Transition from High School to University


Written by: Nour Mohamed, Third-year Software Engineering
Photos by: Unsplash

The shift from high school to university can be quite nerve-wracking, especially when uncertainty clouds your expectations. As you step into this new chapter of your life, it's essential to recognize the main distinctions between high school and university to help you prepare, ensuring a smoother transition. Here are some of the most prominent differences you'll encounter:

Independence and Responsibility:

One of the most striking differences between high school and university is the level of academic independence you'll experience. In high school, teachers often provide structured lessons and assignments, guiding you through the learning process. Students are normally given a schedule with upcoming deadlines, test days, and a breakdown of topics to review daily to ensure that all required content is covered. Teachers and staff are slightly more lenient with deadlines and are willing to accommodate you in terms of missed assessments and absent days. However, in university, the responsibility for your education largely falls on your shoulders. You'll need to manage your time efficiently, prioritize tasks, and seek help when needed. You are expected to be more independent and responsible for managing your time, assignments, and studying. Professors and TA’s may find it more difficult to accommodate you given the large class size. You are responsible for attending classes, tutorials, and examinations and are responsible for applying for academic consideration and academic counselling when needed. 

Diverse Learning Environment:

In high school, class sizes typically range from 20-23 students making for a more familiar environment. During the duration of the semester, you'll have likely met and gotten to know everyone in your class. Given that students at every high school typically belong to the same neighbourhood or area, your circle of friends and classmates are normally people from your neighbourhood who grew up around you. However, in University there are much larger class sizes, with some lecture halls holding more than 600 students. Western University is home to 34, 000 students from all over the world, making it a melting pot of diversity, both in terms of culture and thought. You'll encounter people from various backgrounds and perspectives, enriching your learning experience. Interacting with a diverse group of peers and professors fosters a broader worldview and teaches you valuable interpersonal skills. In university, you'll have the chance to connect with students from different countries, engage in cultural events, and collaborate on projects that showcase a range of viewpoints.

Course Selection and Scheduling: 

Both class schedules and teaching styles undergo a transformation as you transition from high school to university. In high school, you'll follow a fixed daily schedule characterized by shorter class periods and breaks. In terms of course selection, you are limited to choosing from a set number of electives and typically follow a fixed curriculum with limited room for customization. University offers a wide selection of courses and majors, allowing students to tailor their education to their passions and interests. Students tend to have a more flexible timetable with varying class lengths and intervals between sessions as they have the freedom to design their own timetable by selecting from the available class times for each course. This shift is mirrored in teaching approaches, as high school teachers primarily deliver material through interactive methods, whereas university professors prioritize independent learning and critical thinking, incorporating lectures and self-guided study into the curriculum. Grading methods also diverge; high school assessments are often based on homework, quizzes, tests, and class participation, while university grading places greater emphasis on exams, research papers, projects, and individual performance. Furthermore, the workload and expectations experience a notable change, with high school presenting a structured workload spread throughout the year, while university entails a more intense workload, concentrating assignments, exams, and projects during specific periods of the semester.

Social Life and Involvement: 

The contrast between high school and university extends beyond the classroom, encompassing the realm of social life, clubs, associations, involvement, and programs. In high school, social circles often revolve around a relatively small and familiar group of peers, while university opens the door to a diverse and dynamic student body. Here, you'll find an array of sports, clubs, associations, and programs catering to a wide range of interests, enabling you to connect with like-minded individuals and broaden your horizons. At Western, there are about 170 clubs to choose from, each offering unique opportunities for engagement. At the university level, the wide range of clubs and associations allows you to participate in activities aligned with your interests. This could include becoming a member of an academic club, contributing to community service projects, or immersing yourself in cultural organizations. This shift allows you to forge deeper connections, develop leadership skills, and contribute meaningfully to campus life, shaping a well-rounded and enriching university experience.

As you make your transition to university keep in mind that you'll be joining thousands of students who are in the same boat as you. The welcoming atmosphere at Western provides an array of support services and resources tailored to help you navigate this change. During O-week and your first few weeks of classes, you'll have the chance to connect with your sophs, who serve as your student mentors, as well as academic counsellors who are available to address your academic needs and questions. From career guidance to academic support to financial services, you'll find countless resources to support you at every stage of your journey.

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