Yaay! Uni here I come! Finally, I’m going to be independent! Not be under teachers’ nor parents’ authority, no canes nor punishments. Hahahahaha… Life just began!
That’s the excitement of most SHS graduates awaiting to gain admission into the university. The university is an institution of higher learning in which students study for degrees and research is done. It is a complete change from the rigid systems used in high schools to a more liberal system of education. Students are treated like adults and expected to behave as such. Your success is in your own hands at this point.
To help you transition into this system and be mentally prepared for it, I have compiled some points to give you insight into the reality of the “Uni Life”
10 things you should know before starting university!
- It is the most liberal school you would ever attend: As you may know or have heard, you become your own boss and manage your life. No sirens nor punishments, no dormitories, you share a room with a maximum of four people. There are options for two and one in a room, you feed yourself, party or go out whenever you want. The freedom is humongous! You have no form of supervision. In fact it’s a liberal playing field! There is no allocated time for anything except lectures which you decide whether you go or not. But being independent sounds fun until you realise you need to be self-disciplined and have a routine in order to succeed. You need self-discipline to manage your life. You have to wake yourself up and go for lectures and have a personal time table for studies. When you understand how to manage your academic life and social life, you are good to go.
- Choose your majors and electives wisely: A major is a specific subject area that a student specializes in when accepted into a programme. You should invest a lot of thought or consult a course advisor before selecting a major –for it shapes your career options. Your courses would be divided into core courses and electives. Here is the thing, selecting a good elective is very important and subjective. If you have a specific profession or field you would want to work in, select electives that are in line with it. Do not select courses based on popular opinions; that “it’s an A course”. When people hear a lecturer gives a lot of As to his /her students or students normally get As in a particular course, it is assumed that the course is easy. If this easy course aligns with your career goals, fine do it. But if it doesn’t, don’t do it. You would realise in the long run that it was a mistake and wasted time. You heard that a lecturer’s marking is tough but that is the course you actually want do, do it. Learn hard and ace the exams. Period! You should have a plan about how you are going to use your courses after school. If you are not so sure, visit your university’s careers and counselling centre or approach your lecturers or your department’s course advisors and discuss with them. Their insights are thoughtful and helpful.
- Final Grade Point Average (FGPA)/ Cumulated Weighted Average (CWA): In the university you are graded by the FGPA or CWA depending on your university. The degree classifications are; first class, second class upper, second class lower, third class, pass and fail. I’m sure almost everybody’s dream is to be able to get a first class. Here is the catch though, the first class would not come if you do not put in the effort. You should have a strict personal study time. If you want to ‘chill’ alongside, make sure you find the balance. If you would like to pursue postgraduate studies with funding, you are required to make a good FGPA/CWA as well as experiences acquired from extra- curricular activities. Scholarships are very competitive and only the best students are going to be chosen. If you do not make a first class after putting in all your efforts, it is not the end of the world. The experiences and skills you pick up along the way from out the class organisations would pave the way to land a job.
- Befriend lecturers: Let your lecturers know you. How would they know you? Contribute during lectures, avail yourself when a course rep is needed or participate in your departmental programmes. This is how you get recognised. Befriend lecturers in a professional way and nothing more. This helps when you need academic referees. They would be happy to write recommendation letters for you because they know you. Have a teacher and student relationship with them. If your relationship with your lecturer is not as these then it is wrong and anything bad can happen. Some lecturers may take advantage of you and some may use grades to punish you to succumb to their demands but never yield. If you notice an unusual behaviour from a lecturer towards you, distance yourself and if it persists report to authorities. There is an anti-sexual harassment committee on campus. Look for them and report the matter.
- Attend impactful and educative programmes: There are going to be lots of programmes ranging from academia, spiritual life, sex and relationship talks hosted on campus. Also career fairs where you meet various companies some of which are seeking to recruit fresh graduates and interns. There are going to be visits from international universities coming to present their universities, especially for postgraduate studies. Take advantage of all these opportunities of which most are free. Also be keen to attend public lectures normally hosted by the university administration where dignitaries like the president, ministers and foreign ministers, professors and other renowned personalities come to campus to deliver speeches on various topics. These lectures not only expand your cognitive reasoning but also present you with a wide range of educative and informative topics. They make you knowledgeable and in a position to contribute to highly educative discourse. Furthermore, you get to expand your professional networks by meeting these elite people.
