The fact that we are all forced to make such large debt inducing decisions at the age of 17/18 is still completely ridiculous to me. I can’t speak for everyone but many people in my social circle went to university because it was what our parents wanted or it was what everyone was doing back then. Going to university or college right after grade 12 seemed like the most logical thing to do. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that those are not good enough reasons to go because you know what that is probably why over 90% of us even went in the first place. I know that may sound completely ridiculous but when you’re at University and get to know people, you’ll soon realize that everyone is confused as to what they’ll be doing next and what exactly they want to get out of their undergraduate degree. Even those people that seem to have absoloutely everything figured out and have gotten straight As all the way through are just as confused as you are (How do I know? Well, I’m good friends with one. If you are fortunate enough to make a real connection with one of these perfect souls they will let their guard down and allow themselves to be vulnerable around you. That is when you will realize that they too have their own list of things that leave them lost and confused.) The quote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” will come to be one of the truest of them all. You will learn about people and their battles in a whole new light and the most meaningful conversations will lead to some of the most unforgettable allnighters. These people will become your friends, and these friends will become your family. Cherish those nights, they will be the ones you'll remember when all is said and done.
There will be many times during your undergrad where you will wish you could be one of those people who hardly study for exams and still manage to do ok. Some of you will be able to half ass almost everything and still do pretty good (I’m silently envying you if you are capable of this). For the rest of you who are like me, no matter how hard we wish, we will not be able to wait until the night before to start studying. Like me, you will probably spend majority of your exam weeks wishing you had a photographic memory. Trust me, I probably spent more hours wishing that than reading my notes. The way your friend studies may work well for them, but it may not work for you. You'll go from typing your notes out to writing your notes out to highlighting your notes. You may even try cue cards. It's okay to try different things until you find what works for you. Finding an effective way that helps you study will take time. You'll know you're studying effectively when you start doing better in school but feel a lot less overwhelmed in the process. You’ll be left happy and motivated and you might even find studying a little fun. Find your own groove and stick with it. Just because someone else has not started studying yet does not mean you shouldn’t. Start as early as possible. Watch a show or movie in the background if that means it’ll get you to start. Starting is the hardest part. There will be some weeks when you feel overwhelmed with the hundred and one things you have due all in the span of a week. Prioritize. For the perfectionists that can’t start the next task until the one that is being worked on is 110% perfect... Well let's just say that you'll find these weeks the hardest. If you are going to be a perfectionist about it all start with the assignment that is worth the most and put the ones that are worth less in the back burner. We all try to overcompensate sometimes by saying we will have EVERYTHING done on time. Our need to overcompensate will grow especially when we are struggling. If you are behind on a course do not overcompensate. Do not overcompensate by saying you will have ALL three chapters done in a day. Tell yourself you will do one chapter every day for the next three days. You will feel a lot less stressed this way, and you'll probably be more likely to get it done. I learnt this from my roommate in first year. She use to take one chapter of our psychology reading, split it into two sections and would work on the first section one day and the second the day after. She never overcompensated by saying she would finish the entire chapter in a day. By pacing herself, she did not burn herself out.
Remember, late penalties are there for a reason. If you feel as if taking a few extra days to finish an assignment will lead to a greater end then take an extra day. But, if you have a busy week ahead (especially exam week) I'd refrain from handing things in super late. Handing in an assignments late will only push your entire schedule back leaving you way more overwhelmed in the end. The days you would have used to study for your upcoming exams are being used on the assignment you should have finished three days ago. Sometimes it's necessary to hand in an assignment late but don't make it a habit. Almost all the assignments you are assigned don't really teach you anything. Sometimes it's better to get it done, hand it in, and call it a day. Don't overthink it. A week from now you won't even remember what you were working on.
My grade 12 teacher taught my entire class some tips on how to get a doctors note for the weeks you feel completely overwhelmed and get desperate for a few extra study days (trust me, it'll happen at least once), and that was probably the most useful class I ever sat in. Remember walk -in - clinic and food poisoning. It’s not like they can exactly test for that stuff. You’re welcome. PS- Do not go to a campus clinic and don't do it often.
As a former RA/Don myself, I suggest you be kind to your RA/Don. If you don't know what an RA/Don is now, trust me you will when you live on residence. They are not out to get you. Be kind to them and they will do everything they can to get you out of any mess. That being said, you will meet some hard asses that take their job way too seriously. But, just like life, you will learn how to manoeuvre around them.
Your greatest asset and your most meaningful moments will be spent with your tribe. Your tribe will consist of your closest friends where you will feel the most comfortable. Foster these relationships because they will be the ones that will make it their priority to get you up and out of bed when all you want to do is sleep. They will be the ones to check up on you when you least expect anyone to and they will be the ones rooting for your success. They are the ones that will have your genuine happiness in mind. You will think many people will remain in your tribe but the truth is you'll spend many years even after undergrad trying to figure out who really is worthy of such a title. Keep these people close.
Get involved get involved get involved. The people that end up in your tribe are ones you find when stepping out of your comfort zone. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, they make for some of the craziest, most meaningful stories. Find at least one thing that interests you and get involved. I know it's scary to venture into a new world without anyone you're familiar with but soon enough those new people you meet will become those familiar faces.
It’s not about the marks. I mean yes, if you need to get into another program then your GPA is important but if you do bad in a course that does not mean it’s the end for you. Take the course again if you need to. Fix up the grades that are bringing down your average. You’ll have bad days, and bad test days are bound to happen but if you want something bad enough it’ll take time and redoing a few courses will not be the end all of your academic career.
ut, most of all remember this: university/college/whatever you are doing in life right now is a minuscule part of your forever. If University was not everything you thought it would be or you get there and you're feeling a little homesick it's okay. There is no prescription for any of this stuff. Everything mentioned above is what worked for me and how I've come to understand my last four years away from home. If any of the stuff i've mentioned helps you make sense of any of it then great but no matter what your experience will be different. That'll be the beauty of it. We all have these predisposed ideas of how things should be, how things should turn out... A really bad habit, but a natural one. Everything you experience will help foster a version of you. That is the most important. Life really is about not knowing and having to change. Every experience is an experience because it is something new. Every new experience is your opportunity to grow. Bad or good, embrace it, learn from it, and dive into the next with the most open mind. Delicious ambiguity . . . it is what will keep us going.
A 24 year old Canadian living (& teaching) in Shenzhen, China.