What You Need To Know About College

There are several important things that you must know about college, including some terms commonly used by college students. Knowing them will help you get the right expectations about college and also prepare you for the challenges ahead.

There are several important things that you must know about college, including some terms commonly used by college students. Knowing them will help you get the right expectations for college and also prepare you for the challenges ahead.

What's the academic year in college like?

Most colleges and universities use the 'semester' system where there are 2 major periods of study in each academic year. Each semester lasts about 4 months (16 to 17 weeks). Some institutions also have a shorter semester in between which lasts about 6 to 8 weeks. An academic year normally starts between July and September − local public universities normally start in July while foreign universities normally start in September.

How long are the semester breaks?

Usually, there is a one-month break, after the first semester of an academic year, and a longer three-month break after the second or third semester.

How are you assessed in college or university?

In schools, your monthly test results do not affect your year-end examination result. However, in college or university all tests, quizzes and projects contribute to your overall result. In one academic year, you have two to three semesters and your results each semester contribute to your result for that particular academic year.

What's the grading like?

Colleges and universities use the GPA (Grade Point Average) and CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) systems to measure how you fare academically. The way to calculate the GPA and CGPA is quite similar. The only difference is the GPA is the grade point average for every semester while the CGPA is the grade point average for all the semesters combined.

Each course will carry a number of credits ranging from 1 to 4, and each grade you get for the course will carry a value that will be multiplied with the credit of the course; the better the grade, the higher the value. The total score will then be divided by the total units taken for the semester to get your GPA, or the total units taken for the entirety of your course to get your CGPA.

Whether you fall into 1st class, 2nd upper or lower or 3rd class depends on the CGP

A you get at the end of the programme.

Fail or pass...you decide

You may run into difficulty with the semester system if you procrastinate in the first two weeks of classes, thinking that there will be time later on to catch up. This is because midterm exams can start as early as the fourth week of the semester, so 'later' will see you rushing to complete regular assignments and at the same time preparing for exams. Hence, it's important to keep on top of your work right from the beginning of the semester in order to handle the demands of the semester system.

Learn to plan, organise and prioritise all your academic work and extracurricular activities. Do short- and long-term planning, determine the most effective time to do specific tasks, decide what is most important to do first, and estimate how long a task will take. Also, learn how to motivate yourself so that you will stick with difficult or boring tasks, keep procrastination under control and maintain a balance between schoolwork and leisure.

Common college terminology

Familiarize yourself with these terms and know what they mean.

Credit Hours
Courses taken in college or university are measured in terms of credit hours. You must complete a number of credits in order to graduate. For example, to earn 1 credit hour, you must attend a class for 1 classroom hour (usually an hour) per week for the whole semester. The core subjects normally carry 3 to 4 credits while elective subjects carry about 1 to 2 credits.

Credit Transfers
Some students attend more than one institution of higher learning during their studies. When they move or transfer from one college to another, they can request to transfer some credit hours from the course they were in (previous institution) to the course they are to pursue (new institution). This way they need not retake similar papers that they have passed previously.

Lectures often refer to formal classes that students attend in college and university, where large numbers of students are present. The teacher is now called the lecturer. In university or college, lectures are two-way communication routes between the teacher and the student. You will not be limited to listening, in fact, at times the lecturer will sit in the audience to listen to you or your group give presentations.

Tutorials give you the opportunity to talk about the material taught in lectures. You can ask questions and discuss material with your tutor and classmates. Your tutor can either be the lecturer teaching the subject or a senior who's pursuing a postgraduate qualification (Master's or PhD) in that particular subject area.

The thesis is an academic project which you need to submit at the end of your studies in college or university. It carries 4 to 6 credits (or more) and requires you to do some research. Although for most courses, a thesis is presented in the form of a long essay, it can also be an artistic performance, a written work (of music or fiction), a painting etc depending on the course you're studying.

Practical Training (Industrial Training or Internship)
Most applied or more technical courses include practical training in their curriculum. It is meant to help you apply the theoretical knowledge into practice and let you get a taste of what your working life would be like after graduation. This training normally takes place towards the end of your course (final year). If you perform well during your practical training, odds are your training company may end up offering you a permanent position once you graduate.

Careers Service Office/Centre/Unit/Department
This is where you can get advice on careers and assistance in finding an employer to do your practical training in. You will also be able to get tips on how to score on interviews, write winning resumes or CVs, how to dress for the first meeting with a potential employer, brush up on communication skills and make the best of organised recruitment drives.

The transcript is your academic record at college or university. It normally shows courses taken, grades received, academic status and honours conferred. You will only get this at the end of your course of study. It provides details of how you fared in each of the courses you took in your programme, which may be relevant or a requirement to your work.