With the new school year set to start in just under two weeks, some first-year university students recently received a free course on what to expect on campus and how to make the best use of post-secondary education.
McMaster University associate professor, Dr. Juliet Daniel, used her keynote address at the Barbados Ball Canada Aid (BBCA) scholarship awards last week to remind the recipients – the majority of whom are entering university for the first time – that there is a huge leap in expectations and they are required to hit the ground running in the first semester.
“From my experience as a professor, in addition to time which you can never regain, is that first term semester in university,” the biology lecturer told the award winners. “There are many students who party their lives away in their first term and get Ds and Fs which stay on your transcript for the rest of your lives. Many graduate schools now consider all of your undergraduate grades. Previously, they looked at just your third and fourth-year grades. So even if you pull up your socks in the second year, you are kind of setting yourself up for failure.”
Dr. Daniel, who teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on molecular and cell biology, urged the students to keep a clear head, particularly during the first-term on campus.
“Frosh week is notorious for drinking binges, unprotected sex and many other lewd activities and thanks to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, your story will be told in seconds to millions of people around the world,” said Daniel. “Think of all the things your parents have been teaching you and just keep them locked away in your memory.”
A graduate of Queen’s University and the University of British Columbia, Daniel – whose research is focused on understanding the fundamentals of cell proliferation and cell adhesion and elucidating how malfunction of these processes contribute to cancer – shared her first-month university experience with the freshmen.
“I was so excited to be away from home, to make my own decisions, party whenever I wanted and all that kind of stuff,” she said. “But thankfully, the values of my parents and extended family in Barbados were tattooed into my brain. So anytime I ventured near the precipice of self-destruction, their faces would appear and I would hear my mother saying, ‘I brought you into this world and I could take you out of it’. The older generation can relate to that. So even though I was thousands of miles away, I kept a level head and enjoyed myself, but I never placed myself in a compromising position.
“While you are enjoying the freedom of being away from home for the first time, the key for you is to be disciplined with your time. Unlike high school, professors will not remind you of your deadlines. A deadline is a deadline and you will be penalized five to 10 per cent per day for any late assignment depending on the lecturer or the university.”
In the tough economic climate, Daniel said it’s vital that first-year students identify their strengths.
“With uncertainty about future job options and security, you cannot waste your parents’ hard-earned dollars or your own if you are putting yourself through university,” she said. “So, you have to be shrewd and target your strengths into skills that are likely to be in demand in the workplace. Do your best to understand the current trends in the context of business, socio-economic indicators and the environment etc. Don’t just act on self-interest and dreams, but think about where do I want to be in 20-30 years from now and try to start steering in that direction.”
With an increasing number of university students skipping classes while relying on notes made available on institutional learning environments, Daniel reiterated that web-based material is not an effective substitute for attending classes.
“You really don’t have to go to lectures,” the Barbados Gold Crown of Merit winner said. “However, if you are an auditory learner and you just look at the notes online, you are not going to do very well because you need to actually hear the lecture and not see the notes. There are several students that I have encountered in my classes who were failing miserably and then when I gave them an exercise to determine their learning style, they discovered that they were studying incorrectly. This was their third year and now they are trying to pull up their socks. So the sooner you know what your learning style is, the better it will be to help you ace those exams when December comes.
“Another thing that professors like to do is give bonus tips and hints in a lecture, so only those that are there will know the answer on the exam. I do that every single year, so that’s another reason to attend class.”
A total of 10 scholarships worth $30,000 were presented in late BBCA president John Rollock’s name.
Current president, Steve Kirton, said the recipients were selected on the basis of academic performance, financial need and volunteer work.
“This year, we had a significant increase in the number of applications and the selection process was even more challenging given the high calibre of the candidates,” he said. “Fortunately, this year’s fundraising gala was very successful and we were able to double the number of scholarships from five, which we normally give, to 10.”
Gabriel Taylor, whose father Malcolm was a member of the Merryboys, which later became Ivory, said the scholarship could not have come at a better time.
“This provides me with some financial stability to complete university,” said Taylor who is enrolled in George Brown College’s hospitality operations management degree program while working part-time at Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto. “My mom, who is divorced from my dad, is the family breadwinner. It means a lot to be able to take some of the financial strain off her and for me to start taking some economic responsibility.”
For Georgetown District High school graduate, Jenna Batson, the scholarship will alleviate the financial burden and stress associated with going nearly 4,345 kilometres to attend Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
“It was always my dream to travel and broaden my horizons,” said Batson, who coached the junior boys’ soccer team and started a Black/Asian History Month Diversity initiative at her school.
This was the first time that Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute graduate, Sydney Murrell, was presented with a scholarship.
“It’s a good feeling to get this financial boost,” said the final-year George Brown College dental hygiene student.
Rick Hansen Secondary School graduate, Ja’miil Millar, agreed.
“This is a great financial aid coming at the right time as I am about to start post-secondary education,” noted the avid soccer player who enters Brock University next month to pursue business communications studies.
The other winners – Kevin King, Sasky Louison, Bri-Anne Smith, Latoya Barrow, Chelsea Cox and Shanice Yarde – were unable to attend the awards presentation.
A graduate of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, King enters Acadia University this fall to study music; Louison was accepted into the Humber Institute of Technology & Advance Learning television writing program; Barrow is enrolled in Ryerson University’s architectural studies program; Cox – who aspires to be a neurosurgeon – is registered at Centennial College to pursue microbiology studies and Yarde is majoring in human relations & psychology at Concordia University.
Overall, the BBCA has so far presented 32 scholarships worth $105,000.