- Extra-curricular activities: Join students’ organisations on campus. These groups are fun, educative and a great place to develop hidden talents, improve on your craft and make new friends. These give you experiences out of the classroom, such as helping you to become confident, develop your leadership skills, an opportunity to volunteer and also develop your soft skills. Just to name a few organisations; there is AIESEC, ECOH, Rotary club, Debate society etc.. Join any of these according to your passion and trust me the pack of knowledge and experiences you would gain would lay a good foundation for life after university. Religious obligations are good but even with that, you need to find balance. Missing classes, tests and group meetings all in the name of your religious activities would not give you that grade A you want. You have to put in the work for God to bless your efforts. Again I want to reiterate that you find the balance and prioritise. Your education should be the first on the list. All others are secondary. If you fail, the Holy Spirit would not come and change your grades.
- 7. Be nice but choose your friends and company wisely: I’m sure you have heard this advice countless times from your parents and teachers. It should not be a nuisance for it is very true. Bad company corrupts morals. If you have a life goal or you set a career goal for yourself, you should befriend like-minded people and join serious study groups. Wanting to join the popular and notorious boys or girls squad won’t help you achieve that big dream you have. Be nice to everybody, do not look down on people. Classification and marginalization does not help anyone. Be nice now so when you need help either academically or socially, it is easier to approach people.
- Relationships: Those coming from single sex schools would be shocked by the number of the opposite sex around. Do not go haywire because now there is opportunity. As I said you have come to the liberal playground and everybody is trying to be attached. There is so much pressure to have a boyfriend/girlfriend. Nobody wants to finish school and do a ‘4-0’. But my dear- you actually can! Enjoy being single and mature. Just a few relationships survive after university and get to the point of marriage anyway. Most people are just doing “help me finish my course” A guy would want to be in relationship for sex benefits and food. The girl too because of gifts and outings from the guy. Be careful the kind of people you decide to date. Your relationships should not take the better part of your time. You need to find a balance, ‘cause at the end of the day you have to ace your exams.
- Learn to cook: There is no time for dining here. You feed yourself how you want. It is advisable to learn how to cook so you could feed yourself. You could also buy food from canteens and restaurants on campus but that is an expensive way of living and eating outside is not always healthy. Most guys come to the university and start “Ahooshing” girls so they can cook for them. If you are a girl, do not come and be doing matron or chief cook things here. You all came to learn, not to feed people. You can cook over the weekend and eat through the week and have ample time to study. If you don’t know how to cook, this is the perfect opportunity to learn that skill. It is an important life skill for all persons.
- Budget and start saving: This is a very important skill to learn. First of all, as a university student you need to have a bank account. You would meet lots of banks on your campuses creating students accounts- create one with a bank of your choice. Develop a financial habit of saving a portion of your allowance as it is the road map for building wealth. This is the best time because you would be given pocket money or allowance to sustain you at school. Imagine you save between Ghc 60 – Ghc100 a month for four years? You would have set yourself up financially to start life. A little goes a long way. Trust me after school these allowances stop coming or become less. When saving becomes a habit, you would always have funds available in time of urgent need and simultaneously expanding your wealth bracket.
Voila! There you have it. If you take these pieces of advice seriously and implement them, you would not come out just a great student but a holistic one, having acquired transferable skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, meeting deadlines, communication skills which employers are looking for and also meeting friends for life, trying out new things and discovering great places, creating tons of memories and just MATURING!
University can be fun and impactful if you play your cards right! So join the bandwagon and be prepared for all the thrills for it is a hell of a roller-coaster ride!
Writer: Yvonne Agyeiwaa Akomea
Yvonne is an alumni of the University of Ghana. She loves to write and hold highly intelligent conversations. She draws her inspiration from everything around her which helps her learn, grow and write.