You’re Still Smart, Things Are Just Different

Krystal Janigan is a graduate of Michigan State University. She has a B.A in Media Arts and Technology, as well as a B.A. in Studio Art, Graphic Design. She writes and performs comedy in Chicago, IL. She has been working with children in the public school system, as well as private childcare for about 4 years. She aspires to write and produce for television. She has always had a passion for writing comedy, poetry, short stories, and term papers. Yes, term papers.

My family was ecstatic. I had gotten a 4.0 GPA at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. I was the first in my family to get into this prestigious school and then I blew through my first semester with ease. Four years later comes that reality; you actually have to work to get this degree.
I thought obtaining my Bachelors would be as easy as getting my high school diploma. I was jaded, very much so. After getting into all six colleges I applied to, I felt invincible. I move into my dorm, bought my gently used textbooks and proceeded to have my first six weeks of higher education. Then, after having my first exam, I realized I didn’t even know how to study for a test. These weren’t your average tests. These were EXAMS. These were a culmination of everything we’d discussed for the past two months, now set before me in multiple choice, short answer, and even essay form. At the end of that class, I walked to the dining hall with a spinning head and churning stomach.
Woe is me; I’ve been defeated. Send me on the first bus ride back to grandma’s house. No, Don’t worry. Your freshman class will wake up the next day and feel empowered, hopefully. Thousands upon thousands of people have both been where you are and succeeded. For me, it took a few months to start realizing the structure of college and finding my own personal way to study and get the academic support I needed.
Here are some of the things that worked for me. I encourage you to try them:

For my math class I gathered together friends within my dorm who were also taking the same class. Sometimes this is practical to do, because a lot of freshmen start out on the entry-level math class depending on their major or college. Having had different curriculums at our respective high schools, we were all an expert in different chapters and really enhanced each other’s learning. Additionally, if someone started missing some study sessions, we’d give him or her an earful at the dining hall.
For my classes that had a lecture and a lab, I needed more help. The lecture hall can be daunting, as there are so many students and the interactivity is limited. The lab was my saving grace. I took advantage of the extra-individualized teaching and compared notes with other students from the class. The teacher’s assistant and I could’ve created a secret handshake, we saw each other just that often.
Finally, you will find that there is a sophomore, junior, senior, even graduate student that has taken these courses in the past. Don’t be too afraid to ask a question. What studying tools did they use? Are there additional resources and groups for the advanced chemistry class? College is a community, albeit a competitive one, still a community. Most students and professors are focused on celebrating your success, not watching you fail.
While I never got back to the smooth sailing days of high school, I did learn how to be resourceful. This would become useful in both college and in the workplace. You may find college to have the same level of difficulty as your high school or maybe harder. The difference is that you may have to change things up. You may have to switch your approach to learning. This task doesn’t have to be frustrating. It can be interesting to see how you tackle things and redefine your way of thinking.

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