Shifting Expectations

Learning in a University setting is quite different from learning in a high school setting. The major difference is that you are now considered an adult and a student.

As an adult, you have new freedoms and with them new responsibilities. It is up to you how you want to balance these (one of your freedoms) and you may have restrictions on your life outside of school, such as a job or a family (some of your responsibilities).

Because every student is different, we will give you the information you should know about learning at University, but what you do with that information is entirely up to you.

Things to be aware of:

In first year, students are likely to experience a drop in their average.

On average, students experience a 20% drop in their marks from High School to University. Expect your marks to be lower and to work harder to achieve them.

However, because this drop is common, marks in the high sixties or low seventies are considered respectable...particularly at the first year level.

Don't focus too much on your grades; focus on learning the material and, as you develop your skills, the grades will come.

The open schedule of University is both a blessing and a trap.

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Remember that you are at University to learn. Attempt to spend as much time in class and studying as you would at a full time job.

This being said, there are more than forty hours in a week and you have the freedom to use whichever of those hours suits your schedule best. The important thing is to make a schedule that works for you. This may mean making a weekly schedule, or even a daily schedule, because your workload and available time changes frequently.

For example, there is a low workload at the beginning of term, which is a perfect opportunity to get ahead on your readings, but by the middle of October your schedule will be full of time set aside for assignments, allowing much less time for your readings.

Building a schedule and holding yourself to it will help you to stay on top of the work at hand and prepare yourself for the work to come.

First year is big.

There are more first year students than any other year of students. Because there are so many students, the class sizes are big too. The further along you get in your degree, the smaller your classes will be. You can start out your degree in a class of three hundred and finish it in a class of 5.

Learning is different at University.

You may be accustomed to memorization of lists as preparation for exams, but you will encounter very little of that. You are still expected to know lists of facts, particularly in science and language classes, but it is ultimately more important that you understand the concepts behind those lists.

As you continue your education at University (and beyond University), your understanding of the world around you will change and, hopefully, as this happens you will have more questions than answers.

You may think you'll learn about more THINGS at University (and you will), but you tend to learn more ABOUT things.

For example, instead of simply memorizing a list of the parts of the limbic system, you would be learning how the limbic system works psychologically in Psychology, and comparing that with the underlying cellular structure of the brain that you study in Biology, and contemplating what you learned about chemical interactions in Chemistry to develop a deeper understanding of how the processes of the limbic system work.

Or, instead of simply memorizing the character names, themes, and events of the short stories you read in English, you would begin to compare the events with the events that you studied in History, and determine how the main character dealt with the major themes by using the social structures that you learned about in Sociology or the ethical concepts you discussed in Philosophy.

Or, better yet, you could begin to think about the way the Limbic system affects emotional memory (Psychology/Biology/Chemistry) and apply that to the way the main character in a short story makes ethical choices based on his memories of the Holocaust (Philosophy/History/English).

Or you could think of the short story (Philosophy/History/English) as a case history when trying to remember the way the Limbic system works (Psychology/Biology/Chemistry). There are innumerable connections to be made, but it's up to you to make those connections.

Writing is Different at University:

Your understanding of essay structure and the expectations of your writing instructors will be different from those in high school. It is best to familiarize yourself with the rules for writing in university.

For Your Interest:

Here's a video showing a typical day at the U of S. There are lots of other videos on the ExploreUSASK , uofshuskies and ESBUofS channels on youtube.

You can also book a campus tour online.