Survivor Q & A: Life at Uni vs. High School

A Q & A between a 12th grader and a university student.

1. Is there a large difference in workload between high school and university?

Of course it varies by program and course, but you can expect that expectations for courses that you take will change. The workload is larger, but not always from quantity of assignments, but the need to produce fewer high quality assignments. As well as whatever assignments each course may have, there is almost always lots of reading to do, which usually includes a lot of note taking in order to prepare for any evaluations. Most classes have a few assignments each semester, as well as a midterm and a final, which can be anywhere from one to three hours long.

2. How does a typical school week schedule in post-secondary differ from high school?

Your class schedule is completely up to you! (And the time slots when the course is offered). Like high school, university works on a semester system (Fall, Winter & Summer). Courses can be offered for one or two semesters, it really depends on the topic, the way the professor prefers to teach and enrolment. Some “Full Year” classes can be taken one half at a time, too, if you chose to only complete the first “half” of the course. When creating your timetable, you can see if the course will last a year or just a semester. Like high school, your program will have a list of courses that are necessary for you to get your degree. How you do it is mostly up to you. Of course, they can offer ‘recommended paths’ for you to follow, which can maybe restrict your freedom from choosing what to take. When making your course choices, it is always useful to look up the syllabus from previous years in order to decide if you want to take it. Some professors do take attendance, where it will make up a portion of your grade (usually 5-15%) or a set number of “inexcusable” absences could mean an automatic fail.

3. What would you say is your greatest tool for stress management and time management?

When I’m dealing with my stress, I find that it is best to talk to my peers in my program. Usually if I’m feeling stressed, they are too. Sometimes talking about upcoming assignments and exams helps a lot! Time management needs change for everyone. What I do to keep on top of my classes is print out the syllabi, and highlight all the assignments and readings, and add these important dates to my calendar, with a 4, 2, and 1 week reminder to do the project. I also hang my syllabi on the wall so that I can always see them and track my progress throughout the semester. The other important thing for me is to take a little bit of relax/personal time each day so that I don’t burn myself out.

4. What exactly is a major or a minor?

Of course this changes based on school and program, but essentially a major can be viewed as a specific field that a person is studying. For example, you could be pursuing a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology. Some degree programs have the major “built-in” to the title, such as Bachelor of Humanities or Bachelor of Journalism. A minor, is another topic/field that you can choose to specialize in. In some cases, a minor can be from other faculties. For example a student could pursue a Bachelor of Social Work with a minor in Criminology. If you choose to pursue a minor, it should be something that you are interested in and doesn’t always have to be related to your major field of study. A minor is a demonstration that you have some specialities within a specific field outside of your major. In some cases students can pursue a double major, where they are receiving equal “major” credits in two different fields. For example, a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Anthropology and Sociology. Your major is often related to the field that you want to pursue a career in but this of course isn't absolutely necessary.

5. When choosing what career path to follow, should I be worried about future job prospects?

Personally, I don’t worry about what the job prospect is for my degree, since I know that it is always changing. I know that my degree doesn’t exclude me from applying to jobs that are outside the career field of my program as well. Opportunities are always around the corner. I have also turned to my SAVTI counsellor for support in finding employment suitable to my field and career goals and she has helped me a lot. Potential employers also consider more than just your degree/field, and can look at your volunteer history, past employment, grades, and who you are as a person. Pursue what ever you are interested in in school, there are lots of employment opportunities, and each day they are creating new jobs to keep up with our ever-changing world.

6. How does co-op work?

The way co-op programs work changes based on your school, your program and year of study. They aren’t always available for every program either. Within the faculty there is usually an advisor who co-ordinates co-ops/placements for students within the field. It is then your job as the student to follow the application process and successfully “get the job” wherever you apply. You do have a right to turn it down, but if the placement is necessary for your degree, you shouldn’t do so lightly, as you may end up adding extra time onto your degree by doing so. Not all programs offer co-op as it is not always applicable to every field of study. For a more ‘hands on’ educational experience, you can sometimes choose in your senior year to do a self-directed study with a professor or someone within your field.


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