Tips to navigate the middle years of university
Written by Shehna Javeed, M.Ed., Academic & Learning Strategist
Now that your student has settled into university life and started to find his/her way, it’s time to start thinking about second and third year. Students will commit to one or two areas of study, and with that, the academic experience changes.
Help them transition successfully into second year with these tips:
Learn the language
While first-year courses introduce students to a wide variety of information on the chosen subject, second-year courses build on that introduction and delve deeper into the discipline. Students will learn common methods and theories that apply to their subject, including specific terms and definitions. They must become familiar with the names of leaders who have laid the foundation of the discipline, as well as the evolution of the research or writing style involved. Knowing the correct terminology becomes vital at this stage. Textbooks provide a glossary of terms, but it’s a good idea for students to keep track of words and ideas that are important to their area of study. This will put them in a good position for upper-year courses that they are interested in taking in the future.
Narrowing in on an area of study can be stressful! Help your student think critically about what they want to focus on. Does the area of study align with their interests or skills? It’s OK to change programs in second year. If this occurs, it is important to consult with an academic advisor to see how this shift can be made with minimum impact. It might mean an additional semester at some point in the student’s degree.
Development of professional and mentoring relationships with teaching assistants (TAs) and professors has the potential to begin in second and third year. Encourage your student to talk to TAs, professors and others for advice and guidance on options and pathways for a future career. A conversation with a career counsellor can be beneficial at this stage. When students see a connection between their academics and the real world, they are more likely to see their education as meaningful, resulting in success and completion of their university degree.
Get out of the classroom
Speaking of a connection to the real world, experiential learning opportunities often arise in second- and third-year courses. These opportunities give students the chance to step into the field or a laboratory. This could be a health studies class that requires students to conduct a study of seniors and their interaction with their community, or a business course that requires fundraising for a not-for-profit organization. This could also present opportunities to work or study abroad. Experiential opportunities enrich the educational experience and lead to a deeper understanding of the value of a university degree.
In second and third year, students mature in their academics and see meaning and connection to the world. Encourage your student to meet with academic advisors, learning strategists and career counsellors to enhance their learning as they become educated contributors to society, strong critical thinkers and leaders.