Navigating Through the Land of Oz: A College Survival Guide

yourself, experiencing something very “alien” for the first time? That is how it is going to feel when we first go to university. I am sure it will be less dramatic than Dorothy’s adventures, but the gist of it still stands: you will experience something completely new!

The fact is no matter how prepared you might be, what you have heard or how much you have researched, the first time you set foot on that new grounds, you will be taken by surprise. In reality, everything changes: your schedule, your study load, even your friends, and these issues probably lie at the heart of the problems students face as they move on to the university. Do not get me wrong, the transition will be pleasant in many aspects, and your university experience will help you grow in many ways, yet nonetheless, it will be somewhat a slippery slope.

The most important obstacle I believe students face as they make the transition is studying. At the university, you will mostly be dealing with new topics and courses, things you haven’t been exposed to before. In addition, courses will require more time and effort, and the load you are expected to carry will definitely surpass that of the school’s. This might be unnerving for some students and will affect their performance greatly. The key is to take it slowly: talk to your advisor, start with a reasonable load of credits, but most important give yourself time to adapt and fit in.  It is true that you need 12 credits to qualify as a regular student, which is equivalent to 4 or 5 courses, so starting out with 15 credits, for example, is sufficient to help you get acquainted and be familiar with the system more than the 18 or  the 21credits you might consider taking.
Another problem that some students might come up against is social integration and fitting in. Many students move away from home, leave their families and friends to find themselves thrown into a completely new environment. Homesickness is one of the major factors that play a big role in the student’s mood and interaction with others. What aggravates this more is that friendships at the university are circumstantial and sometimes hard to develop. Different courses usually mean different people and that partly limits interaction. However, the key to overcome this is to remember that this is just a phase and that everything you are experiencing is    temporary. Given enough time, the whole situation will become familiar and fall into a comfortable pattern. Then you will be able to take a deep breath, look around and realize that, it never had never been as difficult as it seemed at that time.

You need 12 credits to qualify as a regular student, which is equivalent to 4 or 5 courses
Another obstacle a university student might come up against is the variety of teachers and their teaching techniques. To be honest, at the university, and although most teachers are of good academic backgrounds and profiles, they have different teaching techniques.. You will unquestionably come across teachers who are hard to please, tough graders, or just plain strict. But on the other hand, there will also be teachers who are the exact opposite and will constantly remind you of the joy of education. You can only deal with this matter, by experiencing it first hand; with a little help from other students who have already gone through that before. To your advantage, several different teachers will usually be teaching the same course, and by asking around you will know whom to pick. But in the end, every teacher that comes your way will somehow, help shape your character one way or another. Whether good or bad, they will influence you in one way or another and no experience will go in vain!
In short, the transition in itself can be scary for a student, but with little guidance, and lots of patience, it can be very smooth. The general idea is to take your time, enjoy the experiences that come your way, and not be overeager to take it all in at once. The key to surviving our own version of the “Land of Oz” is balance. And just like Dorothy found her way back home, so will you!
Stephanie Matta