From the NY Times on student perception versus student reality in universities:
LIKE most large universities, the University of Arizona is a virtual city: 37,000 students and nearly 14,000 employees on a sprawling campus in Tucson of 174 buildings and 11,000 parking spots. Also like most of the country’s colleges and universities, it is not particularly selective. Arizona admits 83 percent of its applicants, although most graduated in the top half of their high school class. They sit in numbing lecture halls with 500 classmates; the only instructor they may know is a teaching assistant, and they are, for all intents and purposes, anonymous.
This is not exactly the popular image of ivy-covered higher education, but it’s the truth of it. Most students do not go to an Amherst or a Williams. They go to enormous public institutions like the Universities of Arizona, Iowa, Connecticut, Minnesota: more than five million undergraduates attend an institution with at least 15,000 students. The freshman class alone exceeds the population of a small town, and the course catalog is the size of a phone book. Mike Morefield, a junior at Arizona, remembers his first year: “It’s like somebody comes along with a pin right after high school, pops your bubble, picks you up, throws you naked into some college, and you’ve got to figure it out.”
Even though a university opens the door [by offering extensive advising and counselling], it can’t make an adolescent walk through it. However lost they may be, college students may never seek out an adviser. Intimidated, shy or alienated, they don’t drop in during faculty office hours. Parents out of sight, they struggle with their newfound independence, starting with the freedom not to wake up before midday or to eat pizza any hour of the night – and again for breakfast – or to put off reading assignments until cram time at finals.
McGill University isn’t as anonymous as large state universities. However, it can be very intimidating. So what have been your experiences in university? More important, what are your successful coping skills?