I couldn’t come to university in California without spending a fairly significant amount of my time actually studying for my degree (or my Major), which is Criminology. I’ve found myself somewhat stumbling around, figuring out the different educational systems here as I go along, but with a little help from my friends here and my extremely friendly professors, I’ve so far been achieving satisfying grades :).
One of the main differences is that, here, term starts in August. Important also is the fact that graded work is spread out across the term, rather than all at the end, so I’ve amazingly already done a lot of my work before my friends in the UK have even started their lectures this year, but at least when they’re stressing over exams in January, I’ll be able to sit back in the lovely knowledge that I finished my finals in December!
That is another note about college here. Switching classes early on is completely normal. And I don’t just mean classes in the sense of ‘modules’ like in the UK. Classes are set up similarly to seminar groups at Leicester, at least at this type of university (there is a difference in teaching style between ‘University of California’ and ‘Cal State’ universities here), so this means that for each module, everyone studying it is split into several groups and assigned different professors. Here, it’s completely possible to switch between classes, sometimes even if the class is full!
Classes are also a lot less standardised than they are in England. For example, a friend and I both take a class in Corrections but have different professors. And as a result, we have our exams at different times and have different types of work to do towards our final grades.
It’s entirely dependent on the professor how you’re going to be graded. Different professors also have different ideas about what constitutes being late to class and whether you’re allowed laptops to make notes or not. It’s a little annoying sometimes, but it can be really useful feeling like you have that little bit more freedom. Some professors include attendance and participation in your final grade! This was a terrifying new concept to me, but I find that in some ways, it does help. It can actually be an easy way to score points and being required to participate more in (some of) my classes helped me to build a stronger relationship with my professor and classmates, and I feel myself becoming a little more confident.
I’ve used this post to talk a bit about some of the main differences between American and UK university general learning styles, but since it’s starting to get a little long, I’ll write in another post about studying Criminology here. 🙂