Friday, 30 August 2013

First Year Myths: Expectation vs. Reality

Each school year brings with it a crop of brand new U of A students embarking on the first year of their academic journeys.  And with each new student will likely come at least one misconception about university. Here are five myths I’ve encountered:

Myth 1: My professors won’t know I exist.

Photo of Dr. Frank Robinson courtesy of

Contrary to popular belief, professors actually care about their students and their success! I don’t think it’s possible to pin point exactly where this misconception came from but many new students, myself included, believed that their instructors wouldn’t take the time to learn their names. But in classes of about 40 students or less, I can guarantee you that your instructor will take the time to know who you are. And even in the larger classes professors will give you the opportunity to meet with them in-person. Building a good rapport with your prof will likely improve your academic performance as you’ll become more willing to seek help when stumped by an assignment.

Myth 2: I have to decide my major now, and I can't change my mind. 

Photo of Philippe de Montigny courtesy of Ualberta News

Sometimes the pressure to plan out your entire future can be daunting and downright frustrating but don’t let this deter you from exploring your options. The university offers a plethora of classes – everything from Studies in Witchcraft and the Occult to an Introduction to Cell Biology – so take the time to browse the course catalogue to ensure that what you’re studying is really what you’re passionate about. This way, when it comes to studying for midterms or writing a 10-page paper, the task won’t seem like a chore but more of a pleasure. And you’re probably going to have thoughts about changing your major or minor at some point during your academic career so don’t sweat it if you have second thoughts; take some spring or summer classes to meet those requirements if you do decide to switch it happens to a lot of us.

Myth 3: I don’t have to do my readings.... or go to class if my prof posts the notes online. 

Photo of Books courtesy of

This misconception usually doesn’t manifest until you actually start classes but sometimes it is prevalent before you step into your first lecture hall. But university learning is multi-faceted. If you want that ‘A’ you’re going to have to be diligent in your studies, manage your time and ensure that you attend as many lectures as you can while doing the assigned readings because the information from both will likely show up on an exam at some point during the term. Your instructor isn’t exaggerating when he/she says that anything is testable if it is on the syllabus so make sure that you try to cover as much material as possible on your own and in the classroom to help prevent any disappointing outcomes during finals.

Myth 4: I didn’t study in High School so I don’t have to study now.

Studying photo courtesy of U of A Faculty of Arts

Yeah, no. The truth is: the amount of effort that you put into your high school courses probably won’t be enough to get you through your first year of university. Juggling five courses, extra-curricular activities and a part-time job may prove difficult but managing your time effectively and re-establishing what your study habits need to be now will translate into academic success. Remember that studying the night before a midterm will likely leave you stressed and extremely caffeinated, so take the time to determine the study skills which work best for you and begin a week or two in advance. And as I mentioned before, you have to keep up with your readings, complete your assignments and study for exams to truly benefit from the bountiful opportunities at the U of A – you won’t regret it.

Myth 5: I don’t need to go to Orientation. 

Orientation photo courtesy of Orientation

Many new students simply decide not to attend Orientation. But Orientation actually provides so many opportunities and resources you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. Whether it’s meeting dozens of new people and potential friends, getting a tour of campus (so that you won’t get lost on the first day), or exhibiting faculty pride at the President’s Address, Orientation immerses you into the university environment before you even start classes. It can pave the way for continued involvement in the campus community too. So give it a chance – it could really ease your transition.

If you’re a new student entering your first year at the university, don’t be afraid to challenge any misconceptions because chances are they’re likely false and you’ll probably end up a lot happier in the long run knowing the facts from the fiction.


About the Author

Hey! My name’s Billy – a second year arts student still scavenging through the course catalogue for that perfect major. I’ve recently developed a passion for journalism, professional writing and communications and hope to grow along with the team at YouAlberta. If I’m not engrossed in the latest episode of Big Brother you’ll probably find me being too emotionally invested in The Amazing Race or laughing at inappropriate jokes on the Internet.

When not feeding my reality TV addiction or scurrying to finish my latest assigned reading, I’ll be searching our campus for the most intriguing stories about diversity, academic success and the quirks that make our university the gem that it is. As a student communicator I hope to foster a stronger sense of community and belonging by sharing sentimental and inclusive stories to tap into the shared sense of pride we all uphold – I hope you join me!


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