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Life Skills You'll Need in College That High School Didn't Teach You

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Making the transition from high school to college requires some serious modifications to your personal and study habits. You'll need to learn some new skills in order to handle the increased freedom and responsibility.

Life in College

To say that going to college is a major adjustment is a bit of an understatement. This period in a young student's life is full of exciting opportunities, novel situations, and new responsibilities. It can be a fun and memorable experience, but it's not all fun and games. You are attending an institution of higher learning, after all, and you can expect a rigorous workload.

Succeeding in college requires a whole new set of skills and talents. The lessons you've learned in high school will be useful, but there are some things that high school just can't teach you.

Time Management

Whereas most high school classes have students spending seven or eight hours per day, five days a week in the classroom, college schedules are a little more diverse. Most courses meet about three or four hours per week, meaning that you will most likely be spending a maximum of 15 hours per week in the classroom.

staying organized

At first glance, this may seem wonderful; it's almost a third of your high school workload! Unfortunately, the amount of work in college does not change; it simply gives you the freedom to decide how you want to manage it. Though you may not be spending as much time in the classroom, you'll still be hard at work. A good formula to use is that for every hour in the classroom, you should anticipate two or three hours of work outside the class. Assuming you have 12 hours of classes, that means you can anticipate roughly 30 hours a week of writing essays, completing readings, and studying for exams.

The burden of managing this heavy workload falls on you, and the freedom to make your own schedule cuts both ways. Your parents won't be there to tell you to turn the TV off, and they won't be there to wake you up because you've overslept. With so little time in the classroom, you are free to do whatever you want, but you also must realize that you assume the responsibility and must face the consequences.

Learn to Swallow Your Pride

Continuing this theme, the days of the parent-teacher conference are over as soon as you move into your dorm. There's no warning phone call or mandatory meeting if your grades are slipping; your professors have more important things to do than nag you, and they will be perfectly content to let you fail.

Of course, the flip side of this coin is that if you make an effort to do well, professors will certainly respond in kind. All professors have office hours, in which you can meet with them and discuss any problems you may be having. Especially kind professors may be willing to give you a slight extension on an assignment or proofread the rough draft of an essay.

office hours

In addition to the services offered by professors, there's also the academic support that your school provides, such as skill-building workshops and the peer tutoring system found at College of the Holy Cross.

The only way to access these benefits, however, is to ask. Do not make the mistake of being too proud. Everyone faces adversity and a major part of college is learning that there's absolutely no shame in admitting that you need a little (or a lot of) help. Your teachers and institution offer complimentary assistance, and it is foolish to ignore these services.

Money Management

This item will vary depending on your high school experience. Some students work part-time jobs in high school and are well-versed in the art of finance, while others have never held a job and are complete novices when they arrive at college.

Whether you're one of these students or fall somewhere in between, you'll need to have good money management skills, as college campuses are riddled with potential temptations. From bake sales to clothing to late-night drink specials at the local bar, there's always something to spend your money on, and you won't have your parents around to veto any unwise impulse purchases.

counting pennies

Furthermore, there are always your tuition bills and student loans to consider, which only increase the need to conserve your money. The occasional splurge is perfectly acceptable and is a good way to relieve some stress, but make sure you handle your finances or you may find yourself left with nothing.

Don't Forget the Fundamentals

In addition to the more 'important' skills like managing your time and staying organized, there's also a few more basic needs that many college students don't have, things like doing laundry and washing dishes. While these skills don't necessarily relate to your academic performance, they are essential in keeping you healthy.

Many students grow up in a home where parents take care of laundry, but your mom won't be around to give you clean shirts every week once you're in college. You'll also be responsible for going to bed at a reasonable hour, eating a well-balanced diet, and practicing other forms of essential hygiene.

There are also a number of housekeeping techniques that you'll need to learn in order to keep your dorm room habitable. Chores like vacuuming and taking out the trash are easy to look past when you're living in a sizable house, but when your living space is confined to a single room and it's littered with soda bottles and thick layers of dust, you can't ignore these issues as easily.

dirty dorm

College is primarily a time for challenging yourself mentally and developing professional talents, but it's also a time to learn the importance of basic housekeeping skills that will most assuredly serve you well in the real world.

By Bill Sands
August 2017
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