Three ways high school didn’t prepare me for university

I love learning. I don’t love the test-taking part of learning, but I love learning. I could spend hours in a lecture, absorbing all the information about political philosophy and the stock market.

Yet every year, students enter university unprepared. What is it that these students are lacking?

High school teachers are supposed to give students a foundation for entering university, but it’s not happening. Either teachers preach the irrelevant, or at worst, spread misinformation or scary stories like ‘In university you won’t be able to ask for help!’ Of course, now I know that isn’t true.

So here are top three things I wish I learnt in high school before coming to the University of Alberta:

What BearTracks is

I feel I’m speaking for about 90% of the first year population when I say that I had little to no idea about how BearTracks works. In the summer, I registered for an English class, a Political Science class, and six others in Fall semester. I thought eight classes was considered a full course load like in high school. I added them to my schedule builder, and I thought that was that. Little did I know, there was an “enroll” button. Thankfully, I have friends smarter than I am who helped me enroll in the classes I wanted before they all filled up and lighten that load from eight classes to five. I hadn’t even finished my diplomas and I was already messing up university.

What studying really entails

After already writing five midterms, I realized after just one midterm that my study method doesn’t work. So really, I’ve just spent three years of my life mastering a studying method just so I could crumple it up and throw it out. I’ve realized the transition from just memorizing terms to actually having a comprehensive understanding of all the concepts is a lot easier said than done. In high school all the notes were printed off for you, making missing a day not the end of the world. Missing a single hour and a half lecture of Gordon Lee’s Econ 101 class is practically missing a whole year of information. All this personal accountability was not something that high school emphasized but really should have.

It’s okay to not have a plan

High school preaches having a plan of where you want to go in life before you’ve even figured out how to find your locker after your first Social class. I spent a lot of my life thinking I was going to be an engineer. I was going to design something amazing for space travel and become the first woman to land on Mars. I took the hefty IB science courses and the hard calculus classes, all so that I could completely change my mind and (shout out to Model United Nations) realize in grade 12 I wanted to do a Political Science major – and who knows, two years from now I might not even be doing that. I wish that someone had told me in high school it’s okay to just not know.

So if I’m being honest, high school was pretty much useless in trying to set me up for university. It taught me basics that don’t even apply to a university lifestyle. I’ve constantly been spoon-fed all the information I needed to ace those diplomas, but the bigger picture was lost, and now that I’m here nothing is spoon-fed. Nonetheless, I’ve learnt that’s almost the beauty of university, a place where you can redesign yourself and leave behind your high school self.

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