What do you wish your students knew about college before they arrived? What would you tell them?

I was at a Student Success meeting today, and one of the questions that came up was, “What would you tell students about college before they arrived on campus?  If you could give them some crucial bit of information about UH, about classes or programs or any other aspect of the school, what would you tell them?”

That’s when we learned that Admissions would be interested to know what information, advice, or even warnings faculty would like to communicate to potential students. And the top few suggestions could be incorporated into our Orientation sessions for students and their parents.

So what do you think: what would you tell prospective students about UH–or college more generally–before they arrived?

We’ll publish the most popular responses on the blog after a week or so.

Thanks,

DM

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11 Comments on “What do you wish your students knew about college before they arrived? What would you tell them?”

  1. I am not sure the basic time worn points on the differences between high school and college are getting through to incoming students yet. Maybe all the AP classes are supposed to blur the boundaries, but these fundamental items still seem to leave students dazzled:
    – reading for comprehension instead of memory
    – math for reasoning instead of correct answers
    – writing for argument rather than reporting
    Perhaps a more global issue that new college students should be aware of is the level of autonomy. College students are expected to want to study, to study as a matter of urgency, to find and correct their own misconceptions, and to do all that on their own initiative. Naturally they should never feel abandoned and set adrift… their course work has to provide a good framework and a place to find guidance. But learning is the responsibility of the learner. Perhaps we should require more of a philosophical base for their introductory classes and include Perry’s nine levels of advancement, Popper’s three worlds, and some basic ontological and epistemological assumptions… metacognitive skills too.

  2. Dave Mazella says:

    Thanks, Leonard. I think these points are all true, and bear repeating, especially to high school teachers and students. One of the issues I’ve wondered about is how to help students make this conceptual leap from passive to active learning. What kind of activity or content helps your students with this transition?

  3. Amanda Rudd says:

    I agree with the above statement. The one thing I tell my students first and foremost is that sooner or later (preferably sooner if you want to survive college) you have to take responsibility for your own learning.

    • Frank Holt says:

      I remind students that this might be the only time in their lives to explore at length what is and isn’t known about their world. This exploration is meant to give them an opportunity to discover new areas of interest, so do not feel as though they must have their whole careers mapped out when they first arrive on campus. Also, this means seizing this chance for all it is worth. It amazes me, I tell them, that students can be elated to hear that a class has been cancelled after having paid dearly for it. Does anyone buy a car for the thrill of not driving it?

  4. Dave Mazella says:

    Thanks, Amanda. I say similar things to my students, but not everyone is receptive to such a message, or knows how to put it into effect. So what are the best ways that you’ve found to reorient them towards a more autonomous, adult model of learning?

    • Martha Dunkelberger says:

      At the risk of sounding like a broken record — assign them a successful peer mentor — one who HAS figured out how to be an independent learner and who has figured out that classes are what they’re paying for. Students may struggle to recognize that we know a thing or two about being students, children of aging parents, minimum wage earners and late night partiers. When a peer can share his or her experiences about emerging into the academic world as a pro-active learner, I think a student is much more likely to believe that that peer “gets it” and knows the challenges facing them.

  5. Dave Mazella says:

    Thanks, Martha. I know we’ve had some very successful peer programs in various departments. How structured do the interactions need to be for the novice students to benefit?

    • Martha Dunkelberger says:

      The program in COMD was pretty structured. I set up “lesson plans” for the mentors for each week and I met with the mentors pretty frequently to make sure that they weren’t in over their heads.

      • Dave Mazella says:

        That sounds about right, in terms of direction for the mentors. And I’ll bet the peer mentors need some mentoring, as well. Great idea, thanks.

  6. Leah D. Morgan says:

    I could write an essay in response to your question because this topic is so important to me! I chose to pursue a career in higher education so I could help students avoid the pitfalls that I fell into as an undergrad. Like many college students today, I struggled in my courses because I never “learned to learn” properly. I did not know how to study effectively or properly regulate my time. Many entering freshmen have never learned to take responsibility for their own learning and as Leonard and Amanda have already said, students must take responsibility for their own learning in order to be successful.

    Student success, or “Learning to Learn”, courses empower students to take responsibility for their learning by teaching them how to utilize a variety of learning strategies. These courses are crucial because they teach students the skills needed to be successful in college such as how to regulate their time, think critically, and thoroughly comprehend course material. I have taught student success courses at Lee College and have seen firsthand the way these courses positively impact students’ lives. I still have students contact me letting me know how the skills they learned in my class have helped them in their academic coursework. Several of my remedial students were accepted into the Lee College honors program and attribute their success to the learning strategies they obtained in their freshmen student success course.

    Learning to Learn courses teach students all of the things we wish they knew before arriving at UH. I wish that I could have taken such a course as an undergrad! We cannot control what students know (or do not know) before they come to UH, but we can certainly equip them to succeed once they arrive by offering them the opportunity to enroll in a Learning to Learn course.

    • Dave Mazella says:

      Thanks, Leah. We have experimented with a number of courses about college preparation, but the real question is how to bring these kinds of initiatives to scale. Most colleges have some services available to students, but sometimes the students don’t realize they need them until it’s too late, or there aren’t enough people around to deliver the services. But learning to learn courses remain a great idea we should look into.


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