The university shock
University can be an intimidating place for new students
"I am so shocked by how hard uni is. The lectures are impossible to understand. I can't find anyone to help me. I was top of my class at school and now I am so completely lost."
Marcia Devlin, March 30, 2009. Taken from theage.com.au.
There are probably at least two reasons why you are feeling the way you describe.
The first is that things are different. You are now in a new situation, different to the one you are accustomed to at school and one that requires a different set of independent learning skills.
The second is that things are the same, in a sense. You are now in a situation where you are among peers. You were top of the class at school because you're bright and you work hard. But everyone at uni is similar to you - they're all bright and (most of them) work hard - so you are no longer different.
Fortunately, with a bit of guidance, time and perseverance you will be able to navigate uni a little better and these feelings will pass.
Lectures are probably quite a different experience to the smaller classes you enjoyed at high school. There is almost certainly less interaction between you and the lecturer than you have been accustomed to at school and you may feel just part of the crowd in a large lecture theatre where no one knows your name. While this feeling may not be familiar to you, it is common among first-year students.
Each lecture should have a theme or topic and should aim to make you understand several key points. See if you can listen for the three or four main points and make and review notes in relation to these. Make use of available supporting materials such as copies of PowerPoint presentations, recordings of the lecture and so on. These can often help you piece together the main points and review them.
The subject or unit outline might also be helpful. This usually contains the learning objectives of the subject or unit. These may be helpful in determining what the main points or message from each lecture are and how they fit into the overall whole.
The free academic skills, language and learning advisory service offered by your university may help you with note-taking and about making sense of your subject or unit. Check your uni's intranet for contact details.
Once you have made all these efforts, you are more likely to follow what is happening in lectures. If not, it would then be appropriate to ask your lecturer or tutor for clarification about particular points or for suggestions about how to better understand the material.
My advice would be to hang in there and things will begin to feel less shocking and different.
Dr. Marcia Devlin is a registered psychologist and professor of higher education research at Deakin University.