How to Prepare for a College Class


You know by now that college is going to be a major step up from high school. Maybe you’ve already sat in on a college class!

But besides it being generally more challenging, what are the real differences between a high school and college class?

I’m glad you asked!

The main difference I’ve noticed is the amount of preparation you’re expected to do before each class meeting. Before I came to college, when we were assigned to read the next chapter of a textbook, no one usually did because we knew we’d be covering that material the next day in class, so it wasn’t really necessary.

In college, it really is necessary. While you’ll cover the material in the textbook or novel you’re working with in class, your professor is not going to go over a summary of the reading. They plan the class assuming that you’ve already read it, so they can skip the basic summary. So always always always do your assigned reading!

I’ve also appreciated that classes here are much more discussion-based than my classes were in middle school or high school. You’re expected to have something to contribute to the conversation.

But how do you do that?

On the first day of class, the professor who I’d ask to be my academic advisor by the end of the semester, Dr. Scott Whiddon told us to always come to class with one good question and one good comment. Years later, and I still work off of that advice as I prepare for class every day. I look for something in the reading I have a question about — whether it’s more of an open-ended question to get a conversation going, or something I am confused on that I want the professor to clarify. I also look for something I particularly liked or didn’t like in the reading. Maybe there was a quote I thought made a great point, or there was an argument I didn’t agree with. Those are the kinds of things you want to bring in with you to class. It’s what your professor’s expecting — so they’ll appreciate when you’re ready to contribute right at the beginning of class.

And since I’ve been talking about reading, here’s another tip. Don’t be afraid to write in your books! Even if you’re renting a textbook from the bookstore or Amazon, you’re allowed to highlight and make notes. Or buy a lot of Post-Its and write your notes that way. You don’t want to forget that piece of the reading you wanted to talk about. Plus, these notes will make studying and paper-writing feel much less stressful.

Yes, college classes will be harder. But do your homework, listen to your professors, and come in ready to contribute, and you’ll be off to a great start!