This article might be of a special interest for those to have just got their feet wet in the hazy fields of Calculus and Macroeconomics (i.e. year 1) to see what is in store for them in a not-so-distant future.
Here we are again… After a two-months holiday break, 2nd year Bachelor students (who I am a part of, naturally) once again find themselves toiling through a vicious cycle of lectures, homework, tutorials and midterm(s) that are waiting down the road. This cycle itself may indeed come across as familiar, but an awful lot of things has changed. So much so that an entire article is devoted to that. So, what exactly is different?
To describe year 1 in a word would be as a transition. A transition between the high-school way of life, where most decision-making lies with the teacher, and the independency where the person itself is in charge of the knowledge they acquire. The general environment of the first year will be quite familiar for freshly baked school graduates. To take a mathematics course, there is a given list of things that one is to prepare for the two coming tutorial lessons, the tasks are pre-selected by the teacher, and what is mostly expected from a student is to get the hang of them so that not to quail at a coming exam. Of course, there are lectures and the information load is greater, but the principle is the same. Now, the second-year students no longer enjoy such privilege. Instead of roughly 20 pre-picked exercises, they all are listed now. The tasks are sorted out by the skill and topic one wants to brush up upon. Suppose you need to better your analysis skill in constructing orthogonal matrix? Do such and such then. For the record, with 55-70 exercises per chapter, it’s time-wise unlikely to finish them all, unless you decide to give up on your project(s) or on another course. What is more, Mathematics 3 features a so-called weekly test where you are expected to prove one arbitrary theorem and solve a random exercise. Though all theorems to-come are listed beforehand, one simply can’t commit them all to memory. So, in a word, to get ahead, a deeper understanding and expertise in the subject is now essential, not merely an ability to reproduce the exercise you did last week. Another thing worth noting is the computer assignments. Along regular textbook material, students are expected to have a command of the software, which is for you to study on your own, there is no privilege in the shape of a programming class out there. You yourself determine how you go about it.
To get more philosophical, the transitionary phase I mentioned above is officially over in year 2. This is the time which, to my mind, fosters independency in students. Academic independency as in what you study and how you do it. Organisational independency as in how you schedule your day and how you trade-off things that are of more essence to you (recognising opportunity costs, to use the economic parlance). And last but not least, personal independency, as in why you do this and what you want to make of the time you spend day in day out. To cap it all off, second year is the time when the high-priced professional econometricians, operational researches and actuaries that UvA sets out to create, are being born.