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The Untold Truth About the First Year of College

Written by K Fisher on December 15, 2021

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What is the so-called untold truth about the first year of college? Doesn’t everyone know that it’s not like the movies or television? Well, it’s a bit more about how many lectures will you attend in a single day? How many hours a day are you sitting in a classroom, study hall, and then studying some more? What is cramming for finals really like?

All of these questions will be answered and then some. What hasn’t really been discussed is the elements of education where students may wane away from certain study subjects because they find them boring or uninteresting. This is when students start to figure out their major if they hadn’t had an idea before. If a student can test out of these classes, this means they have proficiency in those subjects and do not need to take any classes.

First Things First… Finals

Who has not seen at least one episode on t.v. where a bunch of college kids are cramming for their finals, right? Well, that’s the one thing they are not wrong. The truth is that college finals last for a rough 3-4 hours per class. That means if a student has 4 classes in a day, that’s a total of 12-14 hours in one day of taking tests. That’s why everyone makes a huge deal about finals.

This is how a lot of freshmen have the crash source introduction to what college is really like. Because it’s not just one day of finals, it’s a whole week depending on how many classes that student is taking at the time.

Studying for Finals Should Start When You Arrive

Each class taken throughout the year should have a subtle 1-hour study time set aside. Because college finals are nothing to laugh at, since students are being tested from literally the beginning of that subject until the last class taught. Which is a whole year worth of information.

If a student fails an exam or a test, that means they have to retake the class over. This also means this student does not graduate and will have to repeat the entire year over. That means a full year of tuition is lost and fees along with it.

College Freshmen Find Themselves More Busy

The first year of college is filled with a world of possibilities. Whether it’s the school of your dreams or a university you picked as second. Multiple reports remain the same, students find themselves even more busy with extracurricular activities than the academic schooling. This is because if the student has not opted out of testing for a class, then the first year of college is pretty much a repeat of the senior year in high school.

The Amount of Studying Is No Joke

Who said someone couldn’t study for 3 hours per day? That’s the typical minimum time frame freshmen students will use to study for their first year. While it’s information that may be repetitive depending on the classes they are taking or if they happened to have skipped a grade in high school, studying is crucial.

Taking 6 courses for the first time will show a huge amount of work and that’s a lot for a new kid in college. If a student finds themselves not able to handle the work load, they need to drop a course, otherwise their GPA and grades in general will take a nose dive.

Attendance is Important

Students should not take this as the time to be late for classes. Some professors will shut their door and lock it if a presentation of lecture is happening that day. Or simply the student will be seen as nonconstructive about their academic education. A few studies from 2018 showed that when students started arriving late to class, their grades dip about half a letter grade or more.

What Classes to Take for the First Year

Typically, classes will look like this:

  • Mathematics (Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 and Algebra 2)
  • English (British and American literature)
  • Science (Advanced Placement)
  • History (U.S. and World History)
  • Foreign Language (Spanish, French, Korean, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and more are available to take)
  • Arts (Painting, drawing, media, sculpting, design, text tile, studio)
  • Electives (Picking a study of the student’s choice)

But wait, what is it that no one tells first year students about electives? No matter what, only take electives after you’ve taken the required courses. This always so much room to explore more electives afterward.

Students should create an Academic Plan where it should line up like this:

  • General Education Requirements
  • General Education Electives
  • Area of Study Requirements
  • Area of Study Electives
  • Free Electives
  • Other Courses

It all comes down to understanding which credit goes where, because something like math would fall in the first two tiers. While anything outside of the required realm of classes would fall in the last few tiers presented.

Take Classes to Build Up That Passionate Endeavour

If a student is attracted to an art class like mixed media, they should also think about taking various art classes as well. Because taking surrounding classes can up build up the passionate determination a person has for one subject, which equals to a better learning experience. Also consider electives that will build or increase a specific skill set. For example, if you are pursuing a business degree, well doesn’t public speaking go hand in hand with business?

This is how a freshmen college student will need to think for the long run of their higher education career.

Free Electives

Free electives are courses that fall outside of the “required” courses and area of study, or are not needed under any other section of your academic evaluation. Any credits that are not required for the intended degree program will apply as free electives.

