High school seniors transition to SMC freshmen
Santa Monica College freshman Jacqueline Portillo has yet to rebound after missing only one day of her Spanish class.
“I came back, and I didn’t know what was going on,” says Portillo, a radio broadcast major at SMC. “Its a four-hour class, so I kind of lost a week of work, and it was really stressful trying to get back at it.”
The college experience can be challenging for students who are not prepared for the difference in schedules, classes and workload in comparison to high school.
Some students can walk into their freshman year of college and succeed just as easily as they did in high school. Some find comfort in college, which helps them succeed at a greater level than in high school.
Others, whether they flourished in high school or not, enter their freshman year of college and fall flat due to unpreparedness for the next level.
So how are SMC freshmen feeling midway through their first semester?
“I’m feeling really disappointed,” says Portillo. “I’ve had to drop a few classes just because I’m not able to keep up with them.”
Political science major Valeria Lucas feels that the hectic workload combined with her after-school job stop her from fully enjoying the college life.
“I’m feeling a little tired trying to balance everything out,” she says.
College students are required to finish a certain amount of credits to fulfill the general education requirements as well as the prerequisites for their respective majors, which Lucas feels causes students to stress and become disorganized.
For some, the biggest difference between high school and college has nothing to do with academics.
“People don’t talk,” says Lucas. “It’s very in your own little bubbles, so that’s been my biggest thing so far.”
From a social standpoint, Portillo says the difficulty is “not knowing anyone, and it staying that way.”
SMC psychology professor Alex Shwartz attributes some of the confusion and stress students carry to a failure to recognize their purpose for attending college.
Shwartz says that after receiving the heavy workload, students often ask themselves why they are in college in the first place.
“A lot of them don’t put the work in, and then do badly and then also wonder why,” says Shwartz.
He feels the majority of students he has encountered have not entirely thought out what their long-term goal is, and if students really want to enjoy their chosen career, then they should begin to experience it hands-on at an early stage of their lives.
Sometimes, the freedom with class selection and schedule in college can lead a student to make bad decisions when it comes to organization.
“They can actually pick their classes and work their schedule around it,” says Bernadette O’Leary, psychology professor at SMC. “But with that comes some need for responsibility and managing their time.”
After teaching and observing the behavior of students between three different colleges, O’Leary says that it can be especially difficult for community college freshmen to take their studying seriously.
“I get the impression that a lot of students here are not really managing their time well,” O’Leary says. “They’re not reading assignments, paying attention to things, or taking responsibility for what they need to do to get their A. They’re just kind of expecting the instructor to kind of give them a grade.”
There are a number of students who have enjoyed adjusting to a higher level of education. SMC freshman Tali Brown feels that the college has been a better experience than high school.
“I think it’s a lot easier,” she says. “There are less classes, and you know your assignments ahead of time.”
While some students admit to college carrying a harder workload, they do say that it is nothing they cannot handle.
“When I graduated high school, my friends said that college was going to be really hard, but when you get here, it’s OK,” says student Sandra Vasquez. “The classes are a little bit harder, but I can still manage it.”
Jennifer Sandoval, a business major at SMC, feels that the professors and college courses are not as strict as some of her friends claimed.
“The teachers are pretty cool, and they do give you extra credit and help you a lot,” Sandoval says.
Sophomore David Huh was able to use his newfound independence during his freshman year as a turning point in what was then a poor academic career.
“I totally flipped it upside down here,” Huh says. “I think it was maybe being away from my parents and being able to do it myself. It helped.”
While not all students share the same sentiments for their first semester at college, they can agree that it is definitely a learning experience.
“I now know that I shouldn’t just get any classes to fill in the units, but I should really think wisely at the time,” Portillo says. “I guess I’m falling over, but I’ll pick myself up next semester.”