Transitioning to College: What to Expect: Part 3 of 3 (Janelle Scala)

Transitioning to college can be a tricky time in life for students. There is so much unknown. How hard will my classes be? What do I do if I don’t like my roommate? What kind of extracurricular activities are available?

This is the third part of a three part interview with two college students, Janelle Scala and Ian Fuller.  You can read Part 1 for both Ian and Janelle as well as Part 2 for Ian and Janelle.  Both are juniors at their respective schools, Janelle at the University of Virginia and Ian at James Madison University. They have agreed to offer some insight and answer some questions regarding their transitional experience from high school to college. 

1)  This question actually comes from a parent…Now that you are halfway through your college experience, looking back on high school, what would you have done differently to prepare for college?

Ahh this is such a great question. I’ve thought of this in numerous ways and I think the best way for me to answer this is by tellingJanele you what I would recommend to get ready for college. (Some of which I did, some maybe not…)

I’ll start with academics and say take challenging courses. This is not only to help your application be competitive but also to see what you can handle as a student, how to properly study, see if something interests you, and lastly to always build character. Taking a challenging course in high school helps at college since it allows you to know your limits and strengths which helps you choose appropriate classes to take later on in college and ones that make sure you succeed in. Not only does it do the above but it also teaches you early how you learn best, study best and what you need to do in order to succeed. This knowledge is irreplaceable as you go into college courses. Challenge yourself and learn your style early, this will save you a lot of time, frustration and failure in the long run at college.

In accordance with this are AP courses. What I’m grateful that I did in high school was take them decently seriously and get good scores that allowed me to come into college with 15 credits, essentially a whole semester already paid for and done with. Don’t overly stress over these placement exams but also try your best. You never know, you could end up with a free semester of credit.

Outside of academics, know how to do laundry before you leave (shout out to my mom who established that early in my life), know how to smartly shop for groceries (in cost as well as health wise), and have an idea of what you want to get involved in at college. You definitely don’t have to have your mind made up on what exactly you want to definitely put your time in but have ideas of things that would interest you. I went into college with the knowledge that I wanted to join a Christian fellowship and get involved with the Nursing school but little else. I would have loved to have thought of maybe doing club soccer for UVA while I still was in the groove of playing in high school. I would have loved to really check out the millions of clubs UVA offers and branched out and just joined one for fun and for the experience.

*Notice I did not say anything about social aspects of high school. Yes, high school is a good place to practice social skills (which are definitely important in college), but it’s not the ultimate of what makes your social life or how you handle people. College will definitely shape that way more than high school will. You’ll grow into who you are and how you want to act socially.

2) You have two years left. How do you envision these two years being different than your first two years?

Shoot. This is so weird to me because as I write this, I officially have only a year left till graduation. Wow. Time flies.

I will answer this question based on what I was thinking at the beginning of this year.  Coming into my 3rd year, I now have an established friend group/community that was just beginning to become established 2 years ago and I expect it to continue for a long time, not just next year. I also would say that Nursing and school in general has definitely become harder than those last 2 years were and I also expect this to continue to next year. I have become more comfortable with who I am and the ways I have grown that I would not have said last year or the year before that and this I know will continue to next year (that’s the best part of going into your 3rd year… you have this new confidence of who you’re becoming and what you want to do with your life… you also get to be a really cool upper classman with all-knowing wisdom). I think the final thing I will say that was and will be different is watching myself figure out my specific passion and going into the future with that dream and seeing what is in store for me. Your focus changes from 2nd into 3rd year. You pay more attention to the future and the fact you have to be a real person really soon and you don’t have 3 years more. You get a little more serious but you also get a little more focused on what really matters in life. I’m excited for this to also continue into my last year.

rotunda3) What are some important intangible skills that you must possess as a student in order to be successful in the college classroom?

I have two answers for this. First, know how you learn/absorb information and use it in the classroom. For instance, if you learn best by just listening and get distracted by taking notes, then just listen in class but record the lectures so you can use them later to study when test time comes. I personally would get distracted by my own thoughts or other people in the room if I did not take notes, so I take notes and make sure I look at slides/drawings/whatever the professor has because I am also a visual learner. If you can know this about yourself, you will be very successful in the classroom.
The other answer I would give is self-control and focus in the classroom is essential in order for you to be successful. Granted, I’m not super great at this (don’t tell my Medical-Surgical Nursing professor what I was really doing on the computer in her class on the day we talked about pain assessment), but it is really important for a student to be focused on the lecture and not Facebook, texting, Buzzfeed, online shopping or the likes. Believe me, all of these things happen on a regular basis and are not only distracting to the student doing it but to everyone behind them (and I mean EVERYONE behind them… I once saw one of my classmates buy her sorority formal dress online and all the rows behind her were giving their input on whether or not she could pull off the color… and this was during a lecture on blood transfusion reactions which is serious business especially as the nurse supposed to be in charge and responsible for knowing how to react to them). If you decide to come to class, be present in class. Focus, be self-controlled and learn.

4) How much different is the college classroom experience compared to the high school classroom experience? Does a lot of the learning fall on you? Are college professors that much different than high school teachers? How?

College classrooms in my opinion are much different than high school classrooms. Depending on the size of your class, you are most likely not in a small room with the teacher knowing your name. You are most likely in a lecture hall with a bunch of other students and a professor who probably doesn’t know your name unless you introduce yourself to them early on. In this sense, it is much less intimate, but then this makes you learn much more on your own to make it more personal. Sometimes you can just rely on what the professor lectures about, but sometimes you have to also read the text and look up other resources to make sure you understand what they were saying or want you to know. It is up to you personally to know the material and do well with it. College professors are, in my experience, usually very nice and want to help you succeed. They are usually open to talking to you, but they just may not have enough time for you that you may need, hence the learning on your own again. They also don’t know you as well or at all like your high school teachers probably did. They are very competent and want to be there but it’s not as one-on-one. It’s not necessarily bad, just takes more getting use to.

5) Any parting wisdom that you wish to pass on to high school students today that you feel like you haven’t answered yet?

I’m pretty sure I’ve already said so many things that were not even in the question that ya’ll are pretty done reading my long-winded answers.

But I guess my parting words would be: Try your best in high school but don’t stress too too much. You’ll end up where you need to go, figure out what you want to study and do for work, and become a mature and functioning adult. Those things will come so don’t stress about them, but enjoying high school and all the fun that comes with it goes by in a blur so don’t wish it away. Work hard but enjoy where you are.

Thanks for letting me answer these questions! It’s been fun for me to reminisce about the years that have pasted and the experiences that have taken place.

Good luck with the adventure they call college! It’ll be great!

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