4 Evolution To College: Becoming A College Student

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.
~Flora Whittemore

When you envision yourself as a college student, what do you see? What will your daily life be like?

Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make A Better World (TED Talk)

Video: https://youtu.be/dE1DuBesGYM

After watching the Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk, think about the following questions:

  • What are gamers good at?
  • What is the importance of “10,000” hours?
  • Are gamers goal oriented?
  • How do gamers feel about tests and being measured?
  • What happens when a gamer makes a mistake?
  • How do gamers handle frustration?
  • How do gamers feel about change?
  • Can the skills of a gamer be applicable to the skills a college student will need?

College is constant change. Not only in terms of studying and learning new material, but also in how it is structured. If the college is on the quarter system, such as Chemeketa, a student’s classes, teachers, and the hours a student needs to be on campus will change every 11-12 weeks – 4 times a year. Semesters divide an academic year into thirds and may have short intensive sessions in between the main semesters. Semester consist of fall and spring semesters with many students taking summer off. Financial aid packages or award letters at semester schools only cover fall and spring semester. People sometimes use the words quarters and semesters as if they are synonyms because both divide a school year yet they represent different units of time.

Regardless of which system your institution uses, dividing the academic year provides a great opportunity for varied learning and developing specialties in certain fields, however, these units of time imply constantly new faces in classes, unknown expectations from new teachers, and juggling a new schedule. It means you may have to coordinate new routes to travel on campus as you make your way through the different buildings if your college has a large campus. Additionally, if a student is working alongside with going to college, it may mean negotiating new work hours with a boss or coworkers. All of these changes can feel like chaos that comes in like a tidal wave since every term can feel like starting over, especially for students who are not in a specific program yet. So do not fret, the beginning of a college experience can seem blurry to many new students who are barely learning how to navigate the system, you are not alone in the struggle.

“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.”

 -Hugh Prather

Many students come to college with at least some high school experience and expect college to be similar to that. After all, many classes have similar names: Biology, Algebra, Writing, Chemistry, and so on, however, the expectations that accompany those titles may be drastically different and more complex. College classes tend to cover course material at a faster pace and expect students to carry more of the burden of learning the material on their own outside of classroom activities.

Compared to college, high school has a straightforward curriculum. High school is segmented and chronological meaning students generally go to school at the same time each morning and finish at a similar time in the afternoon. High school students are assigned counselors to guide them and students usually don’t have to buy textbooks for their classes. There are clear deadlines and the teacher monitors progress and potentially shares progress with parents. The academic benchmarks of quizzes, tests, and projects are concrete indicators of progress. Teachers may monitor students’ use of smartphones in class and help students maintain focus on classroom materials. The high school a student attends is picked for him or her, either by geographic location or their parent’s choice.

Contrary to high school, college is essentially about choice. Initially, the choice is where to go to school. The student first has to find the right “fit” on his, her, their own and figure out the process of college admission then here are forms to fill out, submit and process. Students may have to learn the steps for admission and enrollment for more than one college, and the process can vary from school to school. Students are expected to be able to complete the application process on their own and they must determine if college placement tests are required and if so when they must be taken. In addition, students need to find a way to pay for their education. Are they eligible to submit a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)? Or if they are Oregon residents and are not eligible for FAFSA, can they submit an ORSAA (Oregon Student Aid Application)?  Will they be paying out of pocket? Which college is the most affordable for the student at that moment?

The next choice for the student as part of the enrollment process is determining what they want to study in terms of declaring a major. The major a student declares may impact financial aid awards and required classes. If a student is unsure of what to study and doesn’t choose a major, financial aid may not be given to the student or could be limited. At Chemeketa you can consult if your major is financial aid eligible by consulting with an advisor or with a financial aid specialist at the financial aid office.

A student can choose to attend classes part-time or full-time. Thankfully, college class times tend to accommodate a variety of student needs and due to that, classes can occur during the day, evening, online, or a combination of classroom and online (Hybrid). Additionally, unless the student has someone to be accountable to, probably no one will check to see if attendance happens or if a student cruises the Internet or social media while in class, after all, the one who loses money, knowledge and time due to neglecting class is the student.

Monitoring of time and its use will be student driven. Understanding and organizing the workload associated with a college schedule can be a great surprise to many new college students. The first year of college can have a steep learning curve of time management and self-responsibility and for the first time college student, starting college can feel like pushing a big rock up a steep hill all alone, but as you gradually gain control of your college life, things should begin to flow smoother.

How much time do you have in your life for school?
What is Considered Half-time or Full-time Status?

