On behalf of the Admission and Financial Aid Committee, I am pleased to offer you admission to the UBC Class of 20…”
For all of us, those words were the beginning of an incredible journey at this beautiful university. They carried with them excitement, apprehension and hope and we saw them not only as a reward to our academic struggles and sacrifices; but also as a stepping stone to the realization of our future goals, dreams, and aspirations.
However, like many UBC students, I ended up realizing that it’s not all roses and daisies and that pursuing higher education came with its own list of challenges. One common area of struggle was academics, with regards to understanding the education system at UBC and its differences from what my peers and I were used to, especially coming fresh out of high school. Based on a collection of stories and advice from the student staff at the Chapman Learning Commons, this blogpost will compile the things we wished our freshman and sophomore selves would have known to make the academic transition from high school to post-secondary education at UBC smoother.
It is normal to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing
It might not seem like it, but most of your classmates and peers are in the same boat and are also figuring out the undergraduate experience as they go. Academic requirements vary greatly between high school and post-secondary education and many students would agree that high school wasn’t always an adequate preparation. High school tends to have a very structured program whereas university relies a lot on personal discipline and responsibility. Additionally, the difference between faculties (areas of study) and degree programs can be overwhelming, and while there is a lot of information about each faculty and its supported concentrations, you might have to sift through multiple web pages to get all the information you will need.
There’s also the added challenge of understanding UBC’s education system and the new terms associated with it. For example, as an international student, it was in my first year that I understood that a faculty is synonymous with both a position (a faculty member) and an area of study (the Faculty of Forestry), and that degree programs are specific to faculties and support different concentrations. The earlier you understand these nuances, the easier it will be to plan for things like switching degree programs and adding other aspects to your degree. The UBC academic calendar and the UBC Academic Essentials are a good way to start exploring academic learning at UBC. Additionally, your faculty’s website will contain information about different concentrations, their requirements and future prospects, so it should be one of your primary resources. If you need guidance with course selection, check out the CLC’s blog post on picking courses!
It is okay to take the time to explore different options
UBC has a lot of opportunities and options for you to build your undergraduate studies beyond your concentration. Programs like Co-op, exchange, minors and directed studies are great ways for you to explore different interests and to figure out what you would like to do after graduation. If you are contemplating switching degree programs, applying for the Co-op program, or adding a minor and are worried about the extra time it could add to your degree, note that many UBC students take more than 4 years to graduate. One thing that comes back in my discussions with alumni is the regret of not pursuing co-op internships and other opportunities prior to graduation, so make sure to take advantage of all the opportunities being a student at UBC offers.
It is important to talk to people who can help you figure out what you’re doing
One important take-away from university is the importance and ability to network effectively which also applies to your undergraduate experience. Being a student at UBC gives you access to opportunities to meet and learn from professors that are leaders in their fields, post-graduate students that have been in your shoes recently and student advising offices to support you in every aspect of your studies. Do not hesitate to contact the program advisors of the programs you are interested in and chat with them about your interests and aspirations and ways to get the most of your university experience. Go to office hours and talk to professors about their day-to-day and figure out if that aligns with your career goals. Remember that the UBC motto is ‘Tuum Est’: your degree truly is yours so make sure you take advantage of all that it offers.
UBC has a lot of resources you can take advantage of to strengthen your academics and address many of your needs:
Degree Planning Support
I hope this post provided some informational tools you can keep in your toolbelt as you embark on or continue your own UBC journey.