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INTELLECTUAL PROBLEMS OF THE COLLEGE FRESHMAN






From: How to Use Your Mind

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.

You should be warned also that college demands not only a greater
quantity but also a higher quality of work. When you were a high school
student the world expected only a high school student's accomplishments
of you. Now you are a college student, however, and your intellectual
responsibilities have increased. The world regards you now as a person
of considerable scholastic attainment and expects more of you than
before. In academic terms this means that in order to attain a grade of
95 in college you will have to work much harder than you did for that
grade in high school, for here you have not only more difficult
subject-matter, but also keener competition for the first place. In
high school you may have been the brightest student in your class. In
college, however, you encounter the brightest students from many
schools. If your merits are going to stand out prominently, therefore,
you must work much harder. Your work from now on must be of better
quality.

Not the least of the perplexities of your life as a college student
will arise from the fact that no daily schedule is arranged for you.
The only time definitely assigned for your work is the fifteen hours a
week, more or less, spent in the class-room. The rest of your schedule
must be arranged by yourself. This is a real task and will require care
and thought if your work is to be done with greatest economy of time
and effort.

This brief survey completes the catalogue of problems of mental
development that will vex you most in adjusting your methods of study
to college conditions. In order to make this adjustment you will be
obliged to form a number of new habits. Indeed, as you become more and
more expert as a student, you will see that the whole process resolves
itself into one of habit-formation, for while a college education has
two phases--the acquisition of facts and the formation of habits--it is
the latter which is the more important. Many of the facts that you
learn will be forgotten; many will be outlawed by time; but the habits
of study you form will be permanent possessions. They will consist of
such things as methods of grasping facts, methods of reasoning about
facts, and of concentrating attention. In acquiring these habits you
must have some material upon which you may concentrate your attention,
and it will be supplied by the subjects of the curriculum. You will be
asked, for instance, to write innumerable themes in courses in English
composition; not for the purpose of enriching the world's literature,
nor for the delectation of your English instructor, but for the sake of
helping you to form habits of forceful expression. You will be asked to
enter the laboratory and perform numerous experiments, not to discover
hitherto unknown facts, but to obtain practice in scientific procedure
and to learn how to seek knowledge by yourself. The curriculum and the
faculty are the means, but you yourself are the agent in the
educational process. No matter how good the curriculum or how renowned
the faculty, you cannot be educated without the most vigorous efforts
on your part. Banish the thought that you are here to have knowledge
"pumped into" you. To acquire an education you must establish and
maintain not a passive attitude but an active attitude. When you go to
the gymnasium to build up a good physique, the physical director does
not tell you to hold yourself limp and passive while he pumps your arms
and legs up and down. Rather he urges you to put forth effort, to exert
yourself until you are tired. Only by so doing can you develop physical
power. This principle holds true of mental development. Learning is not
a process of passive "soaking-in." It is a matter of vigorous effort,
and the harder you work the more powerful you become. In securing a
college education you are your own master.

In the development of physical prowess you are well aware of the
importance of doing everything in "good form." In such sports as
swimming and hurdling, speed and grace depend primarily upon it. The
same principle holds true in the development of the mind. The most
serviceable mind is that which accomplishes results in the shortest
time and with least waste motion. Take every precaution, therefore, to
rid yourself of all superfluous and impeding methods.

Strive for the development of good form in study. Especially is this
necessary at the start. Now is the time when you are laying the
foundations for your mental achievements in college. Keep a sharp
lookout, then, at every point, to see that you build into the
foundation only those materials and that workmanship which will support
a masterly structure.

READINGS AND EXERCISES

NOTE.--Numbers in parentheses refer to complete citations in
Bibliography at end of book.

Readings: Fulton (5) Lockwood (11)

Exercise 1. List concrete problems that have newly come to you since
your arrival upon the campus.

Exercise 2. List in order the difficulties that confront you in
preparing your daily lessons.

Exercise 3. Prepare a work schedule similar to that provided by the
form in Chart I. Specify the subject with which you will be occupied at
each period.

Exercise 4. Try to devise some way of registering the effectiveness
with which you carry out your schedule. Suggestions are contained in
the summary: Disposition of (1) as planned; (2) as spent. To divide the
number of hours wasted by 24 will give a partial "index of efficiency."





Next: NOTETAKING




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