INTELLECTUAL PROBLEMS OF THE COLLEGE FRESHMAN
In entering upon a college course you are taking a step that may completely revolutionize your life. You are facing new situations vastly different from any you have previously met. They are also of great variety, such as finding a place to eat and sleep, regulating your own finances, inaugurating a new social life, forming new friendships, and developing in body and mind. The problems connected with mental development will engage your chief attention. You are now going to use your mind more actively than ever before and should survey some of the intellectual difficulties before plunging into the fight.
Perhaps the first difficulty you will encounter is the substitution of the lecture for the class recitation to which you were accustomed in high school. This substitution requires that you develop a new technic of learning, for the mental processes involved in an oral recitation are different from those used in listening to a lecture. The lecture system implies that the lecturer has a fund of knowledge about a certain field and has organized this knowledge in a form that is not duplicated in the literature of the subject. The manner of presentation, then, is unique and is the only means of securing the knowledge in just that form. As soon as the words have left the mouth of the lecturer they cease to be accessible to you. Such conditions require a unique mental attitude and unique mental habits. You will be obliged, in the first place, to maintain sustained attention over long periods of time. The situation is not like that in reading, in which a temporary lapse of attention may be remedied by turning back and rereading. In listening to a lecture, you are obliged to catch the words “on the fly.” Accordingly you must develop new habits of paying attention. You will also need to develop a new technic for memorizing, especially for memorizing things heard. As a partial aid in this, and also for purposes of organizing material received in lectures, you will need to develop ability to take notes. This is a process with which you have heretofore had little to do. It is a most important phase of college life, however, and will repay earnest study.
Another characteristic of college study is the vast amount of reading required. Instead of using a single text-book for each course, you may use several. They may cover great historical periods and represent the ideas of many men. In view of the amount of reading assigned, you will also be obliged to learn to read faster. No longer will you have time to dawdle sleepily through the pages of easy texts; you will have to cover perhaps fifty or a hundred pages of knotty reading every day. Accordingly you must learn to handle books expeditiously and to comprehend quickly. In fact, economy must be your watchword throughout. A German lesson in high school may cover thirty or forty lines a day, requiring an hour’s preparation. A German assignment in college, however, may cover four or five or a dozen pages, requiring hard work for two or three hours.