The answer to this question may vary from college to college. Chemeketa Community College’s website uses the following definitions:

  • Full-Time Status: 12 or more credits per term
  • 3/4 Time Status: 9-11 credits per term
  • Half-Time Status: 6-8 credits per term

An average student full-time credit load is between 12-16 credits, this means that a student will be in the classroom 1 hour per credit. For example, a schedule based on 15-credits, a student would be in the classroom for approximately 15 hours/week. Initially, many students mistakenly think that is all there is to it, after all, a schedule that requires a student to be in class 15 hours/week sounds much easier than high school where students typically attend 6-7 hours a day or 30-35 hours/week. The detriment of college credits is the hidden expectations for students in terms of outside of class “homework.” What does that mean?  College classes expect around 2-3 hours of daily homework, and sometimes even more, depending on credits and class difficulty. That means for every hour in class, a student can expect to spend 2-3 hours on homework or more. A 15-credit load expects a student to put in 30-45 hours outside of class each week on homework.

What does this mean in terms of your life?

Activity Hours Required/Week 168 hours in a week
Full-time attendance 15 in class -15
Homework 30 plus hours -30 (minimum)
Sleeping 6hrs/ day x 7 days -42
Eating 1.5hrs /day x 7 -10.5
Work 20hrs/week -20



117.5 hrs


168-117.5 = 50.5hrs

Fill in the blanks with what else you would need to do each week  

How many hours will each item take to complete?


Add the hours into the spaces below

Total hours 50.5- _______=_______

Many students, unfortunately, enter college with uninformed expectations or beliefs. First-generation college students are especially at a disadvantage without family to help them understand the context of college, what to expect as a college student, and what college life is like. As a result, first-generation college students may be or feel less prepared to handle the challenges they encounter at college. Students tend to be idealistic in their expectations of college, that is why pre-college characteristics and experiences play a tremendous role in shaping expectations regarding college.

Tee Jay: Going Back To School As An Adult Student (Non Traditional)

Video: https://youtu.be/UhifZr21qxY

Things to think about:

  • How prepared are you to go back to school?
  • How much time can you devote to college?
  • How would you rate your time management skills?
  • How do you feel about reading/homework?
  • How are your technology skills?
  • What kind of support do you have for going to college?
  • Who is your support system?
  • Make of a list of the resources you have to support your college lifestyle.
  • What strengths do you bring with you that will help you succeed in college?
  • What skills will you need to improve?
  • What tips did you gain from watching the video?

How do you know if you are academically ready for college? If you are accepted into college, does that mean you are ready?

College readiness is not clearly defined. Traditionally, completing high school was viewed as preparation for college, but for many students, course completion in high school does not guarantee college readiness. For example, English classes in high school may focus more on Literature whereas entry-level college courses may stress particular forms of expository reading and writing skills. If you have gone the route of getting your GED, did you work to dig deeper into the subjects and attempt to further develop your skills, or did you just try to pass the tests as soon as possible? How did you handle attending classes and having to participate in classroom activities?

Another measure of college readiness has relied standardized test scores. The issue with using standardized testing to determine readiness is its inability to measure the extent of soft skills that college courses often require. Soft skills include qualities like accepting feedback, adaptability, dealing with difficult situations, critical thinking, effective communication, meeting deadlines, patience, persistence, self-direction, and troubleshooting, to name a few. Meeting deadlines, for example, is a key to college success. These type of skills and behaviors needed to thrive in college may be different from those it takes to be admitted, that is why being accepted into college does not necessarily mean you are ready to face the challenges and frustrations that may lie between you and your goal to successfully complete college. At Chemeketa the study skills consultants can help you acquire those soft skills either by a series of meetings with you, workshops or even some classes. You can visit the study skills websites to find more information. Remember that nobody is born with soft skills, those are developed and sometimes we all need some help developing them. The most successful students in college, take advantage of the services offered at Chemeketa by visiting with a study skills consultant.

For many, answering the question about being academically prepared for college can be tough. While test scores and grades can definitely be indicators of readiness, they do not forthrightly guarantee success in college courses. Soft skills are important to college success, but without basic academic skills, soft skills alone won’t suffice. To attempt to accommodate to all students, most colleges use some type of placement test to try to place students into courses that will be appropriate for their skill levels. Usually, colleges such as Chemeketa have minimum placement test scores in Reading, Math, and Writing, requiring students to demonstrate they are able to handle the minimal expectations of college courses in terms of basic content areas. The degree or certificate associated with the student’s goal also influences the academic readiness required for success. Recognizing the importance of balancing the academic and soft skills, and how that relates to student goals is essential for college success and beyond.

Andy Wible: Strengthening Soft Skills (TEDx Talk)

Works Cited

Doyle, Alison. “Best Soft Skills to List on a Resume.” The Balance Careers, 31 May 2019, www.thebalancecareers.com/list-of-soft-skills-2063770.

Licenses and Attributions

Original chapter work is attributed to Alise Lamoreaux. Chapter editing and additional work on the chapter is attributed to Grecia Garcia and Ashley Duran.


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A Different Road To College: A Guide For Transitioning To College For Non-traditional Students by Alise Lamoreaux, Grecia Garcia and Ashley Duran is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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