The First-Year Flop
With the first few weeks of September gone by, college and university students all over the country are getting into the swing of being back on campus.
For first-year students this is a time to mispronounce your professors name, accidentally sit in on the wrong class, order a tea but get a coffee, and miss your bus to that one class that you promised yourself you would attend no matter what. Beyond that, there is one terrible truth looming over most students that they are blissfully unaware of; the first-year flop.
Every year students come out of high school with enormous averages, expecting the trend to continue into university without a hitch. For most, September and October are a brisk reality check and a time to realize that you can’t get your mom to write you a note explaining why your first paper is late. If you wrote essays and scored in the 90s back in high school, you can almost guarantee that you won’t see that in your first year. The university grading level is an incredible change from high school, and first year is your bumpy transition into the upper echelon of academia.
So what does all this mean? Well, prepare to be disappointed. Very few students excel in their first year as they did in high school, and it’s nothing personal. If you talk to any university professor or upper-year student, I would guarantee that they stumbled somewhere along the line when they first arrived at college or university. It happens, and it’s nothing to be afraid of!
You are in a prime position to learn a lesson from this experience. If you receive a poor grade, go talk to your professor. See your TA, find out where you went wrong, and more importantly, how to fix it. And if it happens again, don’t sweat it. First year is meant for students to gain a foothold. As long as you can keep your grades high enough to enter your program of choice, in all reality, your grades from this year won’t matter too much in the long haul.
If you’re still sweating it, there is one other thing you should know. For university students, most masters programs only look at your average over the last two or three years of study. If you think I’m getting too far ahead of myself, I’m not (I promise!). You should try to be as aware of your academic path as possible, even while you’re in first year. If you think you may have even the smallest interest in pursuing a masters degree, find out what they’ll be asking of you. While it’s 3 or 4 years off, you’ll be at ease if you can confirm that they don’t care about your first year grades. This isn’t an invitation to slack off because you’ll still need a solid average to get into an honours program if that’s what you’re aiming for, but it’ll definitely ease the tension after your first calculus exam comes back with a 68% instead of an 86%.
If you can study hard, ask questions, and meet your deadlines, you’ll be ahead of the game throughout college or university. Meet with your professors and TAs, and your grades shouldn’t dip too much!