College Crash Course: 5 Things Every Incoming Freshman Should Know Before Setting Foot on Campus

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Atlanta Black Star has launched a weeklong Back to School series to help parents and students prepare for the milestones in their educational journey. Join the conversation and share your own tips on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. See here our previous tips on high school here, middle school here and elementary tips here.

The pomp and circumstance of high school graduation is enough to make anyone cry — but so is entering college overwhelmed and underprepared. The shift from small classes led by teachers to guide you along the way to a lecture hall of 200 or more students where the professor might never learn your name is a reality of higher ed to which some might find difficult to adapt.

College is essentially where the hand-holding ends and the independence of young adulthood begins. Nicoly Y. Myles, director of academic support at Life University in Marietta, Georgia, shared with Atlanta Black Star the top five things she believes every incoming freshman should know before setting foot on campus.

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Class attendance is important, even when you think it isn’t
Whether it’s a class of 20 students or 200 students, Myles said students should make it a priority to attend class every day. This is especially important if the professor has a mandatory attendance policy.

Even if they don’t, you should still go, she says.

“Definitely go, because you never know what’s going to be on that test,” Myles added. “I find that a lot of students kind of think, ‘Oh, that’s great’ ” that attendance isn’t mandatory.

Get to know your professors, and make sure they know you too
Myles says that taking advantage of professors’ office hours is the key not only to your classroom success, but also building a professional relationship outside the classroom. So don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation or ask  for help if you need it.

“We [professors] have office hours for a reason,” she says. “We want to get to know our students. Something you might not understand in the classroom you might need one-on-one help to grasp it. And I also tell students to look at the long run, because once a professor gets to know you better [they can help you with letters of recommendation and such.]”

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Get involved in your campus community
Having a life outside of the classroom is something Myles says she stresses to her current and former students. She also emphasized the importance of having something to look forward to after a long day of learning.

“We find that a lot of students end up leaving a university or college because they don’t connect with it, because they’re not going out and finding the clubs, the friends, the intramurals [sports],” Myles told ABS. “So I tell them to make sure get involved, to be a well-rounded college student.”

Critical thinking skills are key; memorizing the material isn’t enough
Memorizing the subject matter in your lower-level and general education courses may have helped you pass the test, but critical thinking skills are a definite must in advanced major courses, Myles says.

“[Students] have to understand that it’s more than just memorizing the material,” she added. “Once you get to your advanced-level classes, the instructor is going … to want you to analyze and apply the concept, and organize the material. A lot of students don’t realize that.”

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As a student, you’re responsible for teaching yourself
Unlike high school, college professors won’t feed you everything you need to know. So it’s up to students to do that outside learning on their own.

“You have to teach yourself,” Myles said. “The only thing the professor will do is re-emphasize what he/she believes you should know, that might be on the test. So even if they don’t mention it in class, you’re still responsible for that learning outside of class.”

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