Five tips for transitioning from junior college to university
Here’s how you can make the jump from JC to university a little easier, from the perspective of a fresh graduate.
Are you a junior college graduate feeling overwhelmed and daunted in your first semester in university? Or perhaps a JC student who has no idea what to expect in university?
I was once in your position four years ago, a bumbling freshman who was very “blur” about what was going on. Nevertheless, I managed to successfully graduate from university and I have faith that you’ll be able to do the same!
Here are some tips, based on my experience, that’ll hopefully make the transition from JC to university a little easier.
1. Don’t be afraid to make friends
One of the biggest differences between JC and university is that you’ll no longer have fixed classmates, but don’t let this deter you from making friends!
Forming friendships in such an unfamiliar setting might seem like a herculean task, especially if you are an introvert. My advice would be to try and start a conversation with whoever is sitting at your table during tutorials or seminars. Giving your table mates a friendly smile might make them more receptive to your attempts at small talk.
With many classes shifted online, making friends in a virtual space might seem difficult, but that should not stop you from meeting new people. Be the first to speak up in breakout rooms, if your professor uses Zoom. It might seem scary to initiate the conversation, especially when your classmates’ webcams are turned off, but there’s no harm trying.
You can also try using Telegram bots to have random conversations with your university batchmates. Another great way to find friends or study buddies is to make a post on your university’s Reddit page.
2. Be the boss of your own learning
In university, your professors aren’t going to spoon feed you like your JC teachers usually do. Chances are, they won’t offer you help unless you ask for it. Some professors might not even care if you show up for lectures or if you’ve done your tutorials. It’s time for you to be responsible for your own learning.
Don’t skip lectures, as tempting as it may seem, as you may miss out valuable information and end up falling behind. I would also encourage you to ask questions if you’re ever in doubt.
If you’re shy about speaking up in class, try sending an email to your professors to schedule a consultation. More often than not, your professors will usually be more than willing to clarify your doubts.
Most importantly, be consistent and manage your time well. Leaving everything to the last minute is a recipe for disaster. Personally, I like to set aside some time after each class to make notes and revise what I have learnt for the week. I find that doing so helps me keep up with what is going on in class.
Cultivating a habit of starting on assignments earlier will also help reduce stress, especially if you have multiple assignments due in the same week.
3. Familiarise yourself with the course registration process
In JC you only get to choose your subject combination and nothing else. You have a fixed timetable which you have no control over and no choice but to follow.
One of the most exciting things about university is that you have more freedom to choose what modules you want to take and create your own timetable.
However course registration can be stressful, especially when you are clueless about how it works. Different schools have different systems for course registration. For instance, Singapore Management University (SMU) utilises a bidding system while Nanyang Technological University (NTU) allocates modules on a first-come-first-served basis.
To avoid unnecessary stress, familiarise yourself with how to register for classes and ask your friends or seniors for help if you’re still feeling confused. Speaking from experience, it’ll also be good to have a backup plan as course registration may not always go the way you’d like it to.
4. Know where your classes are
This might seem like an obvious tip but it’s still good to keep in mind. Unlike JC where you can travel from your classroom to lecture theatre in a matter of minutes, university campuses are HUGE and can be confusing.
The last thing you’d want to do is schedule back-to-back classes at opposite ends of your campus and get lost on the way to class. Knowing where your classes are before registering for your modules will help prevent this from happening. I would also recommend coming to school earlier during in your first week to locate your classes.
5. Step out of your comfort zone and explore new things
You probably might not have had much time to explore your interests while preparing for your A-Level examinations. But university is probably the best time for you to try something new and learn more about yourself in the process.
Although CCAs are not compulsory in university, you’ll have a much wider variety of clubs and societies to choose from. Not to mention, you can also choose to take interesting and fun elective modules that are not conventionally academic.
In my time at NTU, AAA18E (Drawing) was probably one of the most enjoyable modules I’ve ever taken, and was a great stress relief from my academic classes.
To really challenge yourself, why not go for an overseas exchange (if possible)? You can spend a few weeks or even an entire semester abroad to experience a different culture.
Going to South Korea for summer exchange was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as I got to make friends from all over the world and learnt to be more independent and confident.
An additional perk of going on an overseas exchange is that the classes you take will usually be marked on a Pass/Fail basis instead of the usual A to F grades, which means it has little impact on your cumulative score.
It is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed by university. It’ll take a while to achieve the balance between work and play, but take your time and you’ll get there eventually. Have fun and enjoy your time in university!