By Nour Al-Ali
I remember attending my first class at AUS and thinking to myself, this is the first day of the rest of my life. It was all too new to me, trying to get to class on time from building to building, figuring out what SBM, NAB, and PHY stood for, and getting used to calling my instructors “professor” instead of “teacher” or “miss / mister.”
Entering my senior year now, I can look back and chuckle at how I used to be as a freshman. There were times when hardship took its toll and I wouldn’t know how to handle it. Eventually, however, I got passed it with patience, endurance, and never giving up. I know I sound corny, but it is true. University life is nothing like school, but it’s an experience that will keep twisting and turning you until you figure out who you are in this life, and what you aspire to achieve.
So far, you’ve made the right decisions by choosing American University of Sharjah as your alma mater. You will learn quite plenty; inside and outside the classroom equally. You will make friendships. Some will go on to becoming lifelong companions, and others will fold away with time. Make all those friendships count. Take pictures. Live for the fleeting moments, and be present in all of them.
You will learn things, things that will change your perspective on life and develop your understanding of yourself. You will explore new hobbies, discover new books, and try new foods for the first time. Don’t say no to new experiences, but don’t let them get in the way of your education. Ultimately, you are here to build and secure your future.
My most important advice to you is to study hard and not procrastinate. There were so many projects, exams, and presentations that I could have scored much higher in had I prepared ahead of time. Every time I told myself next time would be better, but I never had a fixed plan, study hours, or personal rewards. If I could go back in time, that is the one thing I would fix: my grades. When we graduate, sure we have memories and stories to tell, but we also have a degree, a CGPA, and a resume to carry forever. If you can’t study on your own, or fix your schedule, the university has various departments and study centers that can guide and help you. If you are facing trouble at home, or something is bothering you, seek help at the AUS counseling center.
You must be wondering what a CGPA is, and why it is immensely important for you. Not to worry, by the end of you are a sophomore, you’ll be an expert on the matter (side note: there are 3 classes in university, freshman (first year), sophomore (second year), junior (third year), and senior (fourth year)). A CGPA stands for Cumulative Grade Point Average, and it’s the cumulative average of your letter grades that you get at the end of each term. Each letter grade, i.e., A, A-, B+, B, B-, etc, stands for a value. The university follows the 4.0 scale, which means your GPA will be out of 4. Here’s a standard table to make it clearer (check page 29 in your catalog):
You need a GPA of 2.0 and above to be able to participate in extracurricular activities, and not fall into probation. You will be expelled from university if you surpass your probation limit without raising your GPA, which is why you have to avoid a low GPA from the start. The trick is, whatever grade you get in your first term will be your benchmark. Try to score higher than 3.0 to stay on top the game. If you score 3.5 and above for two consecutive terms, you will make it to the Dean’s List. That could get you a scholarship, and is a wonderful addition to your Curriculum Vitae (CV). Employers search for exceptional individuals. Being on the Dean’s List mean you have what it takes to surpass expectations.
As far as grades are concerned, avoid at any cost getting F, XF or WF grades. You will be informed about drop deadlines ahead of time, so if you’re not doing as well as you hoped in one of your courses and feel that you won’t pass, or might do better in later terms, drop it and repeat it later. There is nothing wrong about that. Just make sure you don’t get any kind of F, it’ll be really bad for you.
It may feel like I just dumped a lot of new information on your shoulders, but that’s okay. Talk to your advisor about this. Let them explain to you what the CGPA is, and what is the best way to maintain it. Talk to your professors at the beginning of every term. Go to their office. Tell them, “I want an A on this course. What can I do to get it?” They will tell you. They will guide you.
One more thing to be aware of is the credit system. You see, AUS does not rely on a certain number of years for graduation, but credits. Every major has a different number of credits required for graduation. You can find out what your major requires in your course catalog. Make sure you use your year’s edition because catalogs change every year. Normally, each class you take is worth 3 credits, and labs often stand for 1 credit. So you can graduate sooner if you take Summer courses, or take 5 courses instead of 4 during the regular semester. I normally take 6 courses, but I would highly advise against it if you are not up to the task as it could become a challenge to maintain a high GPA if you take a bigger workload than you can handle. You are allowed a maximum of 18 credits per semester (or 21 in special cases). In any case, do not rush your university journey. Enjoy it and most importantly, Live it.
Whatever you do, don’t worry because AUS is now your home, for the next 4-6 years anyway. Make the best of it, and seek help whenever needed. I cannot stress this enough. If you need help in anything at all, ask your classmates, your professor, your advisor, university counselors, your tutors, or anyone you think can be of help. It will ultimately be worth it.
Wish you all the best as you venture into this new and exciting phase of your life.
Nour Al-Ali is an English Literature and Mass Communication double major junior at the American University of Sharjah.