On an almost daily basis, I am asked how university is going and if it’s what I expected it to be like. People expect me to say, “It’s going great! I love my classes, and I’ve made so many new friends! It’s just like I imagined university would be like,” but in all honesty, university is nothing like that. By no means am I trying to say that I hate university, but it’s not as perfect as some people would hope.
I do quite enjoy my classes. After making the needed switches to my courses, I am now content with my studies. Although, long three hour psych lectures every Tuesday night can be killer to sit through, just because of the sheer length of them. Other than that, classes aren’t that bad. Midterms are a different story though. I now understand what it is about midterms that make everyone so stressed all the time. I expected it to be like having tests in high school, but I now see that if you multiply the stress level you had in high school by 10, then you’re just starting to approach the level of stress you have during midterms.
Tests in high school were typically done at the end of each unit of study. On average, a unit would last at least 3 weeks, and you would have anywhere between four and nine units in a course, depending on the subject. Now being in university, some of my courses go through a unit within a week or even a lecture, so obviously there isn’t going to be a test every week. Instead, we as students have to write midterms that encompass half of a 700 page textbook, lecture slides from 20+ hours of lectures, and all the notes you take because the slides provided are just a “skeleton” and all the real information is in what the professor is saying.
University is also very different than high school in the sense that over 90% of your mark typically comes from the midterms and final exam alone. The other few percent are just participation marks. In high school, there were a lot of assignments that would contribute to a large chunk of your mark, so if you weren’t the test taking type, you would still have other opportunities to achieve high marks.
Of my four classes this semester, there have only been two where I have done and handed in assignments, one being this English course. Even then, there are only assignments that count towards our marks, no tests. In both my anthropology and psychology classes, I have not had to do a single assignment. I go to my lectures, take notes, study, and then eventually write an exam. That’s it.
The only other course I have had to actually do work for, that isn’t studying, is biology. Even then, it has only been a journal article assignment where I had to pick an article about a topic that was given to me and answer questions that were very straight forward. The whole thing was only about a page long and there were boxes in a template to fill out. It didn’t even count for marks, so I don’t even count it as an assignment. Soon, I will have to write a 500 word essay on an idea outlined in this article.
I guess I’m lucky that I am also in English this semester, since writing is what this course is all about. I know that writing a 500 word essay will not be easy for me because it’s really not that much. With all the detail I have to put into this essay, I really have to make sure that every word counts. My first copy will probably be at least twice as big as it’s supposed to be, but once I get everything on the page, I am going to have to go crazy with my pen and start scratching things out and rewording everything so that I have only the most important information, and so that it makes sense. I’m used to writing lab reports when it comes to science, never essays. This will definitely be a new experience. I’m not sure if I will enjoy it, but it’s something that has to be done.
Besides the biology essay and the writing I do for this course, there are no other assignments that I have to do for the semester. I really don’t mind this, since I still find enjoyment in my other courses. If anything, the less assignments, the better, because it gives me more time to study for the plethora of midterms I have had so far and still have to come.