How to Succeed At University--Canadian Edition. Danton O'Day
How to Succeed at University
Danton H. O’Day, Ph.D.
Aldona Budniak, M.Sc.
Copyright 2012 Danton O'Day,
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Free Advice, Free Information & Free Guidance
This is the latest edition of How to Succeed at University written specifically for Canadian students. As a result of collaboration with Aldona Budniak, the book is completely updated with lots of new and proven concepts and suggestions to help students survive and do their best at university. There is no other book that is so comprehensive. This book provides students with most, if not all, of the skills and guidance they will need to get through university with a degree of which they will be proud. It also sets the stage for the students’ future success once they graduate. We’re open to any comments you might have so feel free to email us using Professor O’Day’s email address ([email protected]). Good luck!
Danton H. O’Day, Ph.D.
Aldona Budniak, M.Sc.
Getting Ready to Succeed
Why I Wrote this Book
In September, the first-year students at the university where I work are required to visit the professors assigned as their advisers. These encounters are usually without incident. The student outlines his or her interests and the program he or she has selected. The student is usually enthusiastic; he or she is excited about new life at the university has great hope for academic success.
In the spring, as his or her first year draws to its inevitable close, the situation is generally not so relaxed and the student is somewhat less than ebullient.
“Come in,” I respond to the knock that seems to have been made with some trepidation. (My assumption will soon be borne out.)
“Have you got some time to discuss my courses?” an anxious youthful face asks.
After I respond in the affirmative, the remainder of the youth’s body enters my office.
“What’s the problem?”
“Things haven’t gone so well for me this year.”
Thus begins the routine end-of-the-year tale. The distraught student is failing. It’s now too late to do anything and the student is desperate. The only options left are to drop out, to reenrol in first year or, at best, to attempt to salvage a few courses. Where did the time go?
All of a sudden the party’s over and reality has returned. The student normally has plans that necessitate the acquisition of a Bachelor’s degree. Now he or she has to face another year of the same courses, the same material—another year of the same things. All of this could have been avoided if the student had had some guidelines in the beginning.
That’s one reason why I wrote this book: to give incoming students a guide. This book will spell out in black and white what you have to do to succeed in your first and subsequent years at university. It will tell you what no one else will.
There’s a second reason: I succeeded and I want to tell you how I did it. I also want to give you the additional knowledge that years of teaching at university have given me. University was a struggle for me and I believe that if I could do it most other students can do the same. All you need is the sincere desire to succeed.
My pre-university years in North Vancouver, British Columbia, were totally lacking in academic merit. The majority of my grades were well below average in the early years of high school. In grade nine I was told to enter the non-academic (manual arts) program. However, my parents decided that I should stay in the university-oriented program and they encouraged me to work harder. After that my high school grades did improve, but they never became exceptional.
In those days universities had entrance examinations, which all incoming students had to write. Counsellors used the results to advise students which career they should pursue. Many weeks after writing my entrance exams at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, I was summoned to the counsellor’s office and informed of my underwhelming success. Apparently I had demonstrated no academic potential whatsoever. The counsellor was aghast at my poor showing. (I guess he was wondering how I had gotten that far.)
“I think that you should forget the idea of going to this or any other university. You simply don’t seem to have the aptitude or the inclination to make it,” he said, more or less repeating the words that had been spoken by another counsellor several years before.
“You mean that I can’t begin my studies this fall?” I asked, fearful for my future.
“No—I’m just offering you sound advice. You appear to have no academic future. University would undoubtedly be a waste of time.”
I enrolled in the fall despite the learned man’s pessimistic appraisal and I emerged from the University of British Columbia’s hallowed halls four years later with a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology. My first year at the university had been shaky, but I persevered and my last year’s average was only a percent below first-class. I had wanted to go to university and along the way I had discovered the keys to success.
I succeeded in my undergraduate studies essentially because I followed the program that I outline in the following pages. I was no academic whiz kid, but I fared well and set the stage for my next two university degrees and my eventual position, at twenty-five years old, of professor at the University of Toronto. With years of teaching experience at several different universities in the United States and Canada, I have a pretty good grasp of what students need to know to succeed. With all my teaching experience, I still realize that I don’t know everything. I also know that what works for one person may not work for another.
So I’ve read a lot of books and research papers to give me a better perspective. Did you know that there are at over four dozen journals dedicated to higher education? Each of these publishes ten or more articles per month. So each year over 5,000 articles on life and learning at college and university appear in print. In thirty years, that would be about 150,000 articles. And these are just the best papers, published in quality journals only after other experts have checked them out! Clearly, I haven’t read them all. However, this is not a research book for teachers, it is a learning resource for students. My goal is not to impress other educators but to get down to the basics of what students need to do to be successful.
Did You Know?
A diversity of research has shown that self-image is the strongest indicator of life satisfaction. More to the point, academic performance at university is directly related to life satisfaction.1