What I Learned From My First Year of University
Last week, I finished my last final exam at school, which means that I completed my FIRST YEAR OF UNIVERSITY.
It's not at all what I expected. Even if you hear that post-secondary will be academically more difficult and socially much easier, you won't really know the true feelings until you're a student... the feeling of guilt when you are doing anything other than studying, the feeling of loneliness from lack of social interaction with old and new friends, the feeling of confusion when you're constantly questioning why you're in school and your choice of major, etc.
I'll also be collaborating with friends on a Youtube video as we speak on this subject, so stay in touch for that, but here are a few significant lessons that stood out during my first year.
1. Your High School Work Habits Are Not Enough
Even if you managed to have an A average in high school, there are so many contributing factors to why you won't be getting the same grades in post-secondary at first. In fact, most of the lessons I learned in my freshman year relate to grades and work habits.
The school system is completely different than in high school in each and every one of your courses. You have multiple professors because you are taking several classes and they each have their own syllable to follow. For example, in one class, your grade can be based off four components; an individual project, a midterm, a group project, and a final exam. In another class, your grade can be based off multiple components like weekly homework, daily quizzes, etc.
Tip: It's very easy to fall into the procrastination mindset in university. You'll always put off your work and overestimate the time that you have. At the start of your first semester, you'll think that assignments or your midterm are far into the future, when really, they are much closer than they appear. Start your work early and save yourself some stress!
2. You'll Constantly Feel Confused About Your Major (And That's OK)
First of all, this is completely normal. If you think you've got it all figured out during your grad year of high school what you're going to study for the next four or five (or more, who knows) years at university, you are greatly mistaken. You're going to have to endure vague introduction courses which have an impact on drifting your interest away from this subject you thought you'd love and you'll start questioning if it really is meant for you.
Almost everyone I've asked is actually undeclared in terms of their major, which means that they still aren't sure what it is. Do not feel pressure when you have to choose a program when applying for university, because you have the option to change it once you're in school.
Tip: Remember that an intro course is meant for people to understand the basic concepts of a subject. As you advance into upper level courses during your upcoming years of university, your classes will be more specialized into one specific subject, so maybe don't switch majors just yet and feel out out other courses within your program. Everything you learn will be beneficial in terms of choosing your major. You're spending at least 500$ per course, so even if you end up not needing it, you wouldn't have known it did not interest you if you didn't at least give it a try.
3. You'll Meet A Lot of People, But You Won't Make Many Friends
From summer group chats and bios emerging from my university's freshman group, to my first club that I joined in my first semester, and to meeting people willing to talk to me in lectures, I can only say that I've made a few friends during my first year of university. How is this so? When you look back at high school, you may realize that the friends you have until now have not only been in your life for years, but it also took years for a great friendship to form.
Since I started to hate high school in the later years because I felt like an outsider, I had strong expectations to connect with a lot of people in post-secondary. Even if I did find like-minded people, a true friendship will only start to form once you maintain a relationship outside of school. You'll make friends in your courses, but most of the time, they'll only be your companions for that semester, which lasts about three months. At first, you may feel sad, realizing that the people you met in your first term of university weren't forever, but that feeling will quickly go away when you'll come across even better potential friends for you!
Tip: In university, there are tens of thousands of people for you to meet. Even if your university is small, you've got to remember that potential friendships also exist outside of the courses you're taking. I found that the most like-minded people I met were in UNICEF, the first club I joined, because we all shared the same interest in humanitarian aid. Also, don't be afraid to be that person that goes past boundaries to make a friendship happen! Ask for the person's Instagram or Facebook so that you can stay connected. Chances are that they feel the exact same way -- that you're just some temporary semester friend that is only friends with you so you aren't sitting alone in your class. I promise that it will make them really happy (but this only works when the feeling is mutual -- if it isn't, then whatever, and keep doing you, boo -- the right people will come along in time!).
4. You'll Have More Freedom, But Probably Lack of Control
If you've moved out of your house and live on your school's residence, then this may resonate more with you, but even I find that the adults were right -- with freedom, comes responsibility.
You have the choice to go to class. You have the choice to do your weekly 20-page readings. You have the choice to start your work early or do everything the night before. You have the choice to go to a frat party. You have the choice to go to office hours or seek extra help for school work. YOU HAVE THE CHOICE, YOU YOUNG ADULT, YOU.. Whether you make the better choice or not, university will teach you that you're responsible for your actions and there's no one else to blame or give credit to but yourself.
As adults, when something isn't right, you should seek help when necessary. You've got to discipline yourself, make sacrifices, and do everything you can to achieve your own personal goals. Balance between school and all the other aspects of your life is a journey which I'm still going through, but I believe that once you find it, you'll strive.
Tip: Freedom is a privilege that is given to us with age and if your country allows (which makes it even more of a privilege). Take advantage of it, but learn to control yourself and don't let your feelings take the lead. Appreciate and acknowledge where you are now, because every step you take is significant to your work ethic. Also, give yourself a reasonable amount of breaks because you deserve it.
I feel like I have matured so much from the start of my first year of university to now. For each semester, I've had two mental breakdowns that were due to excessive amounts of stress and confusion, yet I'm still so thankful that I can even be in post-secondary and I'm so proud that I've made it this far.
Everyone's experience of university is different through the choices they make. I could mention other lessons I've learned during my freshman year, like how much you'll hate how far you live from school (if that's your case) or that you should avoid 8:30AM classes, but those are mostly petty subject areas that don't deserve further explanation, since they speak for themselves.
For the most part, even though you constantly want to sleep and avoid dealing with your school stress, university is a nice change from high school, because you have the freedom to make your own decisions, and whether they're 'good' or 'bad', they will always benefit you into (hopefully) becoming a better human being.