Written By Karen Young, Member of The New Mentality's Youth Action Committee
When I graduated from high school and looked ahead to the next five years in post-secondary education, I had a difficult time (and still do) accepting that we are always transitioning into whatever lies ahead. Though If I knew then what I know now about my transition from high school to higher education, here is what I’d share:
1. Stereotypes of the university experience do not define yours.
More than a handful of teachers and others I looked to for advice in high school led me to believe that your marks typically drop 10% in your first year of university. It made me feel better to remember that this was just an idea and would not necessarily be true for me and my university experience. For me it was important to remember to take each challenge as it comes, getting specific with what tackling each challenge would take (creating a plan), and reaching out to my support system when I needed it. An example of how I learned to cope with the new workload and expectations of university, is that I decided to learn more about efficient ways to absorb my readings. I learned about the SQ3R reading method at the learning and teaching centre, it’s a great way to become more effective in your study habits and I would definitely recommend it.
2. Use your skills to create other skills.
I learned that Identifying the kind of ‘smarts’ you have can help you grow other skills. For example, I used my event planning experience to learn how to develop a magazine with other diverse talents.
3. Get into the mindset of making things as a team.
In an encouraging and safe environment, making things with a supportive team can help you realize that you already have what you need to activate your talents to share with others. This can look like co-creating a study group together (with someone who is good at splitting up tasks, another at communicating these tasks with the group, and another to organize review sessions) or it could be producing a resource navigator for fellow peers to navigate systematic stresses. These are just a few examples from my own experience of how I used my talents to add to the team experience. As you progress in your post-secondary career, you will also find ways that you can enhance the work and the experience of those you are with.
4. Appreciating existing (and ‘hidden’) support from people you may never meet.
‘Self-made success’ became a myth to me when I began to see and experience the kind of support that often goes unnoticed around campus. I often think about the people who work to make our washrooms, floors, and other facilities safe and clean. These are actual people who you may never meet, who want you to be successful. Beyond just the normal people you think of as apart of your support network, colleges and universities are their own communities full of people, who are there to support you in your student experience.
5. Long-term projects encourage you to consider how anything worthwhile takes time.
Courses at my university encouraged us to participate in academic experiences that were up to 8 months long. What I learned from participating in these extra-curricular activities is that deep, lasting, social impact - the kind that isn’t as easily or quickly ‘measured’ - can take far longer than the 8 months you have for your school year.
6. Be honest about the support you need.
I learned through my earlier academic experiences that I thrive in nonjudgmental relationships. This helped me to choose courses and professors that I knew would best support my needs. For example, I often would choose to take courses with professors trained in anthropology, a subject studying human societies and cultures, in a non-judgmental context. This helped me to feel more comfortable and engaged.
7. Learn something from everyone you meet both inside and outside higher education.
I found that the relationships I enjoyed the most during my university years, were with people I genuinely wanted to learn from, especially alumni. What I found equally important and humbling, was listening to the lessons learned from those denied from experiencing higher education (and all its challenges) due to things like discrimination or poverty.
8. There gaps in the system, be open to being one of the caring minds trying to close those gaps.
Even when you feel like you are the only person getting caught in the gaps of the system, it is important to remember that you may not be. Try to find others like you and work together to help improve things for them and for yourself.
9. Expanding your ideas of self-care.
As you transition into a new phase, it is important to create new ways to practice self-care. For example, as a constant worrier, I put together a tip sheet on strategies for worry that has helped me to cope during my experience at university.
And Lastly, make space for things you don’t have to do, people you don’t have to meet and things you don’t have to be.