University Myths and Misconceptions Manuel Velez February 24, 2022

University Myths and Misconceptions

Back view of three students walking towards a building on campus
Photo by George Pak from Pexels

Hello guys!

We’re back with another blog and this time you’re with me, Manuel, another quarter of Emerge 2022’s writing and editing team! Before we dive into today’s topic, I’ll just go ahead and share a little about myself. I’m a public relations student, I love movies, I practice photography and I’m also one of those who developed an affinity for house plants after the first few lockdowns.

Varsity Clues: Campus Myths & Legends Podcast

Today’s topic is myths and urban legends, and yes, I’m well aware that it’s not even close to spooky season yet. However, thrilling stories filled with intrigue live beyond the confines of October, if you’re willing to listen. Now I do confess, although mystery is one of my favourite genres, I rarely seek out urban legends. A legend is more than fiction, it’s based on something real and it has a certain weight to it. I can watch a horror movie or a psychological thriller and almost immediately move past it, but an urban legend lingers. Amongst the fictional elements there’s a real underlying sentiment, the one that inspired the tale, the true source of fear. For some, that authentic basis is the allure, but for me, it’s the reason I don’t dive deep into myths.

While I may not have the spine for myths and urban legends, the hosts of Varsity Clues: Campus Myths and Legends, have an appetite for them and they’re ready to explore some. Varsity Clues is focusing specifically on myths and urban legends surrounding universities, maybe even some that you’ll hear on campus tours. If you’re feeling adventurous then make sure to join Varsity Clues across three episodes that will leave your mind stirring. And since I’m in the spirit, I thought I’d also share a few university myths. Of course the myths I’m referring to aren’t folklore, rather they’re just incorrect preconceptions about university life; I’ll leave the strange and obscure to the more daring.

— Manuel powering off.

Debunking Ten Myths about University
1. You’re just a number.
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Professors actually care about your success in their class even if they have a large class. Monitoring everyone’s progress can be difficult, but professors will gladly discuss strategies on how you can improve your grades if you have a chat with them during office hours. Even if you’re doing well in a class, you should still drop by and discuss assignments or class topics as a way to develop your academic connections.

2. It’s hard to make friends.
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University is one of the easiest places to make friends at. You’re among peers who share your enthusiasm for a certain subject and you can easily find clubs that match your other interests. Making friends in the first year is especially easy because everyone is eager to start their post-secondary education and they’re looking for people to share that experience with. You still have to actively put in effort, but in first-year, even the simplest comment can spark a conversation and lead you to real connection.

3. Laptops are always allowed in class.
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Plenty of modern learning involves using laptops so one thing that might surprise you is some professors’ laptop policies. Some professors entirely ban the use of laptops, others allocate the back row as the laptop zone, and others restrict their usage to only some portions of class. These policies can seem unnecessary but they are well intentioned and are an opportunity to practice your note taking skills without relying on slides or recordings.

4. Attendance is not taken.
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You’re right that attendance doesn’t factor into your grade for a class. However, many instructors take attendance. It may seem like taking attendance is unnecessary for adults but professors want to encourage students to attend so that they can contribute to interesting and insightful class discussions. (Non)-attendance can also signal to an instructor that a student might be struggling (see point 1, above). Hearing lectures live in person is also more useful for understanding topics rather than reading somebody else’s notes which are often missing context.  

5. Professors grade all their students’ assignments.
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In the case of very large classes, professors enlist teacher assistants (TAs) to help them grade assignments according to a rubric. The rubric is meant to ensure that all grading remains consistent and helps to eliminate the subjectivity that is often present when grading written papers. The professor keeps track of who graded each document which makes it possible for you to ask about any feedback that you find unclear or unfair.

6. Professors are very rigid.
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Professors come in all levels of strictness, but many are open to discussing issues that are interfering with your responsibilities as a student. If you reach out early and are open and honest with them, you’ll have a chance of receiving reasonable accommodation. However, some professors don’t grant exceptions and will instead offer strategies that you can implement to minimize the likelihood of facing the same issue again.

7. You’re on your own if you are struggling with course material.
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University students may have made the grades to get there but that doesn’t mean they won’t be challenged with their new courses. Thankfully, universities offer academic support programs that help students further develop their understanding of a topic. Some of these programs are offered by faculty, while others are offered by upper-year students who have excelled in their studies. Alternatively, you can build study groups early on so that you can help each other understand concepts that haven’t quite sunk in yet.

8. Universities don’t care about mental health.
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Mental health is increasingly talked about and universities have been learning the importance of providing the support resources necessary for students to improve or maintain their mental health. The pandemic has contributed to deteriorating many people’s mental health so universities have shifted counselling services online and have provided access to additional online resources that help you keep your mind in good shape.

9. When you’re on OSAP you aren’t eligible for other financial aid.
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OSAP is a helpful program and if you’re benefiting from it that doesn’t mean you’re locked out of applying for other financial aid. Universities offer a variety of scholarships and bursaries, some based on academics and financial need and others based on criteria set out by the funder. Additionally, students can also look out for contests and grants that are set up by student unions and offered throughout the school year.

10. You have to choose your major/minor/concentration/specialization when you apply.
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Not all programs require you to declare a major/minor/concentration/specialization with your application. Still, you should be exploring your options for when the time comes. Consider your interests, but also look at the requirements for the declaration so that you know exactly what to expect when you choose an option. Many universities also allow you to customize your declaration (e.g. double minor, double major), so ask your academic advisor about what is possible and what it will mean for your course loads.