High School vs University

In HS the teacher's primary focus is on teaching you how to learn content. Group work, discussion, outlines, problem sets are all created to provide the information you need to do well on assignments, tests and exams. The only notes you need are those written on the white board or given out in class.
The professor's primary focus is the content. In class, their effort will be to cover the disciplinary content students need for second year courses (and beyond). Information presented in class highlights essential concepts/theories /facts but you are expected to organize and connect these concepts yourself, so writing down what the professor is saying is important.
How to deal:
  • Come prepared. Read and review material, where possible before class; check to see if your classes have additional support material on UM Learn.
  • Take notes in class (by hand is best) and pay attention to the main ideas presented in each class . Do do not rely on the PowerPoint slides alone.
  • Use and apply the information where possible. Explain concepts to your friends, do problems (particularly the ones you're struggling with), connect new ideas to ones you are already familiar with.
  • Monitor your understanding. If you struggle taking notes, identifying main ideas, or identifying support details, get help. Meet with a study skills or content tutor, attend a Supplemental Instruction (SI) session or go see your instructor during their office hours.


The majority of studying and assignment work is done in class. Grade 12 requires more work and studying outside of class, but for most students this is limited to 2–3 hours a week.
All your reading, studying, and assignments are done outside of class. Depending on how many courses you are taking and how familiar you are with the material taught, you should expect to study 10 to 20 hours a week.
How to deal:
  • Schedule time to study.
  • Go to class. Listening and taking notes helps you learn the material. At the end of each lecture, try to summarize what you learned in that class in 2 to 3 sentences.
  • Organize your day like a work day and consider studying on campus.
  • Form a study group and/or attend a facilitated study group, such as Supplemental Instruction if one is associated with your class.
  • Use available resources such as writing and study skills tutors, and attend the Study skills workshop.


Tests are given more often and in some cases can be re-written if your mark is less than expected. Assignments have due dates, but they can still be handed in late; sometimes as late as the last day of class.

Although some classes will have tests throughout the term, many will just have a mid-term and a final and the final could be worth as much as 60%. Terms are shorter (3 months rather than 4) and final exams in the first term are before the winter break (December).

Your professors provide an outline (course syllabus) of the entire course, which include all assignment and test dates for the entire term as well as the grading scale used for the course. You are expected to work on these assignments throughout the term and be ready to write your midterm and final exams as scheduled. Be aware that some faculty allow you to hand in assignments late, and some will not, and few or no reminders for deadlines are given.

How to deal:
  • An academic term moves quickly and each course requires that you learn a lot of information. Start preparing for tests and exams early.
  • Use the course syllabus to plan your study and preparation time for your tests and assignments.
  • Review content regularly, but don't re-read and re-copy. Instead rehearse and test yourself.
  • Do all assignments and practice problems (even the ones you struggle to understand) because they help you learn the material, which in turn will help you with final exams.
  • Pay attention to what you understand and what you don't – test yourself as you study!
  • Access available tutoring resources on campus and see your instructor or TA during their available office hours (office hours are listed on your course outline or syllabus).


Most writing assignments are designed to introduce you to basics (paragraphing, citation, organization, idea generation) and to get you more comfortable with writing. In general, the assignments are short and although you are asked to do some research, scholarly sources are not required and critical thinking is not emphasized.
Professors expect you to write in a style that is appropriate to their discipline (e.g. History or Biology). You may be asked to write in a variety of styles including lab reports, research papers, or literary analysis papers. Essays in first-year courses are generally 3-8 pages and most will require that all evidence/information is provided by experts (called scholarly sources) rather than general information found on sites like Wikipedia. Papers are not based on your opinion. Instead they are based on your analysis of the evidence, and you are expected to find, organize and present that evidence in an essay. All the information you include should be cited. If you don't cite you could be charged with plagiarism, which has significant academic consequences. Format, style and grammar are also very important.
How to deal:
  • There will be differences in writing expectations from course to course. Pay attention to these differences.
  • Use your assignment descriptions, and if you have questions about the assignment, see your professor or the course's Teaching Assistant.
  • Go see a peer writing tutor. Appointments are free and tutors are located in Elizabeth Dafoe, the Science and Technology Library, and the Management Library.
  • Visit a reference librarian. They are located in all libraries and can help you find appropriate scholarly sources for your papers.
  • Attend Academic Writing Workshop.
  • Visit the UM Academic Integrity site. Take the online tutorial and do the quiz.
  • Often faculty will list a writing skills manual on their textbook lists. Buy it and use it. If you need help using it effectively, see a writing tutor!
  • The Academic Learning Centre also offers workshops during the year on citation styles, and on how to properly integrate research into your writing (paraphrase, summary and quote).


To a certain extent, community is often created for you. Even at a big HS you are with the same group of students in many classes: some of your neighbors might be teachers in the school; you play sports with your classmates, and your classmates' parents often know each other and socialize. Student groups are part of the daily routine, advertised well, and may involve many of your friends.
You will need to create your own community. For some students this is liberating because they can 're-boot' and make a whole new group of friends. For others, making friends is harder and connections on campus could be more challenging.
How to deal:
  • The UM Student Union hosts a large number of student groups. Look at the list and join one!
  • Make contact with the students sitting around you in your classes. If you aren't alone, others will be, and they'll appreciate the new contact.
  • Participate in university events
  • Volunteer
  • Look for jobs on campus
  • Drop by the Student Life office and see what activities they've planned for the term.


There are rules and policies but they can usually be addressed relatively easily. Dropping a class, missing a test, getting sick, or joining a student group or a sports activity requires some paperwork but much of it can be done by visiting an office or two and getting your parent's signature.

You have more freedom and more responsibility. Rules and regulations are really important on a university campus, and it is your responsibility to know these rules and to follow required procedures. If you don't, they could affect your life negatively. Missing the final date for dropping a course, for example, will mean that you will have to stay in that class. Missing an exam is a big deal, and not taking the right course in the term that it is offered could mean that it will take you longer to finish your degree.

How to deal:
  • Pay attention to Important Dates and Deadlines and course requirements, and get help if you don't understand!
  • Understand and practice academic integrity as part of your university studies. Familiarize yourself with the policies and resources on the UM Academic Integrity site.
  • Meet with an academic advisor for advice and guidance on academic choices and degree plans. Advisors can assist you directly and make referrals to other resources and supports on campus.
  • The Academic Calendar is the University of Manitoba's official publication that lists the policies, academic regulations and degree requirements. It's a large document that will take time to navigate and should be reviewed regularly and in conjunction with your advising sessions.
  • Come to Orientation. It is a full day with lots of information designed to introduce you to many of the University systems and connect you with friendly faces and departments on campus.

August 8, 2018
10 Study Traps and How to Get Out of Those Traps