By Simon Kidd
Welcome to Marianopolis! You probably heard all the typical ‘coming to school’ platitudes about respect, caring, love and all that jazz. You probably heard Adam Reider’s speech about extracurricular opportunities (though at this point, you couldn’t care less–you just want to find the I-wing already). You probably heard all about the IPESA and its importance (while resolving to never, ever read it). The whole experience is new-but-familiar. One crucial difference? The nagging voice in your head. It reminds you that messing up here will undoubtedly lead to living in a refrigerator box for the rest of your life. The writers here at the Papercut understand this struggle. Now that we have trudged our way through the first year, we have tips! Surviving the wilds of the Mari jungle is not easy, but if you follow this guide… You might be OK.
Tip 1: This is not high school.
This is crucial. CEGEP and the ways to succeed within it are a completely different beast. Sure, maybe you were taught some basic citation styles in high school, but there was always an enormous amount of leeway with how solid your formatting and citations were. The shortcuts you used in high school will probably only mess you up. Another important note–work worth 95% in high school will barely scrape an 80% in CEGEP.
Tip 2: With Greater Independence Comes Greater Responsibility
Nobody is holding your hand here. When the teachers say that you can miss class, they aren’t kidding–and when you realize that, you might get giddy with power. Saying ‘Ahh, this class is bullshit, I’ll just go to McDonalds’ might work for that week, but it’s a slippery slope. What starts as a one time deal can easily morph to a status quo. Which leads us to…
Tip 3: Never Ever Skip a Class
This is a simple rule of thumb. Maybe your professor is coma-inducingly boring, but your professor is also the one in charge of giving you grades. Most of the time, professors will not say anything about your chronic late/missing-itis. They will just slam you for disrespecting the class with their marks at the end of the semester. Participation and conduct are often 10% of the course, and it counts. In high school, most teachers do not care about what they teach. Professors at CEGEP are often personally interested in the class material. Not showing up is a diss.
Then there are the obvious reasons. Professors will tell students in class crucial nuggets of information, especially in their dullest classes. Helpful Vengeance is when a professor notices all the absent people and compensates, leading to comments which could make or break marks on tests. It is a real thing, so try to make it to every class.
Useful Metric: 1 hour of lecture time with notes → worth 3 hours of studying at home
Tip 4: Doing Well Academically is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Most students start off the term well. The organization will kinda be there, the willpower is kinda there, and notes are also kinda there. By the two week mark, things are starting to slip, the ‘wow let’s kick ass’ attitude goes down the drain, but you cannot let yourself slip. Do not exhaust yourself in the first part of the semester. Think long distance. Spread out your work and have fun, but…
Tip 5: Start Early
High school teachers always told us to start our projects early. Most of us would nod, then proceed to finish every single assignment the night before. Last minute projects do not work in CEGEP. I mean, they do… For the first project. Maybe you can get away with two last-minute projects in a week, but they will lead to crap marks, crap notes, crap organization, and eventually total burnout. The best way to avoid all that is to section them out.
→ This is important. Start early, learn from our mistakes
Tip 6: Competition is Fierce (esp. In the Sciences)
If you are in the sciences, most of your classmates already have an idea of where they want their life to go–so maybe pre med at McGill. Only issue is, it’s statistically impossible for the whole class to get into these programs, due to the low acceptance rate and the nature of the R-Score (which is not based in grades, but how well you do compared to the rest of the class. The culture is different for every program, but the rumors you heard about the stiff competition are true.
Tip 7: Academic Sabotage Can Happen (even Unintentionally)
The person in your class complaining about how they just started on a project might have started it weeks ago…which becomes immediately apparent when the marks come back, or when you glance at said project. Be wary of people who vent about how much there is to do and how little they have done. At best, they normalise laziness and starting late on projects, and at worst, well… At worst, it is behavior designed to slow completion of your work. This is called academic sabotage and it happens at all levels of education, but especially in cutthroat environments where rankings are key.
Tip 8: Sleep Hygiene is Hella Important
We all know it is, but sleep is crucial.
Without enough of it, we won’t be able to focus properly or take good notes. Without good sleep, we won’t want to study or go to the gym or eat healthily. Most of us have bad habits from high school, but the best students will get enough sleep every day. Start early, organize, and if you cannot go to sleep at the right time use sleep aids on the first week to set a proper rhythm. You cannot make up for Sleep Debt (lack of sleep accrued over time) over the weekend. It does not work like that, so you need to keep it up for the whole week.
→ Try to sleep 7-9 hours every night
→ Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day
Tip 9: Mental Breakdown is a Legitimate Possibility
CEGEP is the perfect storm. A super stressful environment paired with typical time-of-onset mental disorders (which normally rear their ugly heads around now, when our brains are still developing). High stress environments can reveal pre-existing or developing mental illnesses, but also magnify current issues. Stress mixed with accumulated Sleep Debt can actually lead to a legitimate mental breakdown. Thankfully, counselors can be booked through Omnivox.
→ Meet with a counselor at least once a month/two months through Omnivox (counselling is healthy for anyone, regardless of mental state!)
Tip 10: Try to Have Fun!
I’m sure you’re going to do just fine