We Are Not in High School Any More
Dear First-year Me,
By now the honeymoon phase should be over. You forget to have breakfast, head to class, then rush to the library thinking you can learn everything before your midterm at 3:30 PM. You remember that your laboratory class is tomorrow and there is a pre-lab assignment that needs to be handed in.
By now you skipped breakfast and lunch, your laundry is not done and while your body asks for rest and wonders “why did I not start my assignments earlier?” You keep going. You can’t stop or it will feel like you will fail the only thing you came to do — getting a degree.
University is not like high school. Here is the deal, though…
1. Nobody is reminding us to do the work.
It is our job to do all of the assignments, keep up with our social life (optional) and stay healthy.
Professors will advise you to do certain problems and what to study on your free time but it is your choice to do it.
We are expected to be independent, more organized and overall, on top of our work. By now you also know that things pile up quickly, it is a given. This is how university works. This freedom is beautiful, though, and there will always be people helping along the way.
2. You are responsible for your academic choices.
In high school I always had a preset list of courses that had to be completed each year. University is a different story.
You might feel overwhelmed and ask questions like “which courses am I supposed to enroll in?” but there are many resources like program outlines (online) and academic advisers (in-person) to help you organize yourself before you come to UVic. You will have to get used to reading more and paying close attention to requirements.
On top of that, in order to graduate there are specific degree requirements you have to meet like satisfying the Academic Writing Requirement or having the right number of 3rd and 4th year courses in your program and even taking enough courses to graduate!
I could do this myself by checking my program report (CAAP) but after I enrolled in other programs like Honours (research) and a language certificate I found it easier to meet with a staff member who is more knowledgeable of academic regulations and degree requirements. I met with an academic adviser from my faculty to make sure I was on track.
3. You actually have to study.
Do not take for granted that you know stuff. You won’t be able to memorize 10 lectures in one night. I think that 99% of students have to live this experience to really understand it, including myself.
I stayed up studying all night a few times until one night, in the middle of a zombie walk, I tripped, fell down the stairs and sprained my ankle. So how could I be on top of all the work and avoid hurting myself while completing my degree?
A helpful tip might be to make appointments with your professor throughout the term, especially the week before the exam. That way you know you have a few days to go over the material, answer practice questions and come up with questions of your own to discuss with your prof (while preventing a sprained ankle).
4. You have to cook for yourself.
Unless you order Domino’s on Mondays with the 50% off deal.
5. Laundry takes time.
Who am I kidding? A machine does the work for me. Nonetheless, I would often forget to do my laundry during my first year.
6. Giving your best does not always gets you an A.
I was used to getting good grades in high school. All of my grades were in the 90s. The first time I got a 60% at university I felt a strong pain in my chest.
I thought I had failed the exam and that I would lose my scholarship. Luckily for me, 60% was not a failing grade, in fact it was the class average.
I was working very hard, though, and it took time for me to understand that getting a lower grade in a midterm was not the end of the world. It was great news because I did not fail the course. On top of that I was used to getting one question wrong per midterm simply because I was not used to doing everything in English yet. It was a process.
Main point? You might have to change your routine and try new ways of learning. Giving your best might not get you an A, but trying new methods and learning what works for you could work. Sometimes it works to study on your own and sometimes you will need the extra help. There are many resources on campus starting with your professors (office hours), help centres for specific courses like Math and UVic student services.
Thank you for the office hours Dr. van Netten. They saved my degree.
7. You find even more things to love.
This might be more similar to high school than not. At UVic you start engaging with people from all around the world. You will learn about holidays from different cultures like Diwali, or start volunteering at different events or with professors! All of these will be experiences that will shape the person you become, the things you enjoy doing and usually, things you will love for the rest of your life.
What were your expectations and how have they changed? How have you grown since you started your journey at UVic? Share your thoughts with others, either through here or with your friends. Reflect on your experiences, it will help us all grow and learn.
Thanks for reading~