How is university different from high school.

How is university different from high school, and what you can do to prepare for the change.

Year 12 is usually the most intense year of high school due to the many revision classes, practice exams, and SAC preparations students undertake. However, once you get into your desired course in university, several students find it challenging to stay motivated. This is mainly because of how different the studying environment in university is from high school.

The change

In high school, the support you obtain from teachers, mentors, tutors and even your friends. Teachers provide regular updates when assignments are due and what kind of extra learning you can do to be better prepared. However, in university, such support is not given. You are expected as a young adult to take responsibility for your learning and to take the initiative in preparing for classes, assignments and exams.

Teachers rarely follow up about assessments that are not handed in. They don’t check your homework or even know if you attended a lecture or tutorial. In this sense, university life expects you to take ownership of your studies. To cope with this newfound independence, you must manage your time carefully. Getting into the habit of having a to-do list for each week assists you to keep track of all due dates and deadlines. It also ensures you can plan for weeks with several deadlines and making sure you do not leave all assignments till the last moment. Time management also ensures you have adequate time before the due date to schedule an appointment with a tutor to seek additional feedback or assistance.

The importance of time managment

Time management is especially key for university assignments. Unlike in Year 12, where most of your graded assessments were exams or SACs, many university subjects have research assignments as assessments. These assessments require you to undertake independent research, which may take a few weeks to complete. This requires you to plan out your project over a few weeks to ensure you meet it to the best of your capabilities. In addition, research assignments require appropriate referencing as academic integrity and honesty is vital in university. If you were not to give credit to articles you have used with proper references, it could lead to an academic breach and no grade for the assignment.

Self study

University also provides an abundance of freedom in terms of choosing your subjects and your timetable. For most courses, you can have the majority of your classes within 2-4 days. However, you should be aware that with this freedom comes responsibilities. Unlike high school, where most of your learning occurs within the classroom, university learning mainly revolves around self-learning.

While lectures and tutorials provide you with the basis for each topic you cover, you are expected to put in a significant amount of your own time reading the prescribed books and looking for extra resources to improve your understanding of each topic. To cope with this newfound freedom, you must allocate time for independent learning for each subject. Try not to fall into a routine where you only attend lectures and workshops. You should be reviewing what you have learnt each week and then consolidating this into notes that you can use when preparing for the final exam.

Unlike High School, where you have countless practice exams to review before exams, in university, you are often only provided with one or two previous exams for the course. Hence to get the most out of these practice exams. You should take the time to consolidate your understanding through reviewing lecture notes, additional reading and trying tutorial questions before attempting to complete the practice exam.

Ask for help when you need it

You may be used to having classes with the same people in High School, most of which become your good friends. But in university, there are thousands of people doing the same subject or course as you. You most likely will have different classes and timetables from your friends as well. Hence you must take advantage of university facilities by joining clubs or sporting activities. This will allow you to meet people with the same interests as you and ensure you don’t overwork yourself. In addition, most faculties have their student societies. I would strongly encourage everyone to join their student society as they often provide exam revision classes, provide information about upcoming events and even update you about available internships. Such information becomes vital as you progress throughout your course.

Tips for preparing for university in high school

These are just a few ways in which university is different from high school. However, it is important to remember the changes don’t need to be overwhelming, and you can start preparing for university in high school. Here are a few ways you can do just that:

  • Take ownership of your studies. Don’t just do the bare minimum and start setting extra dedicated time each week to study your subjects. Not only will this help you prepare for university, but it will give your grades a boost too!
  • Find extra help outside of class. As we mentioned above, university doesn’t just throw help at you. They expect that as a young adult, you will seek help when you need it. Practice reaching out to your teacher and tutor and make sure the time you spend with them is as efficient as possible.
  • Develop good study habits. Self-study isn’t something we are born with. It is a learned skill. Luckily, it is a skill you can learn from others, talk to your tutor about ways you can become a better self studier. A good tutor will be helping you lay the foundations for this as you work with them.
  • Be honest with yourself and reflect critically. If you didn’t get the result you were looking for, it is time to reflect. Can you honestly say you tried your hardest? Where could you improve with your study before you take the test or do the assignment? Did you ask for help when you were stuck? These are just a few ways you can begin self-reflection.

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