5 Common Reasons for the First Year Grade Drop


While entering university can be a fun and exciting time, it also presents many challenges that can often lead to a first year grade drop. The following are five common factors that may affect your performance as a student during your first year in university.

5 Common Reasons for the First Year Grade Drop

1. Increased Difficulty in Courses

The primary reason why most student see their marks drop during their first year of university tends to be that university level courses are simply more difficult than high school courses. Not only is the content more conceptually difficult, but the volume is usually higher, and the amount of studying time  required to succeed is more than most students are accustomed to. Unless you learn to meet your new demands academically, it is likely that you will not be able to achieve the same results you did in high school by putting in the same amount of work.

2. Adjusting to the University System

Not only is course work more difficult in university, but the structure of your classes and assignments differs radically from your previous education. Instead of being an hour each day, a class in first year is typically three hours a week with two hours of lecturing and an hour of tutorial. Also, instead of having a steady stream of assignments throughout the semester, university courses typically base your marks on one or two major assignments as well as a midterm and final that make up the majority of your grade. In your first year classes it is also likely that you will be packed in a room with a couple hundred other students and not get a chance to know your professor unless you make a concerted effort. All of these changes can be disorienting at first and lead to a first year grade drop as you struggle to adjust to the university system.

3. Being Placed in the Wrong Program/Courses

For some students going into first year, they will soon discover that the major that they elected to take is not the right fit for them. While chemistry or history may have been your favorite courses in high school, the realization that a concentration in these fields requires you to take numerous courses on them, some on subjects that you find tedious and boring, is enough to turn some students off. Other subjects like engineering or business may not even be introduced to students at a high school level, thus a student’s perception of them might change once they are actually in their first year introductory classes. If you discover when entering university that you are disinterested in your field of study then it is easy to get discouraged and see your marks suffer.

4. Programs that Grade on a Curve

What many student often forget is that when they enter a competitive university program they are placed in classes with other students who were also high performers in high school. While you may be used to having been one of the brightest people in your class back in grade twelve, now you are competing with others who probably felt the same way. As such, since most university programs maintain a certain average and tend to grade on a curve, the quality of your work will be measured up against other strong preforming students. Thus when you receive a B in University you are receiving a median mark for students who were used to getting A’s in High School.

5. Socializing and Lifestyle Changes

If you were somewhat sheltered growing up and are now living away from home for the first time, chances are that you will now be exposed to a new lifestyle of partying and a range of different social activities carried out through the various clubs that are available on campus. Even if you were outgoing in high school, university is still considered by many to be a highlight in their social lives where for four years the good times never seemed to end. Regardless of your circumstances it is important to learn how to balance your school work with your social life if you desire to overcome a potential first year grade drop.

Bottom Line on Your First Year Grade Drop

Regardless of which of the aforementioned reasons is most responsible for your likely decrease in grades when entering university, it is important to remember that first year is more about adjusting to your new surroundings than receiving stellar marks. If you are pursuing a post bachelors degree, or want to complete a competitive program, keep in mind that there is still plenty of time to improve your performance in school, and that if you put in the hard work you marks will eventually go back to where they once were.

What University Clubs Should You Join?

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All major university campuses typically feature a wide variety of extracurricular clubs that you can joins. These university clubs are generally geared towards people with similar interests in certain subjects, and include organizations such as athletic teams, student politics, charity organizations, fan clubs, and professional training groups.

The Importance of University Clubs

While the majority of your time and mental energy during university will be geared towards your classes and academic requirements, there is vast potential for learning and personal growth outside of your program’s curriculum. Joining the right university clubs can not only help you develop valuable skills that you can put to use in the real world, but might also give you an edge when applying to jobs after you undergraduate career is over.

Three Common Types of University Clubs

Athletic Clubs

Athletic clubs range from high level school varsity teams to common intramural sports. Generally more students would be inclined to join the latter, as only few are high calibre athletes. Nonetheless being part of an amateur sports team is a great way to stay in shape and to make new friends. Thus athletic university clubs can be quite rewarding as they foster team building skills and provide you with a break from your studies that is genuinely fun and engaging.

Advocacy/ Political Groups

Another option that might be worth your time is joining a club that advocates for a certain cause or charity. If you feel strongly about an issue like poverty or the environment then you would be well served joining a group that is committed to taking action towards those issues. Not only does this allow you to become proactive about your views it also lets you gain valuable experience in managing an organization, if you stick to that club and rise up in its ranks.

Likewise, if you are passionate about politics, it might also be beneficial to join the student chapter of a political party on your campus. All of the major Canadian political parties have affiliate clubs in most universities. By joining one of these groups you have a chance to network with like minded people, potentially gain access to certain internship roles within political organizations, and get a head start to a possible career in public service.

Professional Clubs

Professionally geared university clubs can include a wide spectrum of organizations such as, student newspapers, accounting or management clubs, or theater production groups. These clubs can be highly beneficial as they give you hands on skills and training in fields that you might be interested in working once you graduate. Even if they are not directly related to the career stream you are set on following, these clubs allow you to test out different professional fields and earn some valuable resume padding.

Make the Most out of University Clubs

Ultimately when it comes to picking university clubs it is of the utmost importance to do what feels right for you, and to join a club that speaks to your interests, and that allow you to grow as a person. That said it is strongly encouraged that you do participate in extracurricular activities while you are in undergrad as they can help you build very important professional, interpersonal, and organizational skills.