University is extremely stressful, and to tell the truth, I think the Ontario high school system does very little to truly prepare us for the workload and the much higher standards of post-secondary institutions.
One of the biggest issues, I find, is a basic skill: essay writing. In high school, you never learn how to properly structure an essay. They say that they are teaching you the right way, but then you get to university, and suddenly your essay grades are falling by thirty points, just based on structure and format. It’s ridiculous.
The other massive failing of the high school system is their policy on late assignments. Sure, there are due dates and dead dates, but the teachers are extremely lenient and will accept pretty much anything, even past the dead date, all the way up to the end of the semester. Sure, they may dock marks, but they’ll still accept it and mark it.
In university, however, this is not the case. If you are late on an assignment without a doctor’s note and a REALLY GOOD REASON, they will not accept it. It doesn’t matter how much you whine or beg, they will not mark your late assignment. And that is the way it should be. If you don’t do the work, you don’t get the marks. End of story. That’s the way it is in the working world—why should school be any different?
I don’t mean to scare any of you who have yet to experience your first year of university, but it really was a rude awakening for me, especially looking back on it now. So a little advice for the coming school year (even though it’s still far away): go to any writing seminars offered through your school.
All through first and even second semester, people kept coming into my classes from the “Student Writing Centre” to speak to the class about essay writing and the MLA format, which we all had to use for our bibliographies. Most student centres or university libraries will have a place where you can go for help with your writing skills, since so many people come to university unprepared for the higher standards.
So if you are going into university, make sure you spend some time with the experts at the writing centre, at least until you get the hang of what’s expected. And if you are still in high school, work hard on all your essays and talk to your teacher about how you can improve. It’s never too soon or too late to improve your work, and good writing skills will get you far in life, no matter what your career path.