Studying in University: Assumption vs Reality

Written by Infinite

We have a certain expectation as to how the tertiary study should be. Whether you are going to uni for the first time after high school or doing a part-time study while working full time, here are a few stark contrasts that you should prepare yourself for!

Assumption: Attending some lectures will be good enough. It doesn’t matter if I skip a few.

Reality: In short, no. You should aim to attend most of the lectures. I say ‘most’ because you can miss a few if you are sick or have some personal emergency to tend to. Aside from that, stick to all the lectures because you might miss out on important info. Although these days most classes are online anyway, so you need to make sure to catch up on those recordings that you have missed. Having taught at the university for a while, I can guarantee that students who attend/listen to all lectures (recordings) do significantly better than those who did not.

Assumption: Writing an essay is easy peasy. What is so hard about writing a few paragraphs?

Reality: If we are talking about writing your diary, it might be. I once taught a professional journalist to write an academic essay. It took them (gender-neutral pronounce, not a grammatical error) a while to adjust to it, and do well. Academic writing is an entirely different process. It’s not like the news you read every day or the listicles you frequent (like this one!). It is a complex process, which involves a lot of critical reading, writing, observation, and use of various reputable sources to support your argument. Bottom line is: if it takes a professional writer a good while to grasp it, you should not underestimate it. If you are still unsure what academic writing is, read this post and it will give you a good idea!

Assumption: The teaching staff will hold my hand and take me to the finish line.

Reality: University is about independent learning. Unlike high school or other settings, it is about self-determination and discipline. The teaching staff, such as lecturer or tutor, will help you where they could but don’t expect them to hold your hand and carry you forward. Not only because this is impractical due to the sheer size of the class, but also this would impair your ability to learn independently.

    Hand-holding is for babies!

Assumption: I will never be good enough for whatever that I am studying.

Reality: Learning is an accumulative process – it takes time. You might not be as good as you first started, but eventually, you will get there with the right mindset and resources. And reach out if you do need help. Many students that I have taught before might be too shy to ask important questions because they think the questions are silly or not good enough. This might end up costing their grade. When you ever feel like you are not good enough for your studies, think about how you are accepted into the university by meeting their prerequisites. That should remind you that you are good enough.

Assumption: I should just keep my thoughts to myself during tutorials to prevent making a mistake from speaking up.

Reality: Most tutorial classes (lectures too, in some exception) invite the students to speak their mind. Constructively that is, of course. You might find some students speak up better than others. Conversely, you might struggle to speak up worrying that you might say something wrong, or something that you deem inadequate for the setting. The secret here from me is: speak up, regardless of how ridiculous you think you might sound. When you talk about an idea or argument out loud, you are also learning at the same time. Learning how to convey your thoughts/arguments verbally helps you understand them better. Also, there are no absolute right or wrong answers(in the arts and humanities at least), but more about the angle that solves a problem/question.

Tell the world what you think. It’s ok!

The takeaway reality:

University studies are complex. And they are meant to be. When you are learning something new, it will always be challenging at first. This is also why it is equally as rewarding towards the end when you finally make it. No pain, no gain, right? Whether you are a new uni student transitioning from high school, or a part-time uni student juggling a full-time job, it can be overwhelming and scary. It doesn’t need to be. If you are struggling, or want to know what to expect throughout your academic journey, talk to Joe today, and I promise it will get easier and better!


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