Learning in a University setting is quite different from learning in a high school setting. The major difference is that you are now considered an adult and a student.
As an adult, you have new freedoms and with them new responsibilities. It is up to you how you want to balance these (one of your freedoms) and you may have restrictions on your life outside of school, such as a job or a family (some of your responsibilities).
Because every student is different, we will give you the information you should know about learning at University, but what you do with that information is entirely up to you.
Things to be Aware Of
In first year, students are likely to experience a drop in their average.
On average, students experience a 20% drop in their marks from High School to University. Expect your marks to be lower and to work harder to achieve them.
However, because this drop is common, marks in the high sixties or low seventies are considered respectable...particularly at the first year level.
Don't focus too much on your grades; focus on learning the material and, as you develop your skills, the grades will come.
It is important to see an academic advisor throughout your time at university. Academic advisors are available throughout the year to help you choose your program, major, and even classes. If you haven't picked a discipline yet, you should talk to a general academic advisor through the Undergraduate Office of Arts and Science or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, academic advising is college specific, so contact the department you enrolled in. It is best to do some background research on your program and classes you are interested in before you see an advisor.
Additionally, it is a good idea to try to determine if you want to pursue a Diploma, Certificate, Three-year, Four-year, or Honours degree. Different colleges offer a variety of degree programs. The Academic Information and Policies Tab in the Course and Program Catalogue has complete information for each college.
Generally, programs differ by intensity and the number of credits needed to graduate. One major difference is that it may difficult to gain admittance to a Graduate Program without an Honours degree, so if you are planning on continuing your education, be certain to verify the admissions requirements for graduate studies in your preferred program and at your preferred university(s).
The Open Schedule of University
This being said, there are more than forty hours in a week and you have the freedom to use whichever of those hours suits your schedule best. The important thing is to make a schedule that works for you. This may mean making a weekly schedule, or even a daily schedule, because your workload and available time changes frequently.
For example, there is a low workload at the beginning of term, which is a perfect opportunity to get ahead on your readings, but by the middle of October your schedule will be full of time set aside for assignments, allowing much less time for your readings.
When creating a schedule, mark important dates such as the last day to pay tuition or to drop a class without financial or academic penalty. These dates can be found on the Academic Calendar.
Building a schedule and holding yourself to it will help you to stay on top of the work at hand and prepare yourself for the work to come.
First Year is Big
There are more first year students than any other year of students. Because there are so many students, the class sizes are big too. The further along you get in your degree, the smaller your classes will be. You can start out your degree in a class of three hundred and finish it in a class of five.
Learning is Different at University
You may be accustomed to memorization of lists as preparation for exams, but you will encounter very little of that. You are still expected to know lists of facts, particularly in science and language classes, but it is ultimately more important that you understand the concepts behind those lists.
As you continue your education at University (and beyond University), your understanding of the world around you will change and, hopefully, as this happens you will have more questions than answers.
The connections between classes becomes easier to see, as you progress through your degree, and the reasons for taking classes outside of your major begins to make more sense. The classes outside of your major are not a waste of time, but rather are the classes that help you to make more sense of your major and fill out your 'well-rounded' view of the world you live in. They also give you a wider general knowledge to draw from when it comes to writing papers and understanding complex theories
For example, instead of simply memorizing a list of the parts of the limbic system, you would be learning about the behavioural impact of the limbic system in Psychology, and comparing that with the underlying cellular structure of the brain that you study in Biology, and contemplating what you learned about chemical interactions in Chemistry to develop a deeper understanding of how the processes of the limbic system work.
Or, you could begin to think about the way the Limbic system affects emotional memory (Psychology/Biology/Chemistry) and apply that to the way the main character in a short story makes ethical choices based on his memories of the Holocaust (Philosophy/History/English).Or you could think of the short story (Philosophy/History/English) as a case history when trying to remember the way the Limbic system works (Psychology/Biology/Chemistry). There are innumerable connections to be made, but it's up to you to make those connections.
Writing is Different at University
Depending on your high school experience, it is very likely the essay structure and writing expectations you became accustomed to will not be sufficient for university writing. Essay structure and format are determined by discipline and disciplines have specific citation styles. Often first year students need to learn two or more citation styles if they are taking classes from a variety of disciplines. Familiarize yourself with rules for writing in university, talk with your professor about essay expectations, talk to a Librarian about correct practices, visit the Library tutorial Write and Cite guide, and visit the Writing Help Centre.
You can either drop in to the Writing Centre on the first floor of Murray Library or submit your writing online for FREE. Writing help tutors will help you with understanding the mechanics of writing and are there to guide you in the process of writing. Because the goal is to help you improve your writing, tutors cannot edit, proofread, or ghostwrite. A variety of workshops (writing and more) take place in Murray Library, including workshops on the Research Paper Planner - a great tool for getting started on your first research paper.
Libraries are Different at University
Did you know that the U of S has multiple libraries? And each of these libraries tailors their collection to their discipline. For example, if you are looking for information specific to Education, your best bet is to go to the Education Library.
Familiarizing yourself with the U of S Libraries is a good idea. Libraries have a wealth of resources that can enhance your U of S experience such as:
- The Library Researcher Series offers workshops on a variety of reference management software. It is available during the fall and winter terms and generally there is an overview workshop at the beginning of the term to help you determine which type of software you’d prefer using.
- The Reserve Collection – this is where you’ll find books that your professor has reserved for your class. Some professors will put the textbook for your class on reserve. Just be sure to return any books you’ve checked out from reserve by (or before) the time indicated. The loan period on books in the reserve collection varies and the late fees are $1.00 per hour.
- Math and Stats Help and Writing Help are located on the first floor of Murray Library in Rooms 142 and 144. These are FREE drop in services.
- The Assistive Technology Room is located on the ground floor of Murray Library.
- Group study rooms- As an undergraduate student, you can book study rooms for up to two hours at a time, for a maximum of two bookings a week. These are great for group projects (which you will likely do at some point). Study rooms generally have a white board and you can connect your computer up to the large monitor provided. Don’t worry if you don’t have white boardmarkers or the monitor connector (RGB or VGA cable) – you can borrow these from the circulation desk. Rooms can be booked up to two weeks in advance – during finals study rooms book up quickly. Can’t find a room? Did you know there are two rooms on the third floor North Wing of Murray Library as well? You have to access the North Wing via the 1st Floor.
- Safe Study is available during finals and accommodates students who wish to study on campus 24/7.
- Printing, copying, and scanning are available in all library branches. You use your student card or enter your NSID at the Xerox machines. You can scan to an email address and scanning is free.
- Borrow a laptop – for up to 6 hours. All you need is to be a U of S student (or faculty or staff) with a valid library card (in good standing). You have to fill out a consent form and abide by the U of S computer use policy. Keep a very close eye on borrowed laptops – it is your responsibility while you have it – meaning if you lose you pay for it.
- The Campus Leisure Collection is located on the Ground Floor of Murray Library. You can borrow DVDs, CDs, audio books, and books from the Saskatoon Public Library.
- Newspapers from around the world or locally – available online or in print.
If you have a disability and want library-related assistance, in-person assistance is available at the reference desk of any branch library – phone, email, and online chat is available through Ask Us.