Myth: Every course you will ever take in University will fill you with upmost joy and inspiration that you will actively feel yourself growing into a better, smarter, more attractive person with every reading, assignment, and exam.
Fact: While there will be some courses that make you feel motivated to learn, there are many other classes that you will have to take that aren’t as mind-blowingly awesome.
Particularly in your first couple of years at University, you will have to take quite a few mandatory classes. These can include major/minor requirements, prerequisites for other cooler classes you wish to take, and or your Gen Ed classes. Most of these courses are taught at the intro level, which is kinda like eating at the Buffet of Academia. It’s great because you get to try a little bit of everything before focusing on a specialized topic; but also kinda sucks because sometime your stuck with a heaping plate of something that bores you endlessly. (I’m not quite sure if that analogy worked, but you get the idea.)
Now don’t get me wrong, not all mandatory classes are bad. In fact I’ve taken quite a few mandatory courses that have been amazing and have taught me so much (shout out to EDUC 1000 with Muriel Peguret and DRST 1000 with Gabrielle Houle – both FANTASTIC classes that had me excited to start my programs.) However it can disheartening to hear my upper year friends speak passionately about what they’re learning while I’m sitting here going over the DR & MRS VANDERTRAMP verbs for the 40 000th time (I can never remember what the third R is!)
This year I am taking all mandatory courses in hopes of getting as many out the way as possible, which means I’m spending a lot of time doing work which doesn’t necessarily titillate my senses (I do not mean this in a sexual way at all, I just think the word titillate is funny… hehe…titillate). So I’ve come up with a few techniques to help get me through the classes that bore me half to death.
HOW TO DEAL WITH MANDATORY COURSES
If you are reading the course description and you can already feel your eyelids start to flutter into a boredom-induced sleep you DO NOT need to launch yourself into an existential crisis as to whether or not you are meant to be at that school/in that program. One boring course does not equal a boring life. So put those transfer papers down baby, you can do this!
Do your research
(This is a tip for when you are picking classes and therefore won’t be that much help right now but hey maybe someone is reading this is the future… Hi future person, has Apple changed the earbud game with these new wireless things or is it still just an evil ploy to make money? Asking for a friend.)
If there are multiple sections of a mandatory course being offered, it can be beneficial to check Rate my Professor* or get opinions from friends who already took that course before deciding which section to pick. This is pretty common practice however I felt I should mention it because a good professor can bring life to subject that you have little to no interest in.
*Veuillez noter: Using Rate my Professor is kinda controversial but I believe that when used effectively it can be a great tool. Just make sure to read all the reviews instead of just looking at the overall rating, this way you can understand why that student either loved or hated that particular professor and assess whether or not that teaching style will work for you. Also remember that people post on Rate my Professor when they have either just received a fantastic mark or have just received a terrible mark, with very little in between, so take everything with a large grain of kosher salt.
Realize why you need that class
If the course is mandatory then there is a reason why it’s important. Take my FRAN 2810 course for example: this is a French grammar and writing course that can be VERY dry; however I know that the skills I learn in this class can be applied to French dissertations that I will have to write over the next five years. I am currently petrified to write anything of substance in French so I know this somewhat boring class will help me. Realizing how your mandatory course will help you during the rest of your academic career (or in the real world * gasp *) can help make the subject matter more palatable.
Suck it up
Okay let’s say you are in a situation where you are forced to take a course with a prof that doesn’t suit your learning style and/or you cannot for the life of you figure out how that course could ever be helpful in any aspect of your life ever.
Here is the number one thing NOT to do in that situation: give up.
If you decide to stop doing the readings, or stop taking notes, or stop showing up to class, or just stop trying all together, there is no way you can succeed and therefore you will end up having to take that crappy course all over again (my worst nightmare!)
This might sound harsh but sometimes you just have to buckle down and force yourself to do work that you have no interest in. It sucks, but it’s a part of life and definitely won’t disappear once you get into the “real world” so you might as well whip those highlighters out and get into good working habits now.
But I know what you’re thinking: “Rebecca, how can I possible force myself to study when I have no motivation what so ever?” Well, imaginary person who I made up to ask this question, have I got tips for you!
Take yourself on study dates
I’ve really been enjoying doing my homework at the Aroma just off campus because it makes my study sessions feel like an event. I really enjoy packing up all my supplies, doing my makeup, and putting on a cute outfit, then walking along Yonge St to settle in at my favorite table near the window. I find that having an enjoyable ritual surrounding your study time can make the never-ending piles of homework seem less daunting.
We’ve all heard of the 50/10 rules, which suggests that with every 50 minutes of work you should allow yourself a 10-minute break in order to increase productivity. I don’t particularly follow this rule because my 10 minute breaks very easily turn into 15 minute breaks which transform into 30 minute breaks which then becomes an hour and soon enough I’ve spent the whole day on Facebook after writing the opening two lines of an essay. I do however agree with the concept of rewarding yourself after a particularly grueling study session.
What’s my reward of choice? Well (and don’t judge me) I like posting Instagrams. Because I’m what the kids call basic, I love talking pictures of my stacks of highlighted notes next to my latte art. I will always start my study session by arranging my notes and pencils perfectly to get the ideal “hard at work” picture. I will only allow myself to edit and post the picture once all my work is done.
I know this sounds kinda stupid but making my boring homework seem cool and artsy makes me feel a little better about spending all my time reading weird absurdist French plays (I’m looking at you Ubu Roi).
Challenge yourself to participate in class
When I’m finding it particularly challenging to focus in class, I will make bets with myself in order to force my participation. Before class starts, I will set a goal for how of times I want to participate in class. If I achieve this goal I will normally reward myself with a hot chocolate from Timmies. Now, if you think something like this could never work, you clearly don’t understand my obsession with chocolate. Although it may seem silly, these little goals help me to concentrate in class resulting in better notes and therefore easier studying later on.
University is filled with highs and lows. One day you might be feeling totally inspired about a lecture you just attended and the next day feel totally defeated as you try to tackled the 25 page snore fest you’re forced to read in one of your mandatory courses.
I’ve learned over the past year and a bit, that it is okay to not feel completely fulfilled in every class you take throughout your academic career. I’ve also learned that it can be what you’ve struggled thru in some of your most boring classes that end up having the most impact on your life.
So stay focused and push through blah.
À la prochaine,