This is my 4th week in university, slowly and gradually starting to adapt to university routine. University is definitely a whole new level for me, it’s actually a hybrid of secondary school and polytechnic.
1. You don’t have to report to school every day.
If you hate a going to school 5 days per week, this may be a blessing for you. Personally am somehow in the middle range, I enjoyed my 3 hours lesson per course and also going to school 3 times per week. However, I don’t like how much work I have to do when I am not in school! In my school, I have close to 10 months to prepare for my one and only examination and 2 pieces of coursework per module. That means I have 3 examinations and 6 course works throughout year 1. It is almost similar to secondary school; you have 4-5 years to prepare for your N/O levels. Whatever your previous grades in school, that doesn’t affect you when you have already registered for National Exam. The grades you obtained during your national exam is what matters. Unlike in polytechnic, you learned the topic for almost close to 1.5 months, then you sit for the test. It’s accumulated in your Gpa, you need to understand the whole concept quickly and able to answer the questions. Once you mess it up, you kiss your A’s goodbye. The downside of this system is you have to do a lot self-study and researches on your own. They support independent learning, which means you have to use your social skills to gain knowledge from various sources: friends, clubs and your lecturers. They highly encouraged us not to study alone, which means the area they test is in all different directions. Disclaimer: they gave you your study guide (most of them are rather outdated, the nearest is 2014, the furthest is 2006), but they are not obligated to test everything within your study guide. That’s the only way to differentiate did you memorize your whole study guide or you truly understand the course itself.
2. The Stakes Are Sky-High
This could be one of the boldest moves I ever made up until the age of 22. Not submitting any applications for local universities and betting on only 1 university for my career path. I submitted two applications during my days in polytechnic and also during my gap year. Same field but different path. I wasn’t able to make up my mind when I just graduated, hence I didn’t accept the offers. During my gap year I finally able to decide I would like to pursue a career path since computer science is so diversified during our times. Did I like my course? It’s a love-hate relationship, I like trying new things, but also it could be a pain especially when your codes don’t work the way you want them to.
If you failed either one of your coursework, you maybe have a chance to obtain a passing grade (40 marks). The exam holds 80% and the coursework only 20%. Let’s say you failed your exam, you have to repeat the entire course again. The worst part of repeating a course is you have to re-register for it and they would send you a new set of study guide materials to you again though you already own it.
3. Google, Google Scholar, Programming pages, Forums, GitHub, YouTube and Online library are your new best friends.
Say hello to your new best friends for the next 3 years. They are my saviors when I encountered a problem. Your lectures may have taught you the basics or assumed you have already fully grasped the knowledge which you should read beforehand when you enter the class. What a lecturer does in my institution is teaches, gives feedbacks and asks you if you can further enhance your work. They encouraged independent learning so most of the time they won’t be spoon-feeding you with all the answers – they expect you to figure it out by yourself.
Google and YouTube are the best platforms to fully understand a concept before you started on your homework. Working on a paper when you don’t fully understand the concept won’t get you very far.
Programming official’s websites always have the functions, shortcuts, and tutorials for you to follow. The forum serves many purposes. One of them is if someone else has the same issue as you, they would be commenting on the inquiries. Most of the time, it would be solved by another user who practices the same programming languages. GitHub: that’s where you get exposed to millions of coding by others. One of the best ways to fully understand how a programme works is debugging other people’s programmes since different people have different perspectives on solving the same problem. Try to understand how they write the programme and try thinking if you can find ways to improve the programme or simply spot a mistake if they had done it incorrectly.
Google Scholar and the university’s online library are the only places you should go if you’re working on your coursework. The difference between google and google scholar is that google scholar consists of articles written by well-known universities and professionals which make the source reliable. The university online library may have limited resources but they would have a connection with others organizations, so you need to check based on your university.
Krystal Lo is studying Creative Computing at a Teaching Institution in Singapore.