Consult Academic Advisors

It’s hard to believe that a lot of college freshmen don’t visit their academic advisor when it comes to picking free electives. When in reality that academic advisor has been down the same path, where they either chose the wrong elective and didn’t like the class or succeeded and enjoyed the class. Ask for their advice and see how they can steer a student in a different direction that just happens to be the better field study class.

Academic advisors are there for the student population for really everything. That’s also why colleges of former students that are R.A.’s that live on one floor with a certain number of students. To aid their college experience and help with any student who may be facing some challenging coursework.

Types of Classes That are Optional

  • Core course – is a course required by the picked college, and every student must take it in order to obtain a degree. This is also referred to as the general education course. Collectively, core courses are part of a core curriculum. Core courses are always essential to an academic degree, but they are not necessarily foundational to a degree major.
  • Major required course – this essential course to directed towards a student’s specific field of study. For example, as business student you would probably have to take classes like business management or introduction to business. The academic adviser can help any student to learn which courses within their selected major is required.
  • Elective – student will choose electives from a number of optional subjects. Elective courses tend to be more specialized than required courses. They may also have fewer students than required courses.

Only electives are considered optional class course choices. Although students will pick their field study and ultimately choose whether or not to attend certain required classes, they should not be looked at as optional. Instead, the general education courses should be seen as required classes.

Deemed the Best College Electives

  • Public Speaking
  • Fitness
  • Creative writing
  • Art history
  • Business Management
  • Marketing
  • Psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Physical education
  • Foreign language

Low-stress Electives that All Students Should Take

  • Improv
  • Music
  • Pottery
  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Yoga
  • Cinema studies
  • Anthropology
  • Photography
  • Graphic design
  • Interior design
  • Sign language

These classes can help students to feel a lower stress levels by taking a class they enjoy rather than feeling like it’s a required course.

Taking More Classes Can Excell a Student’s GPA

This is true, and if that student can deal well with a bunch of classes, then why not, right? The more classes a student takes the great risk they employ that maybe their grades will start to fall. If not, this means they can actually increase their overall GPA in college.

If a student does this, then more times than not, the college representatives take notice of this student and they could be awarded a merit award.

Why Do Freshmen Take Business Classes the First Year

How else will freshmen make a little extra money on the side without having a full-time job? It has been figured out that a lot of first year freshmen take business classes so they can start up their own mini business. A few students have started Etsy pages, YouTube pages, and influencer accounts to pay for a bit of the extra cost that comes along with being in college.

This is where Marketing and Business courses go hand in hand. They complement each other while being able to help the other out. If a student is taking marketing, then, they are better able to learn about creating brands and sustaining them. Then with business classes a student can be taught how to not only run that business but see through to the personal finance of the situation.

In all respect, this is such a clever way of utilizing time and money while a college freshman on a budget.

But What Is the Best Way to Prepare for the First Year of College?

  The biggest point to remember is to read as much as possible. Even though first year students may be forced to read the latest textbook assigned to them for a certain class… the fact is, the more someone reads the easier it becomes for them to take in the information given to them. If a student suffers from ADHD or Dyslexia, they should contact the student advisor because now colleges have learning programs to breakdown everything.

Time Management Apps will be a student’s gift to their first year. Have all of your classes set to a certain time for either 15 minutes before that class starts or for when you choose to arrive to that class. Time management will take the number one spot for all first-year students.

The first-year job, weigh out the possible options and real identify what the time schedule per week looks like. The job can only be part-time and be as flexible as possible. Normally, college campus’ will have a bulletin board that has possible short-term job offers to help out some freshmen who are paying for college out of their pocket.

Academics comes first. Period. Academics will take up a lot of a students first year, second year and so on. This way students should pick if they wish to continue with the college or university, they are currently at… or if they may want to transfer after their sophomore year. Some people opt to transfer to a different university after their academic record has massively improved and now their dream college very well may accept them.

Picking a Major

It goes to be said that students should wait until they are in college to pick a direct concrete major. This way the student will know what classes a readily available for them to take in the first year. Start researching what major would suit the student best. Asking for assistance from family, friends, or the student advisor will help with making a permanent decision. No matter what though, picking a major should not be a decision made overnight, take the time to see what universities have the upper hand and courses available.

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