University life is very different from what you've experienced in high school.
You've probably heard that your grades will drop when you get to university. For many students this actually does happen, especially in first year. When it comes to academic transitions, your first challenge will be to get used to an educational system that is very different from high school. Right away you will find yourself getting used to a new class schedule, different class sizes as well as teaching styles. You will also find yourself in an environment where you are solely responsible for your academic success. The good news is that you will get used to this new system and once you do you will find it easier to study and learn.
Here are some of the changes you will encounter in your first year:
- Semester/Term System:
The university academic year begins in September and finishes in April. The year is divided into two terms with final exams occurring late December and late April. Many of your courses will be half-credit courses which last one term. You may also have full-credit courses which last all year. The nice thing about having an eight-month academic year is that you now have a four-month summer to make money for your next year at university!
- Class Schedule:
It will be strange when you plan your class schedule and realize that you will never be going to school again from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. You may have classes that start at 11:30 a.m., or you'll have maybe one or two classes per day and maybe, if you're lucky you may have an entire day with no classes. In fact, your first impression will be that you now have lots of time on your hands - this can be deceiving. You will discover quite quickly that the university gives you this time for a reason - reading, reading, and more reading!
- Classroom Size:
Normally first-year classes are the biggest classes on campus and this takes some getting used to. Although it depends on the size of university you are attending, you will find yourself in classes which are much bigger than the ones you attended in high school. These classes could range from 100 students to 1000 depending on where you go. When classes are large, the dynamics change. You no longer feel like you can put up your hand to ask a question or ask the professor to repeat an important point. What you will find is that most of your larger classes in first year will be complimented by a tutorial or lab component which breaks students down into smaller groups allowing for discussion and review. Your professor will also have office hours where you can go and see them for extra help. Don't be intimidated - that's what they are there for.
- Final Grades:
The way in which your final grade is compiled will vary with each course. The breakdown of your final grade might consist of some, or all of the following: participation, group work, essays, assignments, labs, midterms, presentations and final grades. Each of these components will be weighted differently depending on the professor you have. You will also be tested differently in each class. For example, some professors like multiple choice exams where as some like essay questions. It takes awhile to adjust to these changes, especially when you are taking a full-time work load of five courses.