Split blue image, woman with tablet, man at laptop, words Ask the Experts

How Can I Prepare to Take on a College Workload?

Preparing for the differences between your high school and college workloads is important. Here's some expert advice for preparing for this academic shift.

Silhouette of person sitting at desk with laptopJay Chakrapani
Vice President, General Manager, Digital
McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Preparing for the differences between the high school and college workloads is one of the most underrated aspects of making the transition from high school to college. College requires a lot more independence and self-motivation when it comes to staying on top of your work and turning it in on time. Similar to developing a study plan, the best way to begin the preparation is to do research: talk to older students, professors, and family members who have been through college. Get their perspectives on what the workload is like in college. Then, create a plan. Develop a study routine that best fits your style of learning. If students start out staying on top of their work, they’ll be better able to manage throughout the next four years.

Michael MiloneMichael Milone, PhD
Educational Consultant, Research Psychologist, and Writer
The best way to prepare for a college course load is to understand the different ways you can learn from others—both directly and indirectly.

  • Direct learning takes place when you ask people how they do something, listen to their answer, and try to imitate what they did. A good example is asking friends how they are going to find the time to do all the reading for a literature assignment.
  • Indirect learning is when you observe someone doing something and imitate the procedure the person follows. Suppose you notice that a friend doesn’t eat in the cafeteria but instead brings lunch to a quiet spot and eats while studying. The friend is always on time for the next class. This seems like a good strategy, so you imitate it.

When learning from others, you have to be sure to evaluate the effectiveness of what you’ve learned. Not everyone is successful with the same strategies. The evaluation should take place in two phases:

  • Phase one: Determine the likelihood of the strategy working for you. If you think it may work, try it.
  • Phase two: Determine how successful the strategy was after you have completed it.

A surprising number of people are reluctant to learn from others. They feel it is somehow demeaning, especially in academic areas or life skills. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of us try to imitate the techniques of skilled athletes, businesspeople, scientists, etc. If someone is doing something effective, don’t hesitate to try it out.

If you need more help with this big change in your life, check out our article How to Transition from High School to College.

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