Think School Was Hard? You’re In The Big Leagues Now

Everyone makes a big deal about how college and university is so much better than school. There’s a key episode of the cult classic ‘freaks and geeks’ where an the older brother of one of the main protagonists triumphantly reappears after leaving for college. When they ask him what it’s like he tells them that explaining how fantastic it actually is would be cruel. But is he right?

There are certainly a lot of benefits to college that school don’t give you. You have the freedom to be whoever you want, in theory. There’s definitely a vast array of different social groups and sports groups that you can join from day one. You’ll be able to stretch your creative muscle and explore who you really are and what you enjoy the most.

Then, there are your lessons and what you’re learning. You are partially in control of that too. You’ll get to choose what you major in and what your focus will be while testing the waters in different subjects, until you find the one that’s right for you.

And yes, there are no detentions, no punishment papers. You won’t find too many sticks here at all, with professors having a far more laidback approach to teaching. However, that in itself can be problematic for most students. So, while college gives you more freedom, fresh versatility and an escape from the crushing structure of school, it’s not all a dream. Here are some parts of the college experience that you will find challenging, at least at first.

Negative Marking

Every heard of negative marking? You might not have ever come across it in school because it is a rather severe way to grade a paper. Essentially, it crushes anyone who relies on waffling when completing exams or essays. A lot of people write as much information down in an exam as possible in the hope that some of it will be the right answer. It’s quite a clever tactic if you can recall all the information but aren’t completely sure how it fits together. However, if the test or paper is being marked negatively, there is a problem.

You’ll lose a mark for each and every point you make that isn’t relevant or is incorrect. That means that even if you get all the points somewhere on the page if they are surrounded by waffle you could lose them all again too!

This is something you will want to be particularly wary of with multiple choice tests. You might think that you’re living the dream if you get one of these as your final exam in year one of college. It’s probably being marked negatively, and you should definitely check this.

No Carrot, No Stick

The idea is that once you reach a certain age, you don’t need encouragement nor negative reinforcement to eat your vegetables. You should do it because you have the knowledge that eating your greens will keep you healthy. Or, in this case attending classes and studying will give you the knowledge and experience you need to charter yourself on a path to success in a future career. Interestingly, research now shows that adolescence can last up until at least 25! If that’s the case and people still have an adolescent mindset until that point, they will still need a carrot and a stick all the way through college. Otherwise, they might not give their full potential to their studies, leading to lower grades and poor performances when they do leave and graduate.

The problem is that professors are never going to give you this type of structure. Sleep in and miss a class? You’re not going to get a stiffly worded letter, Poor performance in an exam? You can still continue to take and fail the class. Some universities do expect you to keep up a certain grade average to continue attending. But most are happy to have students in the classes who are failing spectacularly. Remember, at the end of the day they will get your tuition fee whether you ace their class or not. And, since we mentioned money, perhaps it’s a good time to start thinking about money management.

Handling That Loan

You’re going to have a lot of bills to pay as a student when you suddenly start living independently from your parents. Don’t forget, you’ll be reliant on a student loan that is set at a fixed point. It might seem like a lot at the start of the year, particularly if you’re getting a maximum of say 12K but it isn’t. You have to pay for rent, food, leisure, travel and if you split the bills, it can be quite disheartening to discover how fast that money trickles down the drain. Of course, there are ways that you can save, and if you’re sensible with your money, you should be able to cut your costs down to size. But you should remember, that while you can cut the costs, you still might find months where you’re running low.

You might think about getting a job to handle the costs. But don’t forget this will cut into your time. Time that you probably need to complete your assignments, study and among other things, have some fun. Time management is certainly another problem you’ll find in university that wasn’t as difficult in school.

Managing Your Time

In school, how you spent your time wasn’t really up to you. Some schools even get their students to sign contracts agreeing to study a certain amount each night. In university, it’s all up to you, and the best way to handle it is to have a schedule and stick to it. Fit in off nights where you can go out and have fun with your friends. You shouldn’t spend all your time working because if you do that, you’re going to burn out.

Just make sure that you check out the assignment schedule. Make sure you’re prepared for when there’s floods of work to be done at the same time. We call these occurrences hell weeks, and they are one of universities’ greatest challenges.

Of course, right now, you only have one question to answer. Are you ready for the big leagues?

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