University expectations vs. reality

Reem Dabbous


Attending university is one of the scariest, biggest and most exciting chapters in a person's life. Sometimes, however, we have expectations that don't necessarily fit the reality. To make sure you aren't surprised when you attend university, here's a list of how some expectations compare to reality and what you can do to roll with the punches. 

Expectation: "The prof said this isn't an assignment that can be left until last minute. challenge accepted!"

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Reality: Believe it or not, this isn't an invitation from the prof to accept these words as a challenge. Chances are, you will be stuck last minute furiously typing whatever you can to get the assignment done.

Fix: Many of us are natural procrastinators. At Ontario Tech, there are workshops you can attend that provide many tips to help you avoid leaving assignments to the last minute. Some people need to work on things closer to their deadline because the pressure is a good push that helps them finish. One of my favourites is writing the due date of the assignments a few days before its actually due. This pushes me to work on the assignment earlier. You can also set artificial deadlines for certain sections you want to get done of a big assignment.

Expectation: "I can write this paper at night. It'll be great!"


Reality: If you've stayed up all night to write a paper, chances are you will read it the next morning and be puzzled. Our best work is not done at night; the best time to write would be in the morning, or when you're feeling the most alert during the day.

Fix: If you are writing your paper late at night, make sure you are giving yourself enough time the next morning to read it over more than once.

Expectation: "The prof isn't taking attendance marks so I'll just skip class."


Reality: Yes, maybe some of your classes won’t count attendance in your marks, BUT most of those classes will incorporate comments and parts of in-class discussions as a chunk of what's tested. And if there isn't a final exam, chances the prof is looking for you to incorporate some of the class discussions into a major project like a final paper. So in the end, congrats, you played yourself.

Fix: Make sure you're attending as many lectures as you can and taking notes on what is said in class. Professors aren't just summarizing the assigned chapter - they are adding on to it and inviting discussion so that you truly understand the concepts they want you to learn. 

Expectation: "I don't have to go to that class this semester. I'll just look at the class notes and go to the exam." (6).gif

Reality: Don’t be the ghost student who only makes a grand appearance at exams. This type of student misses out on a lot of experiences that would have helped them. And most of the time the powerpoints that professors provide just include talking points and not the full concept. That means that what they actually say in class and what is on the exam might not be on the powerpoint.

Fix: Just go to class. Attending classes is essential for networking and building relationships with other students and professors. 

Expectation: "OSAP is in! I'm so rich!"

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Reality: For some students, the OSAP loan they receive in their bank account is the most they’ve ever had. This is not the time to floss. The money will go by fairly quickly as it will be used for tuition, books, food, and possibly commuting.

Fix: Attend workshops on budgeting. Ontario Tech holds many budgeting workshops to give tips and tricks so you can stretch your dollar and spend your money wisely.

Expectation: "School is expensive... I'm so poor."


Reality: As your bank account numbers dwindle down and the cost of EVERYTHING goes up, you will feel poor (possibly) but fear not, you’re not the only student who ever feels that way (yay!). There is a fix for this, as lots of services on campus can give you some financial relief throughout your studies.

Fix: There are many ways to receive financial aid at Ontario Tech. Look into scholarships to bursaries our university offers that can help you save your dollar. There is always a way to get some extra cash or support.

Expectation: "I'm never going to get an awful mark."


Reality: You’re going to get at least one mark that isn’t in your acceptable range. It happens.

Fix: The best thing to do is to dust yourself off, pick your ego back up off the floor, and go get some assistance so that it doesn’t happen again. You can book an appointment with your professor to discuss what went wrong and how to improve for next time. Also, Ontario Tech has many academic support systems, including tutoring sessions!

Expectation: "I'm pumped, ready and going to be on top of things this semester."


Reality: Maybe you don’t have two agendas like me, but you do have a routine/plan you want to stick with. Sometimes, things won’t go your way. I thought the fix was to buy a third agenda to help me try to stay on top of my schedule, but unfortunately, it wasn’t. You WILL feel like you’re falling behind at some point, and it’s inevitable.

Fix: Learn how to pick up the pieces and move forward—this is going to be one of the biggest lessons you will learn in university. Talk to your professors to get some support and guidance on your assignments. Set up a schedule with your friends (if you can avoid procrastinating with them) and work around others who are motivated as it will help push you to get started. In the end, like Nike says, "just do it". Procrastinating won't help, so just set a schedule and get to work. 

Expectation: "I've got it all covered."


Reality: You won’t feel this way all the time. Chances are, there will be times where you feel overwhelmed, miss your family, or have a hard time adjusting to new changes in your life. Maybe you're unsure of what you want to do with your future, where you want to end up, or even what direction you want your paper to go in.

Fix: JUST BREATHE! The nice thing is, you're not alone. Everyone feels this way at some point. There will be many times where certain things in life don't correspond your expectations, even in university. There will be times when you make mistakes or fall, and that's okay. You're allowed to make mistakes, and at some points, many things won't seem doable. Just keep swimming! Brush yourself off and ask for help. Ontario Tech has a huge variety of services offered to support students in any way possible. In the end, your university experience will give you some of the best years of your life. As long as you ensure you are doing the work, trying hard and challenging yourself, you’ve got this.  

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