High school was the best four years of my life. I spent it in the city I grew up in for the last 18 years, around the people I’ve known for over a decade. However, those four years could not have prepared me in the slightest for my first week of university. In the last year of high school, everyday our teachers would say that they were “preparing us for post-secondary education.” However, I left with more questions than answers.
Most of my high school years were spent online, and having my senior year during the infamous “grade inflation” era, there was not much preparation for the workload that my first week at Waterloo would entail. The sum of all the assignments and tests I completed in my four years of high school could not measure the overwhelming amount of work I faced in the first two weeks of university. On the first day, I logged into LEARN and saw two labs, three assignments, three surveys, and two quizzes all due in the span of a week. On top of that, I had three readings and four lectures I had to copy notes for. I immediately closed my laptop upon seeing that. In high school, teachers would serve as a constant reminder of due dates, however, in university, I have to do that myself. If I miss a deadline, that is on me. My professors simply tell me when and what, and how I manage that is my job. With over 100 assignments to mark, my professor couldn’t care if there is one less to grade.
Another aspect regarding academics that high school did not prepare me for, is professors. I had a great relationship with my high school teachers. The small classes helped me to get to know them. I would learn about their hobbies and family life and know them as more than just a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I could still do that in university — professors are very friendly. However, it’s not the same. Depending on where I sit out of the 250 people, I’d be lucky enough for the professor to look at my side of the room. Understandably, they have to teach over 300 students. I wouldn’t expect them to try to get to know a random girl from Mississauga who took their class as an elective. In the public secondary school system, for the most part, all teachers follow the same lesson plan, teach the same content, and share the same schedule. Reaching university I realized that no two professors are the same. I met one professor that has a very structured grading point system and another that doesn’t use rubrics. The originality that high school teachers lack didn’t help me learn to adapt to different teaching styles in university.
High school consisted of waking up, going to school, and going home. However, it’s different at university because I live at school. It always feels as if I’m at school, even when I’m in my bed in my double dorm. The desk by my bed is a constant reminder of the schoolwork I have to do. Using the broken, barely functioning lamp the school supplies to finish my assignments at 11:25 p.m. and having to hear every door on my floor open and close, as well as all the conversations through the thin walls, is something that high school could never prepare me for.
High school never prepared me for how expensive school would really be. Free textbooks on the basis of ‘you break it you buy it,’ didn’t prepare me for paying over a hundred dollars for textbooks that I’ll only use for four months. In high school, I would pay for field trips, cafeteria food and school supplies. Now that I’m an adult, I have to pay for everything.
University is boring sometimes. Somedays I feel that I have too much free time, and on others, I feel that there are simply not enough seconds in the day to finish my work. I was very social in high school. I was out every day, always had something to do and still always had time to myself. High school made me think I was free. I was free to spend my time the way I wanted, with no repercussions. Now the repercussions are either I perform poorly academically or I miss out on social events. Free time in university is a scam. It’s nothing like free time in high school. I’m never actually free in university. There is always something I should be doing, and if I’m not occupied, I’m falling behind. Having to balance both social lives and be on top of my studies, all while taking care of my mental health is something high school never really covered.
I remember seeing my high school teachers with proud looks on their faces, thinking that they did it, that they managed to help me graduate and prepare for my post-secondary education. They were so mistaken. I hope that these next four years will adequately prepare me for what comes after.