1. Familiarize yourself with the course structureIn high school, your math classes may have had a certain sense of familiarity – each day, a new lesson was taught, and homework was assigned that evening to help you review the concepts. You completed a quiz every few lessons, as well as a test at the end of each chapter. Before your college math course begins, try to learn if it will have the same or a different structure by locating the syllabus for the class. Occasionally, professors will upload their syllabi, or email them before the first day of the semester. If your instructor does not, you can always email him or her to ask for the syllabus. It is unlikely that you can teach yourself all the material ahead of time, but you will be able to better structure your weeks once you know the workload and schedule to expect – is there a new lesson and new homework every class? Or is homework only due once a week? Are there quizzes, or just exams? Certain professors even give students the option of taking tests with a study notecard (a small piece of paper with all the necessary formulas written on it, eliminating the need for memorization). Discovering the answers to these questions will make the transition from high school math to college math much easier to handle.
2. Know what resources are availableOnce you have familiarized yourself with the structure of the course, explore your resources outside of the classroom. Two important differences between high school and college are the time spent in the classroom (you generally will not have the same math course every single day) and the availability of support outside of the classroom. Learn your professor’s and/or teaching assistant’s office hours, as well as the study options for students. Are there groups for specific dorms, in addition to specific courses? Even if you find the material easy, it never hurts to be prepared and to know what your options are should the class become more difficult with time.
3. Remember that college math builds on concepts you have already masteredOne of the most important lessons to keep in mind is that high school math and college math contain much of the same material, even if the structure and manner of teaching is different from what you are used to. Algebra and statistics in high school involve the same basic formulas as their college counterparts will – just as the leap from calculus in high school to calculus in college is largely a difference in complexity and difficulty levels. Try not to worry about trick questions or material beyond the norm. Instead, focus on learning about the new environment and the new methods of teaching that it utilizes. Once you have prepared in this manner, the math itself will be surmountable.
Samantha Brody is a professional tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She received her Bachelor's degree in Anthropology from Northwestern University in 2014.