Switching from the meticulously planned periods of high school to a lax university schedule can be a difficult transition for many students new to college.
Matt Fournier, a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point freshman, described his classes as noticeably “more difficult than high school.”
“I do a lot more studying. Most of my classes are somewhat interesting, but it’s only gen ed classes, so they get boring too,” Fournier said.
Trevin Oertel, also a freshman, agreed with Fournier, saying his classes were “kind of hard, but a lot more interesting than high school.”
“I take a lot of notes, but only study about three to five hours a week, if that,” Oertel said. “Usually I can’t make myself do it.”
Aside from a heavier workload, both of these underclassmen also identified a number of other hindrances that many students typically face their freshman year.
For Fournier, time management had never been an issue, but over the past few months it has become one due to a crammed schedule.
“The hardest part is managing the amount of time it takes for studying around all the other things I like to do. I usually take two hours a day to lift, and that cuts into study time,” Fournier said.
Likewise, at times, Oertel admits he has trouble staying focused.
“Every now and then I’ll start to get distracted. I mean, you can only pay attention to how ADP is involved in biology or whatever for so long before you start thinking about how hungry you are or that you have to pee really bad,” Oertel said.
Brittany Schreiber, a fifth year senior who plans on graduating later this year, recalled the difficulties of transitioning from high school to college, and believed that the ability to adjust quickly and accept new academic responsibilities was necessary for success.
“As a freshman, you come out of high school assuming college is going to be really hard, but it’s really not, especially if you’re taking all generals your freshman year. So you kind of slack off, and you learn that slacking off is okay, and I think it’s kind of difficult to be like ‘hey, I really need to buckle down and work on stuff,’” Schreiber said. “To get over that, I think, shows quite a bit of maturity in a person, and I think that’s pretty parallel to the workload you’re given.”
Like Schreiber, Wade Mahon, a UWSP professor who teaches both upper and lower level courses, also noted a distinct difference between the two types of students. He describes the underclassmen, especially first semester freshman, as “tentative.”
“They oftentimes seem kind of intimidated by the whole university thing. They’re a lot more quiet, and a lot less eager to talk,” Mahon said. “They’re navigating the difference between what they were taught in high school and what they’re being taught in college, which may be different, or may be going in a different direction, and they need to make sense of those changes.”
Jeff Snowbarger, an assistant professor, shared a similar observation.
“The younger students in the classroom act a bit more reserved. Older students have developed a sense of what they want out of their classes and out of life, and where these classes sort of fit into those life goals, and younger students seem to have maybe not yet grasped those goals, which is okay—that’s what school is for,” Snowbarger said.