Welcome to college math!

No, I am not referring to calculus. Or tuition. For this college math, let’s look at how long it takes to learn college level material.

Remember high school? High grades. “Never had to study.” Remember that?

In high school your teacher presented material, organized the textbook topics into an outline, gave you some practice, some homework, retaught, gave a quiz, allowed you to retake the quiz…all before the test. That repetition that the teacher did for you was the “study” part that you thought you never had to do.

Well, in college, your high school teacher won’t be there to reteach and reinforce and make you practice. In college, it is up to you to study.

So many college freshmen don’t know how to study because they don’t think they ever did it. In college you have to do all the things your teacher did for you in high school. Outline the chapters. Complete practice problems, plus do some extra ones. Organize your time. Pre-read before lecture. Re-read after lecture. Over and over as many times as it takes until you know it.

So here’s the math. Let’s say it takes 10 hours to “learn” a chapter of material and there are 10 chapters of material in a certain course. Assume in the 15-week semester that 100 hours of total exposure are required for the course. Well, kids, it’s not a secret: there are only about 36 hours dedicated to lecture meetings for an entire semester, and some of that is taken up with quizzes and other activities, so your professor has about 30 hours total to present 10 chapters of material. That’s 3 hours per chapter. In some of your classes it will take you more than 3 hours just to *read* a chapter once through. You should plan on your own time to spend* at least twice* the length of time you sit in the lecture hall in order to really understand the material, and in some classes for some chapters it’ll be more like *triple* the lecture time.

That’s assuming you actually turn off your phone and Facebook and engage in lecture. If you don’t do that, you can take those wasted hours and add them to your out-of-class effort.

More math: you’ll probably only be in classes about 20 hours per week. That leaves 40 hours to do what you must to succeed. (Yes, college is a 60 hour work week. So is a typical salaried career in America. I didn’t invent this. I’m just the messenger.)

So, yes, you *do* know how to study. And hopefully this little math lesson explains why the homework questions (and exam questions) are so much harder than the introductory ones presented in lecture. A college degree is an amazing accomplishment because it must be earned. Acceptance to college is the first step, offered only to those qualified based on how well they kept up in high school. Don’t waste your chance.