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Adjusting to transferring from a community college to private university


New Member
Mar 2, 2013
  1. Pre-Medical
    Hi all,

    I'm in my first quarter of my sophomore year at a private university. I'd previously been going to community college. I'm non-traditional due to some struggles in my teenage years I'd rather not get into right now. Long story short, I didn't attend high school. later paid for an unaccredited diploma for community college and eventually took my GED (for college admission purposes for transferring).

    I'm surrounded by students who took many AP classes in high school and consistently scoring higher than me. I'd never had a biology class or chemistry class prior to this year. I'm clueless how to adjust my study habits (I don't think I've really developed any..). I'm struggling with not comparing myself to other students who, on the surface seem like golden kids. I'm very stressed about my GPA and concerned about when I take organic chemistry and physics in the coming quarters as I figure if I'm struggling and making mostly Bs/some As now, it's only going to get harder and my GPA will decline as time goes on.

    I guess I'm looking for advice for self-esteem, ideal amount of hours I should be studying for classes, a decent GPA to aim for with realistic expectations. On top of everything, I don't know how to include research, as I've been really busy and the idea of adding something on top of that seems overwhelming. I work a little on the weekends (for money) but had to quit my other jobs and volunteering gig (for now). I'm constantly tired and it's a long commute from school to home. I wonder if I made the right decision in transferring to a university that challenges me more rather than trying to continue my education at the state school (which was linked to the community college I went to). I feel like I'm not doing myself any favors by looking for "easier" classes in the long run, though.

    Any input is greatly appreciated. Thanks.


    When you are young, they assume you know nothing
    5+ Year Member
    Aug 21, 2015
    1. Medical Student
      Seek help from your school resources first. Study/learning/counseling centers might provide resources to help you with your learning style and such. Even though it might not look like it, but your situation is hardly unique. I'm not saying this to downplay your situation but rather you're not the only one who seeks for help. The resources are there for a reason.

      Focus on your current classes first instead of looking so far down the line. Once you figure all those out, then you can add research/EC. Trying to add to the list when you're already feeling overwhelmed is a receipt for disaster.
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      Full Member
      Apr 18, 2015
      1. Medical Student
        Sorry for the novel but I feel i've been in your shoes through most of my academic career.

        First, did you attempt to take any science courses at the JC? I ask because from my experience, science JC courses FORCE you to learn good study habits by inundating you with busy work. It's a good place to get your sea legs. I never learned how to study until I graduated from my private college and went back to a JC for post-bacc courses.

        However, keep in mind, most people are feeling just as overwhelmed as you. I can't tell you how many friends I've had to talk off the wall who felt just like you. It seems like everyone is smarter, learns faster, and getting better grades. What you'll soon realize (if you haven't already) is that classes are CURVED in the sciences, so that 36 average on the chemistry midterm isn't a failing grade. I made this mistake my first semester of private school and dropped chemistry, and switched my major! I had NO IDEA how people were passing. It was only until later that I realized how sciences courses worked. I was actually ahead of my class.

        So, my advice to you, is to get ORGANIZED! Don't overload yourself the first couple trimesters while you're getting the hang of things. Take the minimum amount of courses you can. if that means dropping a class you're already in, do it. FOCUS ON LEARNING THE FUNDAMENTALS! Add harder classes later. Make your schedule so you have one science class and a couple general. Do not be afraid of taking more then 4-years to graduate - seriously! GRADES ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN TIME! Every science major I know graduated in 4.5-5 years. Some even 6-7 years! Seek out help from your university. Private schools have a great deal of support, check out your student services office. My school offered free tutoring. Start a SMALL study group and actually study. Make sure you get at least one person who knows it cold. Find the baby genius in the class and bribe them with cookies, praise, and the promise of talking you up to your professor during office hours. (they're gonna need that letter of recommendation!) Most baby geniuses are awesome and won't want any of that since they know teaching others reinforces their learning.

        In terms of how long you should study, that's the wrong way of looking at it. learning Krebs Cycle could take me a day and a half with one style and 30 minutes with another. You have to find out HOW you learn. I know I HAVE to write things down if I want to remember it. I have a giant white board and a small one. I've written and rewritten mechanisms thousands of times. Other people post them around their house and make flash cards for brute memorization. That would never work for me. I know I cannot learn science and math out of a textbook. I NEED to hear lectures and be shown how to do something first. Also, making associations in my head, mnemonics, etc. are really helpful for remembering long-term. I bet you still remember PEMDAS! This was a cool exercise, fast forward to 7:15.

        Learning styles should also be built on. For instance, when I'm trying to learn chemistry (the bane of my existence and therefore requires the most effort) I will flip through the chapter before lecture just to see the topics. Then I go to lecture. (some people swear by staying a few minutes after lecture to review their notes/summarize at the end.) At home, I read the chapter in my textbook and do ALL of the in-chapter problems (the step-by-step answer ones) and check my work as I go along. If it's wrong, I stop and figure out why. If I can't figure it out, I ask my friend. If we can't work it out, I write it down to ask in office hours. Once I'm through the chapter, I have a decent understanding of the topic. THIS IS WHEN YOU DO HOMEWORK! If you haven't looked at anything and just try to do it cold, you'll get frustrated. I do this studying solo. Then we have study groups for homework problems. If you do not prepare for a study group, you will take nothing from it. You need to have at least a cursory grasp of most of the concepts. It's as time consuming as it sounds but for me, chemistry didn't come easy. Don't be alarmed if you're studying and look up only to realize 5 hours have past... welcome to the chemistry hole. :)

        For exams, I orally quiz my classmates and redo ALL quizzes or HW handouts on a blank piece of paper. Sticky notes are handy for hiding the work. Don't just look at them and say "yeah, I know how to do that" and move on. there is a HUGE difference between recognizing that something is correct and actually knowing how to get the correct answer. I'm guilty of this. Every class doesn't need that level of attention, but that's the type of commitment you need to show to a hard subject to get by. That's why you should only take one for the first two trimesters so you can hone your study habits and styles.

        Lastly, if I had to do college all over again, the one thing I learned at the end that I wish I had utilized, was office hours. Your teachers are your best resource. If you're struggling and you talk with them, they will give you the chapters and concepts to read that are, more often than not, exactly what they'll be testing on. Teachers love an underdog. If you start out floundering, seek their help, and turn it around, your grade is going to be a lot higher than you earned. I saw it so many times with my friends. If you find a professor who "speaks your language" so to speak in teaching a subject, KEEP THEIR ACQUAINTANCE! I can't tell you how many times I went back to my general physics and organic chemistry professor for help in calculus or biochemistry. There's heaps of overlap. Make friends!! Teachers are people too! Get professors interested in you and your progress. When it's time to apply for medical school, you'll have stellar letters of recommendation and a group of professionals that have your back. The advice I was given from teachers when I graduated was, "make sure you have one professor who things you are god's gift to the world" and it'll open up many doors.
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