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.



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."





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