Dear University freshman Kris,
As I am now half a year post-graduate studies, I feel I have some wisdom (<- sarcastic tone on the “wisdom” by the way) to share to you and those who are starting their journey after high school. First of all, CELEBRATE. You were very fortunate to be able to attend high school with a supportive family at home and a fantastic group of friends and peers around you but that doesn’t mean it was easy. Be proud of yourself.
It’s true when they say that you’ll look back on how tough high school was and realize it was so so simple and easy. I know right now you’re thinking that in four years you’ll be in employment bliss and things after school get easier, but they don’t. Undergrad is harder than high school. Graduate school is harder than Undergrad. Real life adulthood is harder than graduate school. It doesn’t get easier but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it and be able to face any challenges you encounter. Don’t try and picture your life 4 years down the road, or six years, or which grad program you’d like or where you’ll apply to medical or law school… live in the moment for a bit.
One thing I have come to learn is that you have a whole campus of professors, administrative staff, researchers, deans, other faculty, and students that WANT YOU TO SUCCEED. No one is trying to “weed you out” and no one is making it harder on you than any other student. If you look around and dig past the concepts of finals and midterms and labs, you’ll see that there are thousands of people that go to work on University campuses every day where it is literally their job to help ensure students succeed not only in University but in the real world. Profs make exams hard because they need to see you that you’ve grasped the concept. The questions on a final might not look like the text book questions you did for practice because you need to learn to apply your knowledge. Minus a few of the duds, profs care about your learning… hell they went into the profession of teaching you so they must do it for a reason. Take advantage of office hours, meet with your profs and lecturers and they will be more than willing to help you… I know I know, it sounds nerdy but I know for a fact by second year you’ll be standing outside your chemistry lab instructor’s office door asking for help so just get over it. Meet with study groups, go to free writing workshops, take advantage of the plethora of supports on campus for nutrition, mental health, massage therapy students, therapy dogs during exams… the programs were created for you!
Talk to more people. I swear, they don’t bite. Well, except for the fact that you are going into University in the post-Twilight book era where people got real into vampires there for a while, but for the most part they don’t bite. Some of the best friendships, relationships, business ventures, and networking comes from talking to people in University. The more the merrier. You don’t have to be BFFs with everyone you talk to, but it pays to try and find the people you want on your team.
You probably don’t know what you want to do. Or you do, and you’d be wrong. Remember two years ago when you wanted to be an architect and before that a teacher and before that a policewoman… chances are you’ll second guess yourself 310857113 times in University and THAT’S OKAY. 2% of your freshman class will end up doing the exact thing they told you on day one. Become aware of which classes you look forward to going to. Which assignments you liked doing. Which research projects peaked your interest. Sometimes when you find yourself enjoying a project or really loving learning about a topic or even enjoying a hobby that you’re passionate about, it can give you incredible insight into what you might want to do for the rest of your life. Don’t just look at the top 10 programs at each University, look at real jobs and vocations and trades and new professions… decide for YOU.
Above all else, enjoy it. You don’t have to go to University or college or attain any post-secondary education, but if you are fortunate to have the choice, make the most of it! You are fortunate to be going to University as not everyone is able to do the same. I have taken to stopping people who say they “hate school” or “hate University” and “just can’t wait until it’s over”… WHAT! Enjoy it! Savour this time! Love 95% of your time there and you’ll be alright. Yeah, finals suck, but that’s why I said 95% and not 100%. 😉
Love, recent Master of Science Grad, Kris.