Dear first-year students,
I have some bad news for you. You might want to sit down for this. Despite what all your friends, your high school guidance counselors and your older brother might have told you, at university you are in fact just a number.
The seven-digit string they assigned you in your acceptance letter is now your new identity. Pretty much any paperwork that you fill out on campus will require that number, as will any tests you take or essays you hand in. In essence, you have been reduced to numerals.
While all your closest acquaintances have been trying to calm your nerves about the big bad university, you need to know this simple fact: you are a number, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s liberating. It’s exhilarating. And it’s how the real world works.
Being reduced to a series of digits doesn’t mean university is a giant faceless monster out to consume you. It’s a sign of your transition into the real world, where there are real consequences to your actions.
There are no well-meaning teachers who will pull you aside to ask you how your weekend was, trying to decipher what your bleary look means. If you have had a death in your family, you have to talk to your professor to get an extension. Otherwise, they might assume you were up late partying, and you are the only person to come forward with your problems.
Here in the real world you will flunk algebra. But it will be entirely your fault; there are no extensions for missed assignments due to family vacations. There are no excused absences for going to your sister’s wedding. And that’s just the way I like it.
Being a number means you have to take responsibility for your seven-digit self. Are you failing French? Then drop the course before the drop deadline. And make sure you know when the drop deadline is. Otherwise you’re stuck with a big, fat embarrassing F.
The key to success at university is understanding that your time here is entirely in your own hands. There are people who can help you, but you have to search out that help. But the flip side of the number burden is knowing any success you meet is entirely because of your hard work.
But that’s how the world works. University is merely a reflection of the wider world, where you are known by a series of numbers. The federal government knows you as your nine-digit Social Insurance Number. The province will use your driver’s licence number. The bank will have both of those on file, and then assign you even more numbers.
The beauty of university, and life in general, is that it is what you make it. You can come to campus every day in fear of your numerical status, running home as soon as you can. Or you can embrace your new identity, make friends, learn new life skills, get involved in a club and then finally realize the number doesn’t matter.
Your number is just a way for the university to keep track of you, not some horrible plot to keep you downtrodden. Embrace and move on.
Once you get used to it, it really isn’t that bad.
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The statistics are staggering. In the last 10 years, the University of Alberta Students’ Union has had only two female presidents, and out of 50 executives only 11 were women.