Opinion

COLUMN: Four-course load in first-year university the best plan

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University or college can be an exciting yet daunting experience for many first-year students.

Along with the new environment, learning experience, class size, and commuting time, many students decide to further overwhelm themselves by enrolling in five courses or more. While it is definitely possible to learn and excel in such a schedule, I would not recommend this for first-year students.

When making the transition from high school, students should keep in mind that first year is a time to explore your new campus and keep an eye out for other activities that are offered. As such, I would advise students to enrol in four courses. This allows one to get involved in on-campus volunteering and extracurricular activities while concentrating fully on the four courses that are taken.

By locking themselves into a five-course system, students may feel that their other activities are being hindered.

This is not to say that students cannot balance a heavy course load with extracurricular activities, however, most first-year students already have enough on their plate to be overloading themselves with a heavy schedule.

It is not a question of capability, but a time to allow a gradual shift from a high school environment to a post-secondary setting.

One will feel a greater sense of gratification if one can excel at the courses taken. This sense of achievement can become an impetus for continued academic success and failure does not become a roadblock in your very first year.

Often, students are pressured by fellow peers into taking more courses than they can handle. Nevertheless, it is wise to consider that first year is a tumultuous time, regardless of the number of courses taken, and keeping a normal schedule will help you overcome your weaknesses and discover your strengths.

For students who face such peer pressure, the best advice is to consider the anecdote of the tortoise and the hare. Students who try to rush may feel overwhelmed by the end of their first year. Post-secondary experience should be focused on an enjoyment of and a pleasure for learning.

For those wishing to compensate for any loss of courses in regular semesters, they can always enrol in some courses in the summer semester.

Most high schools in our area follow a semester system, where students take four courses per semester. Yet, it is quite surprising that many first-year students take more courses than they took in high school.

First year should not be a time to try and test yourself, but a time to make a smooth transition. Especially for those wishing to go to graduate school, Grade Point Average plays a major factor in acceptance to a graduate program. Students should not jeopardize their GPAs by overestimating their abilities in the beginning of their post-secondary career.

By managing an effective course schedule and not overloading themselves, students will be able to truly enjoy their first year, while keeping at bay any fears of failure.

Needless to say, hard work and persistence is also included in the success equation.

Japreet Lehal is a first-year university student at SFU. He is a new regular columnist for The Leader.

japreet@live.ca

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