Starting university is an exhilarating yet daunting experience at the same time; the huge academic workload piled on top of socializing in a completely new environment as well as living on our own for the first time in our lives entails a lot of challenges to overcome. Here is a list of the many mistakes I have made during my first year that I hope all future students can avoid:
Completing tasks in bulk as opposed to in chunks
At university, hardly anything can be completed with ease. Essays are long, research projects are expected to be in-depth, and application processes to clubs and executive positions are multi step as opposed to a simple Google form.
I did not expect this, so I aimed to be able to complete everything in one go.
It is easy to accomplish this if a task only takes 1-2 hours to complete, but for something that requires over 10 hours, aiming to finish it in one sitting would simply leave you panting in boredom and exhaustion. Most people would even be tired of doing the activities they enjoy for far too long, let alone something a lot less voluntary.
Instead, get used to finishing parts of a project and then switching to a different one regularly. This way, you would be working efficiently on every individual task, for you have not gotten bored with any one of them whilst still on the task.
Starting projects before knowing the rubric well/what the professor is looking for
At university, professors tend to move on extremely quickly due to the short time frame, leaving fairly little time for students to digest what they have learned. A lot of the time we are expected to apply the concepts we learned in class in a project long before we have grasped it entirely. Additionally, many guidelines are intentionally left vague so as to give students the space for assumptions. For these reasons, it would be quite hard to anticipate the main direction of research as well as what to focus on.
Under these circumstances, making guesses is not the optimal choice–I learned this the hard way. As newcomers at university, we are often not knowledgeable enough to make educated guesses; relying on inaccurate instincts could result in steering off course.
The best thing to do is to consult the existing guidelines as well as the professor and Teaching Assistants. Ask them for specific pointers, how best to approach something, and how specific they want each aspect to be.
Not asking for help often enough
I will admit that I was not a regular attendee of office hours, however in the rare instances when I did show up, I found the sessions very informative. I was well aware of all the resources where I could find help–I was just reluctant to expose my ignorance on a subject to anyone, even if no one would laugh at me for saying ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I don’t get it’. In the end, I wasted a lot of time going in circles trying to figure things out on my own when I could have easily asked for a bit of guidance and steer back on track a lot quicker.
Do not do what I did. You will end up wasting precious time that could have been spent efficiently otherwise. If you are like me–a person who feels self-conscious when admitting you do not understand something, try to bear in mind the sheer number of students who ask for help every day. The professors and TAs face hundreds of students each day; they will never be able to associate your alleged stupid question with your name or your face.