01/08/2014 03:24 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2014

5 Misconceptions About College Academics

Venturing off to college is rather like embarking on a voyage to an unknown locale. There are speculations, wild and seemingly fictitious tales, and both excellent and poor advice about what you may experience upon setting foot on campus. While the majority of these swirling rumors concern campus life, there are also many misconceptions about college-level academics. Read below for a debunking of five common fallacies surrounding this subject.

1. You must choose a major as a first-year student
College is an opportune time to explore various academic areas and determine which path is right for you. In fact, a great number of students end up entering college as "Undeclared" or "Undecided" on a major. So, if you are sure you want to attend a university, but are unsure what field you might like to pursue, you are not alone. The majority of colleges and universities provide guidance specifically geared toward students who are still exploring options for a major. With this guidance will also come a tailored schedule of entry-level classes from a variety of academic fields. There is nothing wrong with sampling diverse courses from a range of fields before selecting one. In reality, doing so will provide you a much clearer idea of what interests you.

2. You can take any class you want
While this statement is not entirely false, if you adhere to this methodology, you likely will not graduate on time. Often, if not always, there are certain courses that you are absolutely required to complete for your major. So, while you may also have space in your schedule for Underwater Basket-Weaving, you may still be required to enroll in Differential Equations if you are a Mathematics major. In addition to required courses, some classes must be taken sequentially, or in a certain order. For instance, you will need to complete Biology I before you can take Biology II. If you just enroll in whatever you feel like taking, you may miss those pre-requisites and fall behind.

3. There is no such thing as homework
While homework will not always be assigned the way you grew used to in high school, you will have homework. It may not be explicitly graded or announced, but it will be present. In college, homework consists of reading and taking notes on the assigned chapters, studying those chapters as well as your notes from them and from class, and ensuring on your own that you understand the material for the midterm and final exams. Sometimes, the only official grades in a course will be a midterm and a final, so ensure that you complete your reading throughout the semester. It will always be your homework.

4. You don't always have to attend class
Many students will claim they learned nothing from lecture and wound up teaching themselves for the semester, but foregoing class altogether is a terrible idea. Perhaps no one is counting you absent or tardy, but you should still make a good faith effort to be in attendance for your own benefit. Much of the time, being present will mean the difference between a B and an A, and this can be for several reasons. Two central explanations include taking additional class notes that may not be found in the text and forming a relationship with your professor. If your professor knows you are dedicated, it is possible he or she will give you the benefit of the doubt come grading time. If you are especially lucky, professors will sometimes even assign attendance points.

5. Grades don't matter
You may have heard the phrases, "C's get degrees," or "D is for diploma," but grades do, in fact, matter. This misconception is quashed quite simply: If you wish to graduate with honors, keep an academic scholarship, earn a position with a top-tier company, or gain admission to the graduate program of your choice, you will have to maintain a strong GPA. In short, grades are always important.