured out, but it’s best to have some sort of guideline of what you plan to take each semester and how it ultimately ties into what you want to get out of HCC and what you’re trying to accomplish.

As Marilyn Wehr, a Student Development Counselor, says, “You need to come in with a proposed game plan of what you think you need to take.”

Wehr also creates a good analogy to help students who might be stuck with trying to make a plan: “Think of the classes you take as bricks. You can just stack them or you can build a foundation.”

If you have an idea of what you want to do in the future, try out any class that relates to that subject.

Who knows? You might just learn something new about both that subject and yourself. If you’re like me and you’re currently aiming for General Studies because you don’t have a clear path yet, don’t despair!

Just try out anything that sounds interesting to you and try and get your feet in the water. Make sure to also talk to an academic advisor if you have any questions or concerns.

  1. Know your resources and stay on top of them.

HCC is full of people you can talk to, computers and books to use, and things to do. It’s always the best option to take note of what is available to to you, make sure you know how to use it, and access it when the need arises.

Wehr emphasizes to all students that an essential piece of advice about how to succeed here at HCC is to, “Be sure to get to know the counselors, so you know exactly who to go in regards to a certain situation you have, a problem you need solving, or any questions you may have.”

Wehr also emphasizes the importance of looking at the HCC catalogue first and foremost. If you have any questions regarding your classes or school policies you can check that to see if it is answered there.

While it’s always good to ask the advisors for help should you need it keep in mind that as a college student you hold a certain level of responsibility to do things on your own.

As Wehr puts it, “You can’t just put everything on the staff and faculty. You need to do some yourself too.”

In a sense, if you just leave everything to the staff and never really think or do any for yourself and the benefit of your education, you’re just like that one person in a group assignment who doesn’t do their part and makes everyone else pick up the slack for them. And let’s face it- nobody likes that guy.

While transitioning from high school to college is a scary process that just continues enforce the  stark difference between childhood and adulthood, it doesn’t have to be as scary with the right set of advice and people to guide you.

No one is truly alone in this and if you take this advice as your first steps into succeeding in college, you’re well on your way to being able to grab life by the horns and go far in the world. Just remember, with enough confidence and a little help from the people around you, anything is possible- all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.