Work that Education System
Using Formal and Informal Resources to Get Through University Better than Your Friends
Undergrad can be a challenge for everyone, but there are some really easy ways to make sure it’s not. You just have to let go of being lazy to take advantage of them.
When I was in my first year, I figured out pretty quickly that if you didn't want to be weeded out of your program there were easier things to do than have no social life and study all the time. Don’t get me wrong, studying is still important, vital really to passing classes and shit, but there were other tricks to getting things done and passing I picked up during my four years at school.
- First-year profs have office hours for a reason. There are 200 of you, maybe 12 show up for actual help, the other 188 show up after they fail the midterm asking for marks. If you are smart, you’ll show up before it gets to that. Ask questions about content, ask questions about the lecture. Ask not if content will be on the exam, but how might this appear on an exam. You think they are really going to tell you if it’s on the exam, the question they get most frequently? No. If you ask them how this question/information might appear on an exam they will have an answer (meaning it will be on the exam) or they won’t. They also might just say you should focus on this instead of that. Profs are far more likely to tell you things like this if you show up to office hours more than once, and if they know your name. Make them learn your name.
- Ask your prof to refer you to an upper year student for help, even if you don’t need it. Upper years who have already been in the class are a valuable resource. They have taken the class, know the prof well if they are being referred to you, and have done the assignments, taken the exams, have notes…you see where I am going here? They are also still students, they know what it’s like, and more importantly also still like when other people buy them coffee too. TAs are great and all, but they are grad students, they get paid to do menial work, and often get courses they don’t want anything to do with or don’t have time for.
- TAs (teaching assistants). As I eluded to earlier, if your course has a TA, it is probably because it has a lab/tutorial component that they run, or that the prof doesn’t do their own marking. If it’s the latter, know your TA find, out how they mark, they are more important for your grades than the prof is. If they run the tutorial, chances are they get told how to run the tutorial and what content to cover by the prof, ask the prof questions about the tutorial/lab when the TA is being useless.
- Campus “Centres.” The writing centre, the career centre, tutoring centre. You get my drift, they are on campus, they are free, they are not going to get you in trouble like some “I can write your paper for you” service will. The tricks; don’t be lazy, most of these places require appointments booked ahead of time, which means you need to get your shit together ahead of time. Valuable knowledge; still want to be lazy? Put yourself on appointment waiting lists, people cancel appointments all the time even day-of, snag their spot instead and get help last minute if that is really your style (you should probably stop doing this if you want to go to grad school).
- Academic advisors. Sometimes, these people are not profs, they actually really want to help you get your courses together, make sure you have requirements and graduate. They also are sources of unknown power. They can put you on waitlists, change course caps, make exceptions for registrations. These people are important, and often not assholes, be nice to them, when you are missing a course requirement the semester before graduation you will be thanking me for this comment.
- Professors. Can be assholes, can be close to retiring and hate us all for no reason, can be more concerned with their own career than teaching your class. On the other hand, they might actually like teaching, they might want you to pass, and they might actually take time to learn your name. They are also people you need for references in your fourth year, for extensions when you fuck up, are too tired, need help etc. Take all of their classes, create connections. Be nice to this person if you can, sometimes it’s not possible, but in your third or fourth year when you want to do more school, IMPORTANT.