Yayyy! You finally made to university. I hope you are as excited as I was when I started university.

Through the HighGPA.com First Year Survey, many of you have told me that you pretty anxious about starting. Through the First Year Survey, 85% of you have told me that not knowing what to expect in university is one of biggest challenges you experience.

You are right, university can be very scary but an exciting place for first-year students. You probably feel like you are thrown out of a plane without a parachute and you are asked to assemble the parachute in the air. I felt the same way in first year. You probably anxious about not having any idea about how to study for university courses, manage your time/workload, or taking lecture notes. You are probably even worried about getting low grades in your courses. I know how you feel and its OK to be nervous about starting university.

Your goal is to start learning from the top students who are already gone through the pain and have done well. You need to build a set of good guidelines that will put a down a foundation for you to be successful in university. Without this, you will realize that university can be a rather unforgiving place. Many of you probably know university graduates who only graduated with mediocre grades and now having difficult time getting into graduate school or finding jobs. Do not be one of them.

The information I am about give you is extremely valuable and can help you a ton. I created this list after talking and interviewing countless High GPA students. This guide will give you clear idea of what to expect from university, how it is different from high school, and what you need to do to get a massive advantage academically.

Once you read, absorb and take action based on these advice, I can guarantee you that you will be ahead of the 95% students who will be starting university.

I recommend that you take notes on this stuff or print it out and post it the wall.

1. University is All about Self Learning

When you are in university, your professor will discuss certain topics from your course content very quickly without elaborating on them further, and quickly move to the next topic. You will soon realize that they expect you to learn the material covered in lectures yourself. When you were in high school, your teachers probably told you exactly what you need to do know for your exams. In university, you need to teach yourself the course material and be able to meet the course requirements set by the

In short:
- Be ready to learn most of the course content on your own.
- Keep in mind that your professors will not tell you everything you need to know for your exams.
- Actively seek your professors’ help in order to be prepared for your exams.
- Make the course syllabus your friend and read it inside out. Think of this as the blueprint to getting a high grade in your course.

2. You will spend more time with your textbooks than in your class

In university, you will soon realize that you spend a lot more time studying from your textbooks than you will in class.

You will generally have about 15 hours (more or less depending on the major) of class time in a week. What you need to know is all this free time after class is not actually free time. You need to create a schedule to do your readings, assignments and review. By simply going to class, you will not be able to master the course material and expect to do well in exams. Set aside time to go through and complete your assigned readings. Also, it is important to review the notes that was covered in the lectures.

What you need to do:

  • Set about 2 hours of study time for each class.
  • Always make it a priority to create a schedule and set a side time to complete your readings, review lecture notes, complete assignments.
  • During your study sessions, review your lecture notes and then do your textbook readings thoroughly. This will help you understand the course material better and be more prepared.

3. Start Paying Attention to your Textbook

From your first year classes and on wards, your professors will closely follow the contents from the textbook as they lecture. This is because your professors want to get you up to speed with the material that you are required to know for your upper year courses. Your upper year course will require you to analyze and synthesize knowledge that you learned in your first year courses.

As mentioned earlier, you need to start reading your textbook thoroughly because your professors will go through a topic in lecture quickly and move to the next topic without diving too much into details. Because of this, you have to learn much of the material on your own from the textbook. Hence:

  • Know your course outline inside out; know what chapters you need to read every week.
  • Have a system when you are reading. Refer this post, if you want to develop a great reading system.

4. Lectures are super important

Your lectures determine what you need to study in depth for your exams. You professors have taken the time to provide the most valuable pieces of information for you to learn. What they present to you in lecture is their favorite material and will most likely show up on your exams.

It is important for you to attend every lecture from the get go. It is important to develop this into a habit.  Remember, you are paying thousands of dollars for your professors’ time. So make sure that you go to the lecture and listen to what they say and take careful notes.

To make the most out of the lectures, I highly recommend that you review your lecture slides prior to the lecture. This could be like 5-10 minute preview — this is very important.

5. The grading system is different

In your first year courses, you will notice that most of your grading will highly depend on exams than assignments. This especially  if it is a large class that has over 100 students. In these situations, your exams usually be Multiple Choice Question exams. To learn how to study and ace multiple choice exams, take a look at this post.

  • Learn how to ace Multiple Choice Questions exams early on.
  • Understand that an MCQ exam is about accurately remembering details during exams.

6. Exams Cover a Lot of textbook Material

You will realize soon that when you are in university, your exams will cover lot more material than you are used to. In high school, your teachers probably helped you by having review sessions and preparing you for upcoming tests. In university, you will realize that tests/exams cover a large amount of material at once. You are expected to learn and memorize large of amounts of information. You will be required to recall exactly what you have learned and also apply what you have learned during the exam.

  • Understand what you need to know for your exams is the key to getting higher grades.
  • Know exactly what lectures and chapters are required to be learned for the exam.

7. You have to create your own studying schedule

In university, you will realize that you are expected to design your own study schedules and follow it closely. In high school, your schedules may have been set by your teachers and parents. I can say having good study schedule is the key to getting high grades in university. Make sure that you create a plan that you can follow easily.

  • Set a number of tasks that you want to complete each week.
  • Make sure that the task is action-oriented (Study Week 2 Psychology Lecture), measure (31 slides), and time constrined (2 hours). I.e. Complete Studying Week 2 Psychology Lecture that has 31 slides in 2 hours.

8. Go to your Tutorials and Labs

Tutorials and labs provide you with the opportunity to learn the course material hands-on. Especially, your tutorials allow you to discuss the course material in smaller groups along with your Teaching Assistant (TA). These tutorials will help you understand the information better and also help you get a clear explanations of  materials you have issues with. Even if you are not necessarily struggling with anything, it is a good idea to attend them and reinforce the things you learned. Many of them gives you participation marks as well. These essentially free marks that you can accrue very easily

Remember, you are paying a lot of money for this time. Make you make the most of it. You are given very little time to get the highest grade as possible. So use your time wisely.

Remember to:

  • Do the assigned readings prior to your tutorial or lab, to make the most out of these sessions.
  • Actively participate by asking and answering questions. You will learn a lot this way.

9. Develop a circle of friends

University gives you the opportunity to make friends in university. Make sure you are actively making friends in university. The friends you will make in university will last a lifetime. You will realize that having a circle of friends will make your university experience much more enjoyable.

Also, you will realize that your friends will help you in bad times during university. They will also gives you advice and information on classes that you would need to take. So don’t be shy to say hi! Everybody is battling the same battle in university. Help each other.

  • Join clubs to meet new people and make new friends.
  • Study together with your new friends.
  • Make at least 1 friend each day - if you sitting next to a person you don’t know, ask them casually, what they are majoring on. It is a great icebreaker.

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