How do college classes work?

If you’re starting off at college for the first time and you’re finally going to choose your classes, you’ll want to know how do college classes work.

You have probably heard that college classes are a bit different from high school classes. There are different types of college classes. What you do in each type and what you can expect from them will vary.

But now, first, let’s take a look at what a college education implies and to what extent it differs from your time in high school.

In college, you’ve got to study more independently. You are required to stay focused and procrastination is a common issue, especially among college freshmen.

Let’s look at different forms of college classes. From my experience, there are four major types of college classes: lectures, seminars, discussions, and labs. College is so different than high school!

College Lectures

This is your typical large class. Most college lectures are taught in (you guessed it) a large lecture hall by a professor. A typical lecture consists of the professor talking for the length of the class and everybody taking notes.

PowerPoint or overhead projectors are common, as well as writing on the chalkboard. Interaction between the students and the professor doesn’t usually extend beyond students asking the professor to clarify something.

Large lectures aren’t personal. Unless you go specifically out of your way to meet your professor, chances are he or she will never know your name, considering there may be as many as 500 students in a single class.

Most lectures will have about a hundred students, give or take. Attendance usually isn’t mandatory, since it’s tough to take roll when there are so many students.

As you progress in college, the sizes of lecture classes will decline, until you’re in a rather small class. You will notice that college classes move a lot faster than your classes in high school.

If your college uses a semester-based academic calendar, and you have a 15-week semester and classes met 3 times per week, you’ll meet 45 times, That’s it. Compare this to your high school class where your class meets up to 180 times per year.

College Seminars

A seminar is actually pretty similar to a high school class — it’s generally a small group of 20-30 students and a professor. Seminars are used for classes which need to be more personal and thrive on the interaction between students and professor, such as a writing class, a nursing class, or a literature class.

Seminar classes in college involve a lot of group discussion. Since there are so few students, you’ll come to know most of your class. Your professor will also recognize you, and attendance will (usually) be mandatory.

It is important to create your own Study Plan in college. Your study plan is your guideline to accomplish your goals in college. Too often, we can see students start out on their college journey only to drop out later because they were not prepared. They were overwhelmed with the college process. So set up your study plan and stick to it!

College Discussions

Discussion classes — also known as discussion sections or just “sections” — are a required part of many lecture classes. To be honest, though, this isn’t the best place to make friends. There’s often such a crowd!

The purpose of discussion sections is to provide additional support for what you learn in lectures. Discussion sections are taught by a teacher’s assistant (TA), typically a graduate student.

The average class will have about 20-30 people. You can learn all about the different types of college classes if you visit the campuses during your last year in high school.

What you do in a discussion section will vary from class to class. For some classes, such as Engineering, you’ll be doing additional work on the homework you’re assigned already. In others, it’ll be open for you to ask questions for your TA to clarify.

Some classes will be much like a seminar, where you openly discuss what was taught in lectures. In my math section, for example, you would take weekly quizzes.

Whenever you need help, also when it relates to procrastination issues, sections are one of the best places to go for it. Your TA is a huge help here, and a good relationship with your TA can help a lot. Any time you need something clarified, go to the section to clear it up.

Before you choose a particular program or school, make sure you’ll get to know the school or schools of your preference well to avoid disappointment or unexpected situations.

Attendance for sections can be mandatory or optional, it really depends on the class and what happens in section. Even if your discussion is optional, that doesn’t mean you should blow it off all the time — drop in now and then to make sure you still have a solid grasp of the course material. See also this post with some more useful tips for your time in college.

College Labs

Lab classes typically come alongside science classes, though science, health science, and technology programs are not really popular in America, and that in the middle of a world-wide Brain Race!

In a lab class, you’ll be applying the knowledge you’ve learned in a lecture to complete an assignment of some sort. For a computer programming class, you might have to write a quick program. For a physics class, you might have to design/perform an experiment.

A lab class will sometimes give you additional credits to the lecture class, as well as a separate grade, which means that you’re going to be doing a good bit of work in these. Labs are usually mandatory.

Last Updated on September 12, 2020