Personal Development, Student Life

Expectations vs Reality of University

Freedom

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Expectation

“Once you’re in university, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want.”

Reality

Although it may start off this way, it most likely will not stay that way. Your freedom will last you until schoolwork takes over, adult-like responsibilities kick in, and you start choosing your courses for the next semester or year.

Make it work

Learn to prioritize and manage your time wisely. Use that school agenda you got during Orientation week to its full potential and plan out your week or day in advance.

Health

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Expectation

“You set yourself goals to only eat healthy foods, make homemade meals, and not consume alcohol so frequently. Plus, putting on weight in the first year of university is totally exaggerated, right?”

Reality

Healthy foods cost money, something most university students lack. Preparing homemade meals and snacks for yourself so you don’t have to go out and buy something quick in between your classes takes time which is also something university students need more of. Many times, in the end, what you put in your body is the last of your concerns, as long as you get some sort of food to satisfy your hunger.

Make it work

Find fast and easy recipes online that you can use to create homemade meals and that won’t take up too much time. Or think strategically when grocery shopping and buy healthy foods that you can use for many different meals! Read more about eating healthy, here!

Money

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Expectation

“You plan out how to use your savings and/or your OSAP money and decide that you won’t go crazy with a figure that large in your bank account, at least not within the first week.”

Reality

Although some of us do manage to stay by your budgets, reality is there are so many hidden costs of university and so many other needs (and wants) that your budget plan often goes astray if not totally fails.

Make it work

Dig deep and learn the ins and outs of how much you will really need per month while you are in university. Another way to keep this successful is to keep an emergency budget section for each month, that you will only use when you really need it. We have tons of tips from RBC Canada on how to save your cash and manage your budget, in our RU Money-Smart series.

Partying

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Expectation

“You will party often and love it all.”

Reality

After endless weekends of partying, and probably drinking, your body will wear out. Throughout your years in university, the amount you spend going out will slowly decrease. Although some of us do enjoy every weekend at full throttle, many of us are just not built for it.

Make it work

Find a balance between your social life and school/work life, and give yourself a break now and then, you deserve it.

Commuting

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Expectation

“An hour and a half commute won’t be too bad. Plus you save more money this way so it’ll be totally worth it.”

Reality

Commuting during rush hour is hectic, if not the worst thing ever. The last thing you want to be doing is standing on the train with a bunch of other strangers early in the morning or after a long day at school. And soon enough you’ll realize how much time you spend daily commuting to and from school.

Make it work

Try to organize your classes that benefit not only your sleeping schedule but also the times you commute. For example, 10a.m. classes sound great and all, but not unless you commute an hour and a half to get to school. This means you’ll have to leave your house during prime rush hour. 8a.m. classes may suck but at least the subway is empty! You can also make your commute worth it if you do something other than mindlessly avoiding eye-contact, like listening to podcasts.

Friends

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Expectation

“You’ll meet your BFFs within your first month at university and you’ll become friends with everyone you meet.”

Reality

People come and go and there are so many people in university that you will encounter. Some of us get lucky and find our partner-in-crime during orientation week while others find their BFF in their fourth year.

Make it work

Keep an open mind when it comes to friendships. Be open to socializing and meeting more people than just those you met within your first week of school. And don’t feel bad if you don’t make a connection with someone, or if you decide the friendship isn’t working. There are over 7 billion people in this world, you’ll find the ones you want to hangout with.

Classes

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Expectation

“Lecture halls filled with 500 people which will be so intimidating that you won’t even be able to ask any questions. Students give their full attention and always attend classes, of course.”

Reality

Lectures, at Ryerson at least, won’t be more than maybe 200 people, and many are much smaller, and they actually are not as intimidating as you think. At the start of the semester, the classes are full but by the end, there will be maybe less than half the class attending regularly.

Make it work

Think about how much you are paying for school and how much that turns out to be per lecture. By skipping lectures you are not only throwing away a learning experience, but also not making the most use out of the price you pay for university classes.

Professors

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Expectation

“Just like those massive lectures, professors are scary and in no way approachable. They probably don’t even care or have time to help you out anyways.”

Reality

Almost all professors offer office hours for students to come in and ask for any assistances. Surprisingly, many students don’t make the most out of these hours leaving most professors having a free hour just waiting for students to come in and help out.

Make it work

Use these hours to your advantage, get to know your professor and let them get to know you! Profs are, at the end of the day, there to help you learn and succeed, don’t be afraid to meet with them and get the most of what they have to offer you.

Majors & GPA

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Expectation

“You’ll either absolutely love or hate your program in university. Your GPA? Your entire career relies on your GPA and there is no way you will be able to keep high enough marks.”

Reality

Sometimes, your program is where you flourish; other times, its the communities outside of your classes that you connect with the most. Your GPA counts, but it’s not the only thing that will get you that career you’re dreaming of. You may decide after a semester or a year that your program isn’t for you, and that’s okay too.

Make it work

When it comes to your GPA, with hard work and dedication, it is completely possible to get a good GPA to your standards. Also, you’re career doesn’t entirely rely on it, unless you plan on going to school afterwards (but this does not mean you should completely slack off). You can always take a minor or just courses in something you love to study so you get the best of both worlds, if your program isn’t meeting all your expectations.

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Janine Maral
Third-year Journalism student at Ryerson University and multimedia storyteller for RU Student Life. I like to spend my free time blogging, on youtube, making guacamole, and listening to podcasts.