All Posts Tagged With: "success"
Writer Roy MacGregor on his days at Laurentian U.
The 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings asked some of Canada’s most successful writers, politicians and scientists what they wish they’d known in university. Their answers are perfect additions to our First Year Survivor blog. Here, writer Roy MacGregor shares his antics and wisdom.
I attended Laurentian University in Sudbury, leaving a four-year honours program in political science after three years with a general B.A. I chose Laurentian because it would take me—a six-year high-school grad with a 66 per cent average. Also, a friend was going and he had a car. I honestly never expected to last beyond Christmas, let alone end up with a degree—failing Grade 12 with 33 per cent doesn’t instill a lot of confidence—but I can honestly say I found university far easier than high school. Soon enough I was in love with both Laurentian and the city of Sudbury. The North of this country is indeed magical, but the near North has its own magic as well.
It was 1967, a time of huge student unrest. In the U.S. they were marching against the Vietnam War. We held a massive student protest march in Sudbury. There were riot police out but we showed stunning solidarity, walking around the streets near city hall chanting “WE WANT A PUB! WE WANT A PUB!” as if it were the most important thing in the world. The ’60s didn’t reach Laurentian until the ’70s. But we loved our time there. Classes were small. The residences were like family. Professors were approachable.
Prof. Pettigrew shares his secrets for superior note-taking
Perhaps it’s been a gradual shift, but this year I have noticed that students really aren’t taking notes like they used to. It’s especially noticeable among my first-year students, a great many of whom don’t seem to take notes at all, or who, I notice, write down things there is no need to write down and put their pens down at crucial times.
The benefits of taking good notes in class are many and, for the most part, obvious. Taking notes forces you to pay closer attention and helps keep you focussed when you might otherwise drift off. Notes force you to actually process what you’re hearing rather than simply let the lecture wash over you. And finally, of course, notes allow you to review the whole term’s material and show a mastery of all that material come exam time.
Advice from an upper-year student
10. Pick your major carefully. If your university doesn’t make you declare a major off the bat, don’t. Explore new things. Even if you must declare immediately, remember that you can always change your mind. Quiz people in programs you’re considering. Any regrets?
9. If you need help, ask for it. If you don’t understand something, ask your professor. Many will help you. Another place to find help is the library, where employees can show you how to format your citations or find articles in academic journals. If you’re ever accused of cheating, your student union can help explain your rights.
8. If you’re going to need an extension, ask early. If you ask early enough, many professors will grant extensions. But don’t annoy your prof by emailing and asking the night before it’s due.
Exploring the disconnect between the experiences of immigrant parents in education and the environment their children will experience
Here’s some mail I’ve been meaning to reply to, from a U.S. reader. It’s edited down somewhat for length:
My son is in his senior year of high school and he has applied to quite a few universities/colleges. In his school years, he has demonstrated his interest and strength in fine arts and he has received three acceptance letters [for study in this area]. Meanwhile, he also applied to some non-fine art majors including business, environmental sciences, and psychology and already received a few acceptance letters from [other reputable schools]. Now he is struggling to make his final decision on whether to go with his relatively stronger interest and strength in fine arts or with a non-fine art major for a realistic job market (better and more secured salary compensation) taking fine arts as his hobby. Since our college choices were chosen quite blindly when we were young in our motherland, China, we really can not help a lot for his decision. I really appreciate it if you could provide us with more tips or guidance for consideration.
Now here’s a common situation. Immigrants often prioritize education very highly (for somewhat obvious reasons) but at the same time may not have a very good idea of what’s going on in North America. I credit the father in this case for realizing as much and for seeking advice about how things work here rather than simply pushing his own experiences as an example to follow. I believe there are very significant differences between educational culture in China and educational culture in North America. But I must also acknowledge that there’s nothing “wrong” with the lessons and assumptions associated with the parents’ experiences in China. Their experiences are different, and may not apply to North American culture, but that doesn’t make them wrong. We all have our biases, and so I’d like to examine my own.
I am very firm about my advice to students that they should follow their interests and their aptitudes. I advise students to take time off school if they aren’t ready. I absolutely advise students to take “less practical” degrees if that is where their inclinations lead them, rather than compromise on something that seems safer. And I fully believe that the best job security available is to be really good and to genuinely care about the field you are in. There will always be jobs for people who are good at what they do. Hence, the “safe” thing to do, in my opinion, really is to stick with what you care about.
Coming from a campus where there are a lot of first and second generation immigrants (I’m second generation myself) I’ve found that a lot of students get family pressure in the opposite direction. They are pushed towards medicine and science and business (regardless of inclination) under the assumption that that’s the way to succeed. Exactly as the father in today’s letter suggests. You care about art? That’s nice. It will be a good hobby for you in your future career. Now get a real degree.
All of this came very clear to me, one day, when I was called out for my own assumptions about education. My ideas were called Western-centric or something like that. And the truth is – they are. No sense denying it. When I advise students to follow their passions and their interests I give that advice not because it’s some universal truth but rather because it works, here, in our cultural context. And I’ll illustrate from my own experiences.