High School vs. University: A Classroom Survival Guide

Coming from a family where neither of my parents attended university in Canada, I was really unsure what to expect at Glendon. So now, I’m going to pass some basic things I’ve learned on to you!

Class format:


  • these can be the typical university image of a professor talking to hundreds of students, but at Glendon the numbers rarely reach that high
  • lectures are usually 2 hours followed by a tutorial, or 3 hours
  • you do get breaks! Some professors do 50 minutes intervals followed by a 10 minute break, some 90 minutes followed by 15 minutes breaks, and then some prefer to go straight through and end the lecture early
  • although some professors allow students to ask questions during the lecture, most of the time you simply sit and take notes, and ask questions at the end or during tutorial


  • these are smaller, almost high-school style classes
  • you may have a TA (teaching assistant) during this time, or the professor
  • during this time, you may do presentations, a roundtable discussion on the lecture you just had, or some other form of work related to the lecture
  • this session tends to be a bit more informal
  • tutorials usually last 45mins – 1hour
  • your tutorial may directly follow your lecture, or may be after an hours break or longer
  • generally, your TA is the person who marks your assignments


  • more common amongst upper year courses
  • a smaller class focused on discussion between the students and professor
  • generally 3 hours long


Basic tips:

  1. Bring food : lectures are long, stomachs growl. Unless your professor specifically forbids it, you are allowed to bring tea, coffee, lunch or whatever else into the room. I once brought an entire french toast breakfast, I got a laugh from the professor and continued as usual. Just try to be considerate of allergies (I try to stay away from peanuts) and of cleaning staff (don’t make a mess)!
  2. Don’t ask to go to the bathroom : just, don’t. If you want to leave, just leave quietly, and if possible, during a pause in the conversation.
  3. Have a backup to your laptop : laptops crash, power drains, water spills. In short, bring a pen and paper just in case.
  4. Be respectful : don’t talk throughout the lecture, don’t continuously show up late.
  5. Do the readings : seems simple, but if you skip one week’s readings it snowballs from there. Try to take a couple of notes on what you think are interesting points. The readings are assigned for a reason, so if you want to be more prepared for the lecture take an hour and look through them.
  6. Read the syllabus (some upper year students could also benefit from this piece of advice) : the syllabus is the bible of your course. Want to know when an essay is due? Read the syllabus. Want ideas for topics? Read the syllabus. What some supplemental readings? Read the syllabus. Office hours? Email? Class dates? SYLLABUS.


Hope this helps! Good luck!


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