Accepted to University? Things I learned in My 2 Years (II)

In my previous post, I focused on some of the financial factors one may have to deal with as a university student. But what about the emotional? The question of working while going to school? To be or not be in a relationship?

I asked a few friends about these issues and they also pointed out a few things they wished they knew at the start of their tertiary journey. All of them actually attend UWI so what they said might be limited, but maybe it can also be applied generally. Here are their responses, along with my own perspective:

Delroy: “I wish I knew how to fix my timetable properly. Arrange [it] to get at least one day off so I don’t spend so much bus fare and get time to do work better.”

– This is probably the most important one! The first thing you’ll have to do when you start university is register for classes and select a suitable time for each. Can I tell you, it was one of the most confusing things I’ve ever done in my life. Coming from high school, I didn’t see the big deal in having classes fall right behind the other and even doing 5 courses a day. That seemed like a piece of cake. I was thinking, it cah be so hard? WRONG.
Again, university workload is like nothing you’re used to, so don’t ever be so quick to pile on the work. Yes, it’s good to think “I’m here to work hard, graduate with first class honours and prove to everybody I’m brilliant!” but ummm, my advice is, go easy first.

You could probably copy notes from a friend in high school, sleep out half of class or text under the table during lessons, but again, if your aim is really that first class reward, YOU NEED TO GET REAL.

Part of getting real is not being so bold as to tackle everything at once in a day. Yup, you read right. Your emotions need a breather from the stress of meeting all the requirements of just one course, so at least in your very first semester, take that breather. Accept the challenge in the second one when you’re better acclimatized to campus life. Not discouraging you still, you can do what you want, but I remember in one of my first lectures at UWI, the lecturer – all smiles, warm personality and easy approach – said to us, “So I’m assuming since you’re here, some of you must be used to getting straight A’s and high grades. Nuh true?” We all responded in the affirmative, wondering where the heck she was going with this. Then her face broke into one of the Joker’s smiles, “Well… welcome to university.”

Of course I’m exaggerating but the conversation was very real, and so were the C’s and near F’s we got on our first coursework activity. Personally, my result was due to having to dash from one class to the next, trying to remember where the next class was, worrying about whether I could understand a word the lecturer was gonna say like how I couldn’t understand the last one, being hungry all of a sudden [this is weird, I could go three classes before needing food], dreading the A/C, dreading being in a room with a broken A/C… the list goes on and on. The point is, if your emotions can’t keep up, and if your brain gets boggled just from wanting to do your best as soon as you start school, then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

On the flip side, some persons schedule all their lectures and tutorials in 3 [sometimes 2 – I don’t know how they do that] days and they do fine. A bonus, as Delroy pointed out, is that they get to save more money from not spending on fare or lunch as frequently. But the disadvantage to that is in the remaining free days, instead of doing assignments, you face the temptation of gaming, watching tv all day, YouTubing all day, SLEEP all day… you get the drift. And the most common mistake persons make is thinking, “Oh well, these coursework assignments value the least of all for my final grade, so nutten nuh wrong if mi get a low grade or doh hand it in.” Ummm, WRONG AGAIN. Lots of persons learn the hard way [usually at the end of the semester] that 1% is all that separated them from snatching the passing grade, and that 1% could’ve come outta that 5% and 10% coursework grade.

You have to remember though, not all persons are going to be able to actually get that one day off because the times for some courses aren’t that flexible, but you can still give yourself at least an hour free between classes to eat, socialize, or catch up on notes.

And this leads me to

Chadrick: “I wish I knew they would change the pass mark from 40% to 50% :/”

– I laughed when I saw this, but there are serious complications to being too comfortable with standards. You might have already been used to the pass mark being 50% in high school, or maybe even 60%, so 40% might seem shocking to you. It was to me. I thought the standard would be so high, even the sky couldn’t compete, considering this is a whole new level and the fact that the university is boasting graduates with impressive GPAs… Until I came to understand why the standard was so low. Remember that lecturer I told you about? She had a point. 39% itself would be hard to come by, especially when incoming generations are quickly being pushed to leave the thinking to smart devices. So when persons are required to think critically for themselves, lecturers get blank, clueless faces in response to a question in class, or blank pages in exams.

So how do you avoid the worry of trying to get that extra 10%? Simply study smarter and idle less. Notice I did not say “study harder”. If you do that, you’ll fry your brains. Studying smarter means you figure out for yourself the best way you learn, do more of that, and also watch how much time you spend not doing something productive. If you’re already doing that, then you shouldn’t even be worrying about any more shifts in the pass mark.

Aldeam: “I wish I knew where I could find a place to chill quietly.”

– This is sooo true! There are lots of places on campus for you to sit, but there are not enough quiet places around. If you’re lucky enough to find one, you’re gonna notice that it doesn’t stay quiet for long. Long story short, NUFF PEOPLE DEH PON CAMPUS, so more than likely there’s gonna be somebody else looking for a quiet spot too. You might tolerate that person in your space for a while as the invisible rule between you two is established – that you both respect each other’s quiet – but soon one of you will get a LOUD whatsapp message. One message is ok, you don’t have to get worked up over that. Your studies for that mid-semester exam won’t be totally annihilated over that. Until that person gets a call that they don’t think to answer quietly, and the sentence you’re reading becomes ‘The Caribbean Court of Justice is under di tree in front a Nardo stall roun’ a Humanities deh so. Jus’ come nuh man an’ tap di foolishness, cho!” Then they hang up, apologize, and everything goes back to normal… till that friend from the phone convo arrives.

The key to avoiding instances like these and the extra stress is to also pencil into your timetable the places that you know will be quiet at those free times, and also for how long they are usually available. You might  have to wait a few weeks to observe the way things run before you can do that, but believe me, it helps.

And lastly, Amari. We actually had a longer conversation which encompassed the issue of work/study and relationship/study, but that will have to go into part III, but just to include a very important point:

Amari: “What I wish I knew at the start of first year? Just how quickly the semester goes by. Take heed.”

– Most courses only last for a semester, which means you can’t draw out any of your assignments like you used to at the secondary level. Your one semester means you have one chance to do everything right, or else you’ll have to pay for a re-do. And trust me, if that class was boring since day one, YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO THROUGH IT AGAIN, so do your best the first time before the semester leaves you behind.

That said, I hope this helps. All the best!

Shanese Whyte studies Literatures in English at UWI, Mona and is the 2015-2016 Department Representative for theDepartment of Literatures in English in the Faculty of Humanities and Ed.

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