University: What to Expect
Post-secondary education, though an important stage for many people, can be daunting. In high school, you become accustomed to small classes, friends in every course, and teachers who go out of their way to help you succeed—so accustomed that you start to take these things for granted. If you decide to go to university, you’re probably aware by now that things are going to change. The transition to post-secondary is a natural part of growing up, but it’s one adjustment you’re going to have to face head-on.
Some students (whether by choice or not) move out in their first year of university, because their campus is far away from home or they want to get the residence experience. Regardless of whether you’re living on your own, a resident, or a “commuter” (who gets to school by his/her own means), you may be surprised by your newfound independence. No more bells (or whistles): you are basically let loose in university and given the freedom to make your own choices, a luxury not often afforded to you in high school. Without all those meddling teachers looking over your shoulder all the time, you can roam the university campus, go to all the parties you want, and basically do whatever you like!
Actually, not quite. Hand-in-hand with independence comes a heavier burden than anything you’ve experienced in high school: responsibility. Sure, you’re free to go to class, or to not go, if you feel like it. You’re free to skip out on that midterm, or leave all your reading for next week. But keep something in mind. You’re paying for your education, and it’s now up to nobody else but you to make sure you keep up. No professor is going to hold your hand and walk you through the semester. Extra help is out there—and so are some amazing opportunities—but now it’s up to you to seek them out. Makes you wish you appreciated those “meddling teachers” while you had them, doesn’t it?
To be a successful student in university, you have to ensure a balance between your newfound freedom and multitude of obligations. You may find yourself compromising your own desire to go out and play to deal with the workload, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t meet new people, go to events, and join clubs or teams. Weighing independence, responsibility, and the other wonderful traits you’re undoubtedly going to pick up, you start to be able to think for yourself. You start to judge what you personally feel is right or wrong (not necessarily what you’ve been told) and, at some point, you finally establish your identity.
University is about education. But it’s also about experiencing the world through your own eyes and finally being able to voice your opinions. Take advantage of your undergraduate years and use that voice wisely. Perhaps you’ll learn something about yourself along the way.