Asking the question: Wwhat do freshmen not know?

It can be tough being a millennial in college; unfortunately, some freshmen at the University of Rhode Island arrive here lacking certain skills. In other words: what do freshmen not know?

Professors of largely freshman-dominated classes at URI have a much different undertaking than those professors who teach many upper-level courses. Dr. Anthony Mallilo, a professor of animal and veterinary science, believes that “in addition to basic math, writing and study skills, students need to learn how to manage their time.” Dr. Rosaleen Keefe, a writing & rhetoric professor, addressed one of her classes and they agree with Mallilo, claiming that “study habits,” “time management” and “basic grammar” are all things that freshmen are lacking skill in.

So, how does this get solved? Dr. George Dombi, a chemistry professor, highlights it brilliantly. “The thing that I think freshmen do not know is about their own role in education as the director of their own goals,” Dombi said. To transition from a guided, directed and teacher-led curriculum in high school to a self-led, study-based, lecture-centered curriculum in college is no easy task! But it is achievable.

“C-level students re-read their notes over…B-level students re-read their notes and do the homework…A-level students re-read the notes, do the homework and spend time teaching the material they are learning to other students,” Dombi said. “Often, freshmen think that just studying their notes is a matter of re-reading them…that is okay for high school work. But in college, students should re-read notes with the question in mind, ‘what would be a good true/false or multiple choice question from this material?’”

To do that, freshmen must establish their own personalized study habits and stick to them. But they must understand that simply staring at a page of class notes or lazily reading a text will not effectively foster learning—and that will show in the grades received.

What about the other things that freshman do not know? Many freshmen struggle with basic mathematical concepts, citations, simple grammar rules, etc. Often, high school teachers are guilty of moving on from material, using excuses like “we have to get through the curriculum,” or “this material will not be on the test.” By fast-tracking students and speeding through lessons, over time, students forget basic skills, all in a rush to learn more complex elements.

In summation, education is like a building a tall skyscraper. Sure, the foundation is essential, and certainly every college student’s skyscraper has both a foundation and many floors above it. But over time, through neglect, the foundation decays; while students and teachers are in a rush to build the most beautiful penthouse suites, the base gets weathered, and skills are lost.

What do freshmen not know? Well, according to Dr. Dombi, “Freshmen come with a Beginner’s Mind, everything is exciting because it is new…teachers want to see their freshmen students make the transition to becoming masters of their own education.”