Adapting from high school to university

Well, you’ve made it. You’ve gotten your grades, you’ve earned your spot and you’re on your way to joining us at Brock University. There’s a lot to be excited about; this is the beginning of a new chapter in ways you’ve likely never experienced before, from living independently to finding your feet in an entirely new place.

University is far more than just tougher classes. Even the way you learn, and are expected to learn, is completely different here. It’s nothing to be scared about, but there are a few things I’d liked to have known before I started, so I’m going to share those few things with you, to make sure no one steps onto Brock’s campus on the wrong foot come September.

More than any other change, independence is at the heart of the university experience. That is not to say that it’s an isolated or lonely one; this campus is bustling with people, you’ll never be short of friends or places to find help and professors are usually very easy to get hold of should you need to.

Here’s the tricky part, though; if you need the help, you have to find it yourself. Teachers in high school like to check up on you and make sure you know that they’re there. They push you towards the activities they reckon you’ll click with and grind those few extra points out of your tests that they know you’re capable of getting. Professors at Brock are just as willing to help you out, as are the enormous amounts of clubs, counsellors, and services offered at the university. The difference is that if you want that help or guidance, you have to seek it out. No one is going to assume that you need it, so you need to be proactive about ensuring that you have everything you need going forward.

The same is true of the actual learning experience. Professors here won’t typically chase you on readings, missed classes, or late coursework, but that absolutely does not mean that they’re not paying attention, or that it’s not important. You will be losing marks for every seminar you miss (see page 15), and those marks will add up, even in first year. You can always approach your professors and seminar leaders/teaching assistants if you’re struggling to keep up, but there’s not an awful lot they’ll be willing to do after you’ve missed an essay and haven’t turned up to seminar all year. You need to take responsibility for your own learning; everyone is willing to help you, but they’re not here to listen to your excuses.

As I said, independence doesn’t mean isolation; that is particularly true if you’re living in student residences, where there’s a real sense of community. Your residence, led by your Don, will be a family and a team, who will always be there for you. If you’re extroverted and like having company around, this should be incredibly exciting for you. But for more introverted and reserved people, this new way of living might sound a bit too close for comfort, especially in residences where you’re sharing a bedroom. Though there’s no getting around the communal nature of student residence, you won’t ever be short of breathing room, no matter how much or little you’re willing to engage with your floor or court. As long as you’re willing to get along with the people around you and honest about your personal boundaries, there’s no reason why you can’t make the most out of the experience.

The people you live with won’t be the only community you’ll be a part of at Brock. It takes all sorts to make this world go around; the campus and surrounding city of St. Catharines caters to everyone. High school might have felt a little stifling, a Mean-Girls-esque dystopia full of cliques that you never really fit into. That’s just not the case at university; in a truly profound sense, we are all in this together, and we act like it. You may never find the Political Science department, but your roommate might be taking it as a major. You might not ever set foot into a Goodman classroom, but you’ll probably end up at an event with a bunch of business students all the same. We’re all Badgers and we’re not about to leave anyone behind.

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