Editor’s note: During the summer, New College News is featuring selected student blogs that focus on the New College experience.
By Emma Sunderman
I have been a student at the New College of Florida since Fall 2017, so I consider myself well-versed in the school’s academic oddities. Before choosing NCF, I researched questions like, “How will my liberal arts degree stack up against that from a traditional university?” and “How can I be more productive?”
I thought I was as prepared as one could possibly be as a freshman. However, I was still a little uncomfortable with the fact that I wouldn’t know what classes I’d be taking until a few days before they start.
What is a Mini-Class?
One characteristic unique to New College is our mini-class system. Students do not pre-register for classes like most universities. Instead, students have the opportunity to preview every course that will be offered that term on the Thursday and Friday before a new semester starts. In 15 minutes, professors give a brief overview about their classes so that you can decide whether you would be a good fit for the course or not. You’re basically speed dating your classes for that semester.
Pro Tip: For your first couple of semesters at New College, go to as many mini-classes as you can so you can survey the kinds of courses that are taught here. Explore all of your interests. The great thing about NCF is that there is always a class for everyone.
What to Expect
In my experience, all mini-classes are structured similarly. When the mini-class begins, professors typically circulate a hard copy of the official syllabus for the course. (However, some are beginning to skip this step to reduce paper waste.) They introduce themselves and their academic background, then transition into housekeeping rules like attendance policy, late work policy, and academic integrity. For reference, a majority of New College professors allow three absences, no late work, and plagiarism is obviously never tolerated.
Next, the professor will give a summary of the course: What are we studying? What textbooks do we need? What are the class objectives? Lastly, it is important to fully understand the type of assignments required for a course. The professor will tell you exactly how many papers, exams, and/or homework assignments they expect you to complete. They always allocate a few minutes to student questions. If you have one, don’t be afraid to ask.
Pro Tip: Don’t fill your schedule up with too many papers or too many exams. You want to be sure to balance your workload in the beginning of the semester to avoid any unnecessary stress later on.
Missing a Mini-Class
Oh no! You missed a mini-class! What do you do?
First of all, don’t freak out. Since New College offers about a million and one courses each semester, there is likely going to be overlap in your mini-class schedule. Two classes you are interested in previewing will be scheduled at the same time in different locations. This has happened to me personally on multiple occasions, but there are three easy solutions:
Ask a peer who is already going to one of the mini-classes to take notes for you while you attend the other. Students at New College are very friendly and never miss out on the chance to help a friend. We’re all in this together.
Plan to sit in on the first half of one mini-class and then leave to go catch the second half of the next. In doing this, try to gauge your genuine interest in each course as you still may miss some vital information.
You are always welcome to email professors directly. They understand hectic schedules and will likely send you an electronic copy of the syllabus and any other important notes. Just remember, you probably aren’t the only email they’ve received regarding the class, so please be considerate and allow ample time for a response. Don’t wait until the last minute!
New College may seem to approach academia in a quirky way, but trust me, in straying from the norm, we are helping to better the learning process. Mini-classes give you complete control over your college experience.
– Emma Sunderman is an intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing.