Choosing my major:
In high school I had two teachers who cared enough to give us an assignment to research more about a field we might be interested in.
If it weren’t for those assignments, I probably wouldn’t have thought too seriously about what I wanted to do in university until I got there. For the sake of getting the assignments done, I had to pick something, anything. So I started thinking about things I liked to do, subjects I enjoyed and things I naturally found an interest in.
My first reaction to registering for classes for my first year of university was to take half of my classes in the arts, and the other half in the sciences, JUST in case I would want to leave the door open for something science.
Now that I look back at the path of courses and student jobs I’ve had, if I was just honest with myself and took a close look at the things I naturally enjoyed doing I would have found my major more securely sooner.
The things I’ve done in my classes and jobs are the things I did to amuse myself as a child! I used to write stories, books, make up “clubs” for my friends so that I could have an excuse to make up and design membership cards, make posters… Now I write, design, and do other similar stuff!
Advice for students in arts:
If you want to do well in the arts, especially communications, learn to use your brain! Suddenly having to employ critical thinking skills was a new thing to me in university. Though I had good grades in high school I felt very ill equipped for university in that I didn’t really know how to think critically. I quickly discovered that regurgitation and memorization don’t cut it anymore in university.
Good team work skills help to survive your group projects. Being perceptive and observant is helpful in developing those critical thinking skills, but also in reading other people and how to communicate with them.
If good grades are important to you, learn how to read what the prof wants in a paper/project, or what s/he thinks is important in the course (good chance that will be in the exam or will be what they’re looking for in that paper!).
Develop an eye for the bigger picture. I had a great prof in my freshman Sociology course who told us the difference between a B paper and an A paper is that the A grade paper draws the bigger picture, and explains the “why?” and the “so what?” of the topic you’re writing about. Otherwise, who cares? It wouldn’t even be worth studying!
Life in university:
The extreme and immediate freedom in university was probably the hardest adjustment for me.
Learning how to study with no structure or anyone breathing down your neck checking up on you was a lesson in self discipline I’m still learning now. Having an unstructured schedule can screw up your time management and eating habits too!
The university environment taught me the value of questioning, but not merely for the sake of questioning. It’s so important to ask questions, find answers to solidify or modify your views.
It’s only when I questioned who I was and what I believed that I became solid in my identity and beliefs.
There will always be some people who are content just to ignore the bigger questions of life, but I think we all are craving for perspective and purpose. There’s lots out there, sometimes it gives some a headache to think about those things, I guess it’s less stressful if you don’t think about it, but the pointlessness that comes from not questioning I think would be pretty hopeless.
University is about learning about life, you don’t remember what’s in the books most of the time anyway — it’s the people, perspectives, the life lessons, the figuring out of who you are… these are the things you take out of university.
I didn’t do that well with the pressure to party. After a year of doing the “typically cool” thing for university students, I was tired, worn out from it… I was physically and emotionally worn, but greater than that, my spirit was tired.