Common Myths & University 101 (2012 EDITION)

Hello incoming first year students and Class of 2016!

As most of you have probably (and happily I presume) just bid farewell to your high school lives, some of you might already be feeling slightly panicky about this thing called 'University'. Or maybe not. But either way, I'm sure you will be thinking about it at some point and I would like to make this blog post out to all of you!

Back in 2011, Stephanie in ACS (Arts and Contemporary Studies) made a post titled UNIVERSITY 101 for last year's to-be first years (congratulations if you made it through your first year, by the way). Now, I'm not here to make claims against her advice. In fact, I think all of them are very relevant (go read it if you haven't already!!), but I would like to make my own rendition and share my point of view as an almost-5th year student.

So here we go!

Check out the location of your classes before the week starts!
Even though it only technically takes 10 minutes to walk from one end of the campus to another, there's surprisingly a lot of nooks and crannies on this campus - and so many different ways to get to your classes. The Ryerson campus map is great at giving you the location of each building, but don't rely on it! Do a test run to your classes during or before Orientation. You'd be surprised how hidden some of these classrooms are, and you'll be glad you weren't 30 minutes late to your first class before you couldn't figure out which part of Kerr Hall you need to be. Take a look at the O-Team's blog post on decoding your schedules/classrooms!

Here are a couple detailed maps of each building on the Ryerson campus from Campus Facilities & Sustainability for those of you who like reading maps.

You are NOT a number, approach your professor!!
I remember when I was in high school, my teachers always told me - and I quote: "you'll just be another student number in a room of 2000 other kids". What a joke. At Ryerson, at least (I can't speak for other Universities). I'm sure my high school teachers probably got some good kicks out of our fearful faces. But anyway...

You are not "just another student number". You can if this is what makes you comfortable, but because the classes often end up with very small class sizes (especially in upper years), the professors often make somewhat of an effort to know your names. And if your program is small enough, with just a bit of effort, you can easily get to know some of your profs. :)

And really, don't be shy! Go to their office hour! Certain professors do claim they die of boredom in their offices just waiting for students to show up, so think of it as entertaining them by asking for help or well... I don't know, talking about the weather. They will appreciate the company!

Do. Your. Readings.
Now I don't know about you, but during high school, I was able to evade reading 90% of the material given to me in my classes. Not that I've never got in trouble for it, but I mean... as long as you did well in the things that matter, who cares right?

DO NOT come into University with this mindset. Just... don't. As short as your attention span may be, start getting into the habit of reading if you haven't already. The assignments and tests that matter are often based off not only lecture material, but textbook material. Professors expect you to understand the concept in lectures, and then grasp the details through text material. So don't skimp out of those readings and regret it later.

Attend your classes!
In my first year, I made a fatal mistake of skipping my 1 hour-tutorial classes at 8AM in the morning (and mind you, I didn't even have another class that day!) which was 10% of my final grade. While 10% doesn't seem like a lot, sometimes it can make or break you come exam time - and you realized you actually do need that 10%. Especially when that 10% requires nothing of you but just showing up for class.

Some professors also tend to like to reveal important midterm material when you decide to royally skip that one lecture because you didn't feel like attending. It's life, it happens. So bottom line is, don't skip. That, or you can befriend your whole class and pray they tell you the correct information... though it's probably much easier to get the information first hand.

Whether it's written notes, or typed notes - figure out a way that works best for you. Some people review their notes after lecture to add/edit points to their existing lecture notes, while others re-write their typed notes to help them remember the material. Come exam time or an open-book midterm, you'll be glad to have these notes organized in a way that best suits you.

For those that need to be accommodated for disabilities or accessibility, visit the Access Centre and take a look at the note-taking program. It allows you to obtain notes from a student volunteer in the same class within 24-72 hours after the lecture.

If you do happen to miss a class, fear not! Most professors post their lecture powerpoint slides (often not the complete presentation) on Blackboard ( before or after a lecture so you will still know what was covered in class. :)

For those who are laptop-huggers like myself, be prepared to have to take notes by hand. Some professors may decide to not allows students to use laptops in class, possibly because students in the past have abused the privilege by surfing the web. Just saying.

Manage your time wisely.
The sad reality of exams which I don't encourage...
Professors will always release a copy of their course outline sometimes even before the semester starts. It will detail when approximately your assignments are due, when mid-terms will be, what topics will be covered every week and your required readings. Given the fact that they are all available, take the time to organize yourself.

I personally write down all the assignment and mid-term dates on my agenda for all my classes. That way, I know if I (unfortunately) have two mid-terms on the same day, I can plan ahead and not find out the night before that my Sociology mid-term is actually on the same day as my Psychology mid-term.

Don't feel like your current program is the ONLY option you have.
I know, it's not always easy. I have parents too who would rather me be in the maths and sciences, complete education within the set time frame so it doesn't seem like I failed a bunch of things (which subsequently accounts for an extra year, blah blah blah...). Most importantly, it seems like everyone in the real world assumes that you should have an extremely clear mindset of what you want to be when you grow up - during your high school years.

Don't ever succumb to that pressure! It's never too late to change your decision. For my entire high school career, I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer. I went to workshops, day camps - all to improve my skills and making sure I was suitable upon entry into a graphics program in University/College. Of course, to be sitting here writing this post means I am nowhere NEAR a design program - in fact, my decision to enter where I am now (Criminal Justice) was made after conditional acceptances were already going out in February. I can go on forever about my story, but instead of boring you to death, I will end by saying I completely enjoy what I currently study. The best part is, I am able to pursue graphics as a personal hobby (and a part-time job at that!).

Let yourself explore your interests, even in University. Don't close yourself off within your own programs because that's what you initially chose for yourself. You might in fact find your passions elsewhere, or find you may find a certain topic of interest outside of your studies that relates to your program. Even if you think you actually hate something, let yourself explore it before putting down a final verdict. Maybe you really do hate it, but there may be someone or something worthwhile through that experience.

If you ever do find yourself wanting to switch programs within the Faculty of Arts, speak to your program administrators and see what options are available. Don't let yourself spend 4 years in something you cannot decently enjoy.

May the odds be ever in your--- no, I'm just kidding (sorry that was a poor reference, I'll stop).

On that note though, if you ever feel overwhelmed at any time during the year, please visit us at POD344 in the Student Experience Centre. We can always direct you to the right resources and tools to help you, some of which are exclusive to only the Faculty of Arts. If you need advice about your program or your future career plans, come to us as well! We can help you. :)

Thanks for reading this super long boring post, see you next time!

Want to be a guest blogger or be featured on The Art of Life? Email Jenny at for more details!


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