Class level doesn’t disadvantage freshmen in upper-level courses


Hannah Auten | Daily Illini

Statistics 100 students listen to newly hired instructor, Karle Laska, speak about the final few pages in the course manual on Dec 8, 2015.

By Natasha Mosquera, Contributing Writer

As if the transition to college life isn’t already difficult, some incoming freshmen enroll in courses where they are younger than all of the other students.

They have to handle the added pressure of what their peers and instructors think of them due to the age gap.

Riley Maloney, freshman in ACES, is currently one of the only freshmen out of 100 students in Humanity in the Food Web, a Technical Systems Management class.

“Even though I think anybody can take it, freshman don’t usually go that route because they have so many things they have to fill in their requirements,” Maloney said.

Maloney said taking this class was actually an accident — her adviser was “very busy with everybody else” and let her put together her own schedule. However, she said she doesn’t mind the class because it’s very discussion heavy and a lot of the issues discussed directly relate to her major.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get experience and get involved in everything. I’ve proved myself in this class by just always engaging (in) the discussion and trying to bring ideas, and I feel like people are noticing that more and that ‘she can hold her own,’ so that’s good,” Maloney said.

Either way, Maloney said she doesn’t worry too much about what the upperclassmen think.

“I just kind of go with the flow, do my work and try my hardest because you know, I’m not trying to impress anybody. I’m just trying to do my work,” she said.

Luis Rodriguez, associate professor in Agricultural and Biological Engineering, is one of three instructors that teach Humanity in the Food Web.

He explained that upper-level courses are not for every first-year student, but he said that it is great to have a diversity of students so they can all learn from each other.

Rodriguez said that while a lot of students try to “prove themselves,” the courses are designed to “be a natural process that is tied to developing social skills and critical thinking skills.”

“As instructors, we need to be ensuring that the conversation remains constructive for the learning process,” Rodriguez said.

Bugra Sahin, freshman in Engineering,  is also one of the few freshmen in his Chemistry 223 course – Quantitative Analysis Lab.

Sahin said that having juniors and seniors in a class is more of an advantage than a disadvantage because it’s an opportunity to learn more.

“I wanted the professor and the people to know that I’m younger so I can get easier help, and it’s like being in a higher class as a freshman is kind of an achievement. So you want people to know it so that you can get help or acknowledgement,” Sahin said.

Sahin said that sometimes being in an upperclassman course can be intimidating because the professor expects him to understand all of the material. He also said he thinks a lot of his classmates don’t even know he is a freshman.

“You’re in the same class and you’re learning things simultaneously, so it’s kind of like you’re at the same level with them. I don’t think age matters that much at that point,” he said.

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