Transition Chat: Academics
Updated: Apr 9
For most students, their preparation in high school has served them well as they move on to college. Some things will be familiar while others will be less so. Some coursework will be far more demanding than what was previously experienced, and some will be consistent with what was experienced in high school. Also, keep in mind that while some of the specifics from the questions provided below cannot be specifically answered until you know where you are going to university, many of them can and should be explored even before you make that final choice. In fact, many of these questions can and will help in the making of the final decision. That all being said, it is highly valuable to put time in now into thinking about how best to make the academic transition to college:
How are you ensuring that you will make the adjustment to college academics successfully?
Here are some additional points to consider:
What is the process for registering for courses at your college? Is the process different for freshmen?
What are the required courses or general education requirements for your college? How will you strategize getting them completed?
What resources does your school provide for choosing courses? Is there someone you could call or email with questions?
Do you know when you will be asked to register for courses? Be sure to look into this process in advance.
Alumni Advice: At bigger schools, there is often a rush to register, so make sure you know what your top choices are and what 2 or 3 back-ups will be in case you don’t get in. Be prepared for this, especially during your freshman year!
Have you thought about what courses you will take? Can you find a curriculum guide? If so, take some time to look through and make note of which courses you would like to take.
Are there freshman-only courses available? Often colleges will offer seminars or writing-intensive courses that are only available for freshmen to aid in the transition to college.
Alumni Advice: Take the freshman-only courses! They give you great foundations in getting to know expectations at your school, and you get to meet even more classmates.
At the beginning of the semester, is there an add/drop period or a “shopping” period while students figure out which courses are ideal for them?
Alumni Advice: If you don’t get the courses that you really want, be sure to attend the courses anyway during add/drop on top of the other courses in which you are enrolled and try to speak with the professor. Often, but not always, they have some power to get you into the course!
Have you thought about where you will study? Some students try not to work in their rooms while others try to do all of their work there. If not in your room, do you know the other spaces available? Libraries? Student centers? Study rooms?
What resources are available to you to assist with your academic performance? Often colleges will have writing centers, math support, other academic help desks, as well as study skill support centers. Some schools offer peer tutoring resources as well.
Will you have an academic advisor? What is his or her role? And when will you be assigned?
What will you do if you experience academic difficulties? What supports are available?
Keep in mind that the life of a Third Culture Kid in high school can often be structured and rigid whereas the life of a college student is often quite unstructured and flexible. How will you take advantage of academic opportunities and work to provide yourself with structure and support?
This piece is part of a series on “transitioning to college.” We encourage graduating seniors and their parents or guardians to engage in discussion on a weekly basis about these topics. If you have feedback or additional ideas or perspectives to share, please let us know so we can incorporate your thoughts into revisions of our posts.