In your post-secondary career at McMaster academics are going to be very important, the content will be more in-depth and challenging than it was in high school but you’ll get used to it. Remember that almost every other first year is coming in with the same background as you, just a high school education, and by getting in you have been deemed ready for the challenge, here are a few tips to get you a step ahead in the academic switch to first year.
Time Management – You’ve probably heard this one before. In high school you may have had a “do what I want when I want” schedule and the concept of time management may have never been important to you, but it will be in university. With assignments and evaluations sneaking up on you in every class, getting involved with extracurricular activities and volunteering, and ‘chilling with the boys’ all happening at once time management is going to become a necessity or else it will appear that there’s no time for any of those activities. Starting work as soon as possible and limiting wasted time should become habitual if you want to succeed. It helps some people to keep an agenda, notebook or day planner to make a schedule to keep themselves on track. It may seem challenging at times when you have 3 essays and 4 tests in one week but as long as you prioritize and stay on top of things everything can be fine. More information on time management can be found at http://studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca/students/academic-skills/on-line-resources.html
Class Size – In high school a 30 person class may seem large, but in university you’ll have some lectures with hundreds of other students. Popular courses, especially in first year, will often have the most students crammed into big lecture halls. But don’t worry, you won’t need to meet everyone in your class like you might have in grade 9. Tutorials will have less students and let you get more help going over the course and higher year courses will have smaller enrolments, especially if they are specialized.
Studying and learning habits - Don’t study in your room, it’s too easy to get distracted. Maybe you’ll open up facebook, maybe you’ll walk over to your neighbour’s dorm, maybe you’ll just make a sandwich, but you definitely won’t study the way you planned to. Finding a “study space” where you can focus and get your work done in privacy is ideal. The libraries at McMaster have plenty of room for students to study in, whether alone, in a group or in silence.
In high school you or people you know may have excelled in every subject with relative ease, while others may have studied every night and received lower marks. In university, no matter how naturally gifted you are, you’ll need to study. It is important to find studying habits that work for you, whether it involves highlighting, reading notes out loud or recorded lectures and watching them over. Once you find your preferred method of studying keep doing it and don’t put it off for later, if you have free time now use it for school work that’s due well in the future because you never know how much work you’ll have handed to you a week later.
One last note is that things may seem rushed in university, more course work is covered in less time and at some times it may seem like your professor doesn’t care if you pass or not, they do but they just won’t hover over you to make sure you’re on track like teachers did back in elementary school. Being a university student you are expected to be more independant and take initiative to seek out help when you need it. Most professors will be glad to assist you during their office hours, especially if you have a true interest in the subject. It is highly recommended that you do this as you will not only receive help but also you have a chance to build connections with professors that could open up opportunities for future research projects, jobs or reference letters. For help visit McMaster’s Student Success Centre at http://studentsuccess.mcmaster.ca/students.html