Hard though it may be for some to believe, I have friends who have just had AS level results. This confuses me, because when I was a youngun, AS levels were the special entry exams to Oxbridge and similar, and re-using the name seems less than wise. Anyway, congrats to K8 who only just missed her A in maths by one mark (that sux) and did nicely in the other subjects too. Disturbingly clever girl, given she is the non-academic of the family, and it is a real shame Reading has failed to attract her.
This time of year is rather strange around Uni. Very few students around, and yet there is an air of expectation. In some ways it makes me think of the local towns' reactions to the start of term in the St Trinian's films.
Tiresome though I am sure it sounds, the main thing I remember from when I was just starting my degree (which was not all that long ago - 2002) was trying to get hold of a booklist so I could do some reading before the modules started. I didn't do very well at finding out what books were needed - but I did get some interesting ones, and I think the pattern of reading up on the subject before hand was a key to my success.
For those that don't know me - my Uni track record had been less than spectacular before coming back with a sense of purpose (who would have thought that having a reason to want to get a degree would lead to a better success rate?!).
I first came to Uni when I left school, back in the dark ages. I came because it was what was done, and because I was interested in the subject. I had not particular interest in getting the bit of paper at the end, and ended up leaving after two years, having discovered that role playing games were far more interesting than lectures.
Then I went to Uni again, studying Civil Engineering, because my company wanted me to. Funny thing in life - it is very hard to receive education because someone else thinks it is a good idea - you need to sign up for it yourself, and take ownership of the process (because education is a process, not a product which can be delivered to you). So, oddly, after 2 years I gave that up, and changed jobs.
Then I started an Open University degree. That was good, but other things in life (mainly a truly awful manager) got in the way after a couple of years. Do you see a pattern here?
But equipped with a sense of purpose (I came to realise just how much I love helping people through the process of educating themselves, and also how much I love deep philosophical aspects of AI, in addition, of course, to generally messing about with computers and robots, and how much I missed the campus life), I stuck at it all the way through my first degree (BSc Intelligent Systems - 1st class. Now renamed as Artificial Intelligence and Cybernetics - not as catchy as names go, in my opinion), and through my Masters (MSc Informatics - distinction) on into my PhD. Year 5. Somewhat longer than the 2 years I ever managed before, and mainly, I think, down to having a sense of purpose. Possibly also because the Uni has dumbed down... but I am sure that can't really be the case
In truth though, the bit of paper was still just a nice-to-have, and not the real purpose of studying. It will help in getting to do the specific job I want, but I had worked in other jobs before which required a degree, and indeed been turned down from others because I was over qualified for them (hah! 5 A levels made me overqualified!). No, the real reason for studying was the same reason I had in my previous abortive attempts - because I love to learn. I want to find out why and how and what, and I like to be able to point out to lecturers when they are wrong!
So, anyway, simple recipe for Uni success:
Read around the subject early. Want to learn. Do courseworks early. Expend effort only to make it look like you are swanning through without any effort. Do the 'social thing'. Help others learn. Have the best few years of your life.
Keywords: A level, Degree, freetag?, Purpose, Qualification