It’s August! That means the end of the Summer holidays (groan) and the start of a new academic year for most university students! If this is your freshmen year in university, don’t fret! Here are some tips for you when you enter university for the first time this August! Seniors, of course you are welcome to stay!
- Timetable is everything!
Your timetable is the most important thing you need to get done long before school term starts! Here’s the plan: Make a Plan B and Plan C timetable even after you have painstakingly conducted your perfect module combinations and schedules! Here are some things you need to consider when planning out your schedule:
- Are you a morning person?
If mornings are too early for you, you should probably not schedule 8am tutorials everyday just because it allows you to end your school day earlier! Tutorials are as energy-draining as lectures and they will require you to give you 100% effort in terms of interaction and whether you have completed your assignments (you are graded for tutorial participation)!
- How near are the examination dates away from each other?
You may think that you will have ample time to study for back-to-back papers, but you may not be! As the semester goes by, your days get busier and you may suddenly find yourself at a burt-out stage even before examination period starts. Pace your examination dates, two final papers in one day is strongly not advised!
- What are the venues for your classes?
When lecture halls and tutorial rooms are close by, go right ahead and schedule them one after another, because lectures and tutorials are required to end at least 10-15 minutes early so that you have enough time to head to your next venue! If they are far away, I suggest giving yourself enough buffer time! Schedule your classes according to the venues if possible, so you don’t have to make a mad rush to get to your next venue!
- Do you stay in school/near school?
If you do, perhaps it’s good to spread out your classes. Two or three classes a day is more energy-efficient than squeezing six classes a day. By the fourth class, you would be completely exhausted! This will not help your learning especially since tutorials are used to solidify what you learnt in lecture!
- Make choices based on what you like!
I may be a little late now that courses are already assigned to you at this point in time but pick the modules you find interesting and contain information you’d like to learn or are interested in! This is an important morale boost for the crunch time you face when assignments and revisions are both piling! While the company of friends may be comforting, know that your university education is supposed to benefit you and cater to your wants and needs. What do you want to get from a university education?
- Consider the professors and their teaching styles
Professors are so important to the module to me that it either makes or breaks the module! I have my share of professors that I wished I knew about before I decided to enroll in their class. At the same time, I have met some of the nicest professors who were so willing to engage in discussions, encourage students and most importantly, are approachable. I enjoy taking classes based on my interest, and most professors who teach it share similar interests as well. Approachable and friendly professors who encourage good class discussions, are insightful at lectures and are approachable in person are a highly valued asset to me. Teaching styles of professors may vary, though it should not be a hinderance for you to take a module. If necessary, you can talk to your professors about it and see if they can try to help you understand better. Of course, you need to do your share of trying and put in some effort before you seek help from a Prof!
- Know Your Priorities Outside of the Curriculum
Deciding how you spend your free time is highly underrated, especially when it is about the precious time you have outside of school. There are a few main options:
- Work: Let’s be honest, university is really costly. Not just the school fees, public transport prices are much higher than the cents charged to your ez-link in Poly or JC.
- Join CCAs: The impact of a CCA may be larger than you think! Any club, sports or activities not only helps relieve the stress of5. schoolwork, the friends you make there will enrich your life and time in university!
- Volunteer: This may be an aspect under CCA but volunteering in outside organizations enrich your time as a student as well! Plus, the people you meet at external volunteering organizations come from all walks of life, which will help you see the world in a much different light!
- Self-Improvement: This can happen in a few ways. Doing external readings outside of curriculum will provide you with insight that may be useful for school and provides you more knowledge and a different perspective to the way lectures have been presented to you! Exercising, meditating etc are all ways to improve yourself!
- Take Good, Good Care of Your Mental Health!
This is the most overlooked aspect for students, especially because university can be crudely seen as a panic for the paper chase, which is highly dependent on the bell curve. The bell curve grades students according to the performance of their peers, which can get highly demoralizing, especially for students who have been trying hard to improve (and they are, but the bell curve does not reward an individual’s improvement) but does not see a letter grade improvement. Do remind yourself that these are all just letters and numbers which do not define your worth! Seek professional help if needed!
- You Don’t Have to Hold Back!
Most people in universities are more open-minded and accepting of different ideas and identities! Unlike the boxed-up way we were taught to present our ideas, the university teachers are open to accepting new perspectives, even if they may contrast with the traditional schools of thought. Do not be afraid to be yourself and present your unique ways of thinking. Sometimes your unconventional insights are more valuable than you may think!
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up About Disappointments
It can get a dark especially when you are always compared to your peers for everything that you do. You may have an ideal picture of how your school term or academic journey turns out but sometimes, things do not go the way we envision. Whenever life throws bad experiences to you, do an in-depth reflection on how things can be improved! Times like getting a grade you felt deserved better, failing a module or friendship and relationship issues are extremely common in university. Instead of beating yourself up about the could-be scenarios, pick yourself back up and aim to do better!
- Do Not be Afriad to Seek Help From Professors
Following the previous pointer, do not be afraid to seek help from professors! In university, professors are the lecturers and teaching in the various modules. It is understandable that with that title, they may seem unapproachable. However, most professors are actually really friendly and they are usually more than happy to have a long sit-down with you to discuss your work or have any discussions regarding any assignments. This is where you clear any doubts you have during lectures or assignments. While you are at it, you can also find out more about some career aspects regarding your course!
- Be patient
There always seems to be a hurry to complete many things in life, and one of them is to graduate. There is some social stigma surrounding the idea of taking breaks before the completion of one's education journey. However, you should take all the time you need to figure out the course that you want to study. Take time off to explore through research or even working in the industries you may be interested in. Think of the problem like this: Imagine walking into a hawker centre during dinner time, overwhelmed by the amount of food choices not knowing what to order. What can you do? Either give one of the dishes that appeal to you a try, or postpone dinner to look around at what others and eating and if it looks good. This is why some universities offer a chance for students to try out different courses in the first year.
- Check Your Graduation Requirements
There are people who do not understand their graduation requirements well enough and hence could not graduate on time. Do not only start checking before you graduate! The best thing to do is to plan out the modules you should take in all your semesters to ensure a smooth-sailing journey to graduation!
University life may be scary, but keep in mind your reasons for pursuing a university education. Is it for a comparative advantage in the job market? Or is it to gain more knowledge while pursuing your interests? In any way, I wish you all the best for your journey exploring this new step in your life, may it be a fruitful one!
Have a ho (good) day! 😊