April 25, 2009

One Year (8 Months) at Mount Allison

One of the first sayings I heard when I got to Mount Allison in late August of last year was:
"1) Good grades 2) Enough sleep 3) A social life. Pick two, welcome to university." And this seemed to be true for many students the first semester. For me it was sleep that went by the wayside. Waking up for 8:30 classes (yes, students actually have morning classes) and staying up for late night snacks at meal hall with classes, work, and extra curricular activities makes for long days. Eventually fatigue leads one to sleep more, constant tiredness, or coffee. The different schedule in University forces you to prioritize and make sure that you make time for all three of the above...because missing any one of the above isn't sustainable for very long.

This year was really an eye-opening time for me. In addition to learning a lot about human behavour, like nothing else it opened my eyes to how American I had become. I had thought of my living in "The States" as having less of an impact on my political beliefs then it did. Learning about American Exceptionalism and Canada's National Inferiority Complex and their effects was enlightening. So was being the only student in a political science lab arguing that the presidential system was better than the parliamentary system (and being the most enthusiastic person in the room).

Exams were a time of more stress then I'd ever experienced in high school. Instead of consistent tests of learning the course material there are very few chances to prove you went to class. For instance, in one class there were three lines under grading. Term Paper, Midterm Test, and Final Exam...that's it...no second chances...no cruising speed. You either know the material when you need to or you're done.

This brings me to exams...instead of maybe 20-25% of your grade, in University it can be 35-80% of your grade. While there may not be graded assignments and tests every week...you'll have to play a lot of catch up if you don't keep up on what's covered in class. Also unlike high school...course material often isn't only from the textbook. Some teachers teach from the book, but most base their test and exam from what they said in class more than pages in a book. The most important way to be prepared for the midterm and final is to go to class and know what's covered in the course.

Exams to some mean less sleep and/or caffeine dependency (in fact, the school provides free coffee and a place to study until 3am during exams). This is going to sounds like common sense, but I can say from experience that if you keep up with the course material during the semester and plan ahead you'll be less likely to need to pull an all nighter. This isn't to say that you'll get 9 hours of sleep in the days leading to exams, but getting prepared throughout the year and getting enough sleep (coffee isn't a good replacement for sleep in the long run, trust me) will help you a lot more than sleepless nights catching up on 4 months of material.

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