Ridiculous fresher’s costumes? Bought.
Congrats – you’ve made it. Welcome to Big School!
You probably feel pretty prepared, pretty pleased with yourself, smug even – except there’s one thing you have no idea about.
You’ve never had a university lecture and you know next to nothing about your lecturers. So, who exactly are these strange creatures who will deliver all the information you need to walk away with a nice crisp degree in 3 years’ time, and how do they differ to the college teachers you know and love?
Your university years will give you the opportunity to grow up as a person and as an academic. Unfortunately, a big part of growing up is less things are done for you and this applies to lecturers as well.
Where at school teachers will monitor your work for signs you need extra help and constantly remind you of assignment deadlines, university lecturers will tend not to do this – it will be on you to ask for help or to remember key dates.
This might lead to some teething problems and maybe the odd crossed wire but FEAR NOT! This will make you a better and more organised person in the long run. Well done you.
This one will have no tangible benefit to your or your lecturers’ lives but it’s kind of nice. No more “Miss” or “Sir”; you are a grown up now and you can address your lecturers like you would your equals.
In all seriousness, your relationship with your lecturers will definitely feel a lot more balanced than your relationships with your college teachers did – more like you’re working together through issues than being told what to do.
Being able to address them by their first names is basically a symbol of this type of relationship.
This is perhaps the biggest difference between teachers and university lecturers. Where classes at school will usually be around the 25-30 students mark, university lecture groups can be, and generally are, far larger.
While most will find this fine after a period of adjustment, it inevitably changes the kind of relationship you have with your teachers. Your lecturers might not know your name, they won’t have time to get to know you really well (at least in lectures themselves) and they probably won’t notice any time you are absent until they consult the register.
Do not be mortally offended – this is just a product of having much larger groups and less one-to-one time with students. Additionally, lecture content will generally take up the entire time allotted so time for more relaxed discussion is very limited.
University is largely about learning, so see lecture time as the opportunity to gain as much information as possible. Relationships with staff can still be built, but you may have to put in more time outside of contact hours (e.g. asking for advice in office hours, emailing with queries etc.) to achieve this.
One thing which may catch you off guard about lecturers is their limited availability…
Picture the scene: you’re struggling to finish an essay and the deadline is rapidly approaching, so you desperately rush onto campus to seek some inspiration from your lecturer. But when you arrive they are nowhere to be seen; your saviour is not where they should be, your hopes and dreams of delivering a good assignment are up in smoke, it’s literally the end of the world!!!
Okay stop picturing that – it’s miserable, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
You will find that lecturers are not always about to hear your concerns, and for good reason. As well as a heavy marking, teaching and planning workload, they may be conducting research for the university, writing for a respected journal in their field or doing any number of things.
Teaching is not their sole responsibility. Instead, lecturers will generally keep fixed office hours so make sure you listen out for those in your first week, or failing that, look them up.
A good lecturer will give you all the support and advice you need, but it is your responsibility to respect their schedule and arrange to meet at the right time for both of you.
This one has burnt many a budding student in the past. Lecturers will have a LOT of slides to show you and not much time to do it in; what they do not have is any qualms about blasting through these slides leaving a trail of confused students in their wake.
You’ll quickly learn that economy of writing is very important while note-taking – you may have beautiful handwriting and want to absorb all the wonderful information your learned professor has lovingly written, but this will not help you.
Take the key points from the slides, remember to listen out for any extra information that your lecturer might throw, in instead of fixing your attention wholly on the screen ahead, and rest safe in the knowledge most lecture slides will be put online for you to view in greater detail later.
At school, you may have been able to sit around chewing gum and chatting with your mates while slowly copying your teacher’s notes but that won’t happen at uni.
Be prepared and good luck!
Written by: Jack Chatterton
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