Sitting your first exam? 3 things I wish I knew...
Your first exam is a milestone. Do it right.
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To most of us, it will come as little surprise that the research shows the country’s top performing students year-after-year are the ones who have developed a clear reason to study.
Whether it’s university, college, apprenticeships or work, actually knowing what you want to achieve from school is perhaps the only thing that will compel you to work when you otherwise wouldn’t. There are a couple of really easy ways to develop clarity around the idea of university, college, apprenticeship and work options and they don’t take particularly long either:
Resources like University websites and other graduate websites give you a fantastic understanding of what kind of grades you will need in order to be accepted into the university course you want. While it is not enough to rely on the advertised grades, it will give you a close indication of the kind of grades you will be aiming for and will allow you to adjust your study expectations accordingly.
There is no better way to bring clarity to the idea of college than to go and visit a campus on an open day. You can wander around the campus and experience a day in the life of a university student by sitting in on a lecture and speaking to current university students. Most of the open days happen around the same time of the year so you can often swing between a couple of colleges on the same day and get a really great comparison on different campus lifestyles.
I also remember one of the things I did during my Year 12 year was to go and study in my local University library during the holidays with my friends. In our breaks, we would have a chance to walk around the uni, sit on the lawns, and as I did this, I started to think to myself, “I really like this place – this is where I want to study,” and again my motivation would increase because I had a clear reason to study.
Every university faculty (e.g. Arts, Science, Business, Engineering) publishes a handbook that lists every subject that a student will need to study through the course of their degree and provides a description of exactly what content is covered. Every handbook can be downloaded from university websites, so they are easily accessible. For me, this was a great way to understand the differences between similar degrees (e.g. Commerce at University College, London and Business at Westminster University).
There is no rule that says every student must go to university. In fact, for some subjects students are going to be better off NOT studying at university. The problem is they get ram-roaded into university because of our expectations or a lack of knowledge of what else is out there. What’s really interesting though, is that the number of courses available at college or through apprenticeships is high. Students can undertake a huge range of courses, which in many cases will offer more direct job entrances than university courses. As such, it is definitely worth taking some time to see what options are out there for you, even if you have your heart set on going to College.
Tertiary education is far more than just lectures and tutorials. What a lot of people forget to look at are the opportunities, not just academically, but also in the areas of sport, music, leadership and extra-curricular. There are hundreds of clubs and societies offered at universities and colleges, ranging from those that can supplement your degree all the way through to the most random and quirky things you can imagine (e.g. Quidditch Society and Captain Planet Appreciation Society)! Make sure you check them out to get a well-rounded idea of what you can get involved in.
Often students cap their potential at a certain set of grades knowing that it will be enough to get them into their course of choice. What they often forget is that there are scholarships, some up to the value of $20,000 a year, offered to those students who go above and beyond what is expected of the average student. Every university (and their respective faculties) advertises their scholarship range on their websites, so go ahead and check them out to see whether doing a little extra work may result in a huge financial reward!
If you follow a couple of these points, you’ll not only be saving yourself from that awkward question that everyone wants to ask you, but also developing a really compelling reason to do the work across the year. Knowledge is power when it comes to choices beyond school.