New college freshmen will face many difficult transitions among academics, social life and time management. "The coursework may be the biggest change. Students aren't used to being handed a syllabus with coursework for the entire year," said Jennifer Jarvis, director of student life at Queens College."They are also going from a class of peers they know for almost four years to going onto a college campus where they may not have any formed relationships. It's a big adjustment."And LaGuardia Community College prepares those who need help even before their first semester begins, according to Peter Jordan, vice president for enrollment management and student development."We have a quick-start program. It's a class with developmental coursework to prepare students for what they can expect," Jordan said. "The class specializes in reading, math and writing. It's a free tool that can really give students a head start to know how they'll need to adjust."And with all of these changes comes responsibility, Jarvis said."There's a lot of independence during this change and some people have trouble adjusting to that," she said, adding that for many students the key is knowing when to ask for help and being willing to seek it out.Time management is one area in which students must exert more effort, Jordan said."A big change is going to be in the way students must discipline themselves with regards to studying," he said. Eric Kearns, a student at Queens College, said the course load hit him hard freshman year."I wasn't expecting to have three papers, a test and homework all ready for one day," he said. "It's not like in high school when teachers often can plan around each other. Professors aren't required to take your other classes or life into account."Kearns, now a junior, said he has come far since his freshman year and thinks of his first semester as a tough lesson but one he had to learn."I unfortunately wasn't prepared for what was ahead of me," Kearns said. "I had a job, my own apartment and all of the freedom in the world, or so I thought. I guess I forgot about all the time I was supposed to give to studying. My grades would show that in an instant."Jarvis said it is all too common for students not to realize how jobs can interfere with their schoolwork."Many of them have set routines they follow based on jobs they may have. The actual exercise of studying requires that you spend time outside of the classroom as well as within on whatever material is required," Jarvis said. "They really have to try and keep on top of their work.""The hardest thing, if you ask me, is figuring out how to balance your social life, with giving time to your studies. Expect to make sacrifices, especially during midterms and finals, but even during regular weeks," Kearns said. "If I haven't touched my books, I'm not going out. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't have a life, but I'll always be able to go to bars. If I fail my classes, there won't be a job waiting. So that's my priority."Kearns said he normally spends three hours a night on his work, but that's only homework."With tests, I need to slot out time and actually make a schedule, a to-do list, even," he said. "I separate myself from any distractions. Everyone has to find their own way to study. Mine is at the library in a corner by myself."In addition to coursework, both Jarvis and Jordan agree the biggest change may be the different surroundings in which students find themselves and learning to adjust in that new environment, including where buildings are and where to find certain resources."Attending orientation programs is really the best tool," Jarvis said. "It sounds simple enough, but it gives you an introduction to where you will be spending the next years of your life."While many students connect college with "being on their own," Jordan said while students must learn how to do certain things themselves, they must also understand there are tools to help them."One adjustment is learning when and how to ask for help when it is very critical," Jordan said. "You are spending a lot of money to get an education, and you get that education by asking for help and asking for answers to the questions you don't yet have the answers for."Kearns urged students to take advantage of the office hours professors are required to hold."It's a lot easier to go over material you don't understand one-on-one with the professor," he said. "It's like a one-on-one study session with the person making your test and your grade. Don't be afraid to tell your teacher you don't understand. Either you look like an idiot one-on-one during office hours or in front of your parents when you get a D as your grade." In addition to the traditional services of academic counseling, advising and student affairs offices, LaGuardia offers services targeted to students who he says often have a hard time adjusting."For those parents who have kids, we have an early childhood learning center," Jordan said. "If the parents qualify, for a nominal fee their kids can be in day care here so that they can spend time in the classroom without having to worry about who's taking care of their kids."Both Jordan and Jarvis agree that there are many transitions new students will be exposed to, but with the right tools and attitude, students will succeed."There's lots of help that's available for students," Jordan said. "We know the transition can be rough and sneak up on you at times, but that's what we're here for. It's our job to make sure students can have that smooth adjustment."Reach editorial intern Mallory Simon by e-mail at news@times
©2004 Community News Group
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