Everyone has their two cents when it comes to what university is all about, and as a student, you’ll get advice from a lot of different people. They might be students, family members, alumni, or random people on the internet. Whoever your “they” may be, plenty of articles have been written about what they don’t warn you about regarding university, or myths that you’ve been told. Instead, I’d like to mention a few things that they most certainly do tell you about university, which are absolutely true, and that you would be wise to heed.
You won’t have time to do everything
In high school, you may have played on every athletic team, been a member of all the clubs, participated in student council, and been able to to get an eight hour sleep each night. You might have finished every assignment for every class, and done every single reading and textbook question that wasn’t for marks. In university this isn’t realistic. There are too many clubs to join, too many assignments, too many readings, and not enough time. If you try and do everything you’ll burn out. Instead, take the opportunity to develop priorities, learn some effective time management skills, and you’ll be able to get the most out of university. While every person’s priorities are different, I would personally recommend that you make time to go to class (you’re paying for them after all), do the assignments that are for marks, and get a good night’s sleep. If you’re struggling in a course and need extra practice, then it may be a good idea to do some extra problems. Lastly, when it comes to extracurriculars, limit yourself to the ones you care most about, and of course, try and make time for having fun, whether that’s socializing or having a hobby.
Your grades will drop
Some say by 10%, some say 15% or more. It’s not an exact science, but the point is that the same amount of effort will get you a lower grade in university than it did in high school. Stated differently, to get the same marks in university as you did in high school you have to try much harder. For the many students who gave their best effort in high school, their grades inevitably drop, because they can’t possibly work any harder. So, if you’re struggling to maintain a 95% average, it may be time to adjust your expectations. That said, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Just do your best, and don’t get too caught up in the exact numbers, because you can almost always count on. . .
We have all heard about it, and for most of us, it has been a saving grace at one time or another. Simply put, when the class average or distribution of grades is off, a bell curve may be used to adjust everyone’s mark. This means that scoring a 39% on your organic chemistry midterm may not be a big deal if the class average was only a 30%, because at the end of the term, if the class average is to be 75%, everyone’s marks might be adjusted accordingly. But don’t count on bell-curves for every exam and in every course. What you do need to worry about is doing as well as, or better than the average student in your class. This is what it means to be “ahead of the curve”. Other common grade adjustment methods include offering to transfer weight from midterms to finals, alternate grading schemes, or bonus/extra credit work.
University teaches you how to think
University is a wonderful and truly unique experience, because it provides you the opportunity to to think critically about the world around you, and immerse yourself in learning. While on the surface it may appear as though your studies are teaching you about integral calculus, microeconomics, or whatever else, what you are really learning is how to innovate, solve problems, and ask the right questions. If you think about it, it’s very unlikely that you will ever need to know the frequency at which an alcohol stretches on an IR spectrum (and if you do, you can probably look it up). However, the ability to use such facts to make inferences or deductions is a skill that you can apply to anything you do. Furthermore, there may never be another chance in your life where you have the time to care about something as obscure as the historical accuracy of The Flintstones, or the role of sexuality in dystopian literature, but that’s not to say that such things aren’t interesting. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Next time you are given advice about university, listen up. They might just be telling the truth, know what they are talking about, and giving you some helpful tips.