Letters from the dorm: Life is suffering if you hate your degree, so why not study what you love instead

Henry Lui

There is no need to be stressed about university exams if you are doing a programme you truly enjoy

Henry Lui |

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Career advice from Hong Kong-based, award-winning wildlife photographer Paul Mckenzie

Doing well in secondary school doesn't mean much in university.

University is a place for new things, new people and, perhaps most frightening of all, new exams. Though daunting at first, there is nothing worth worrying about if you act wisely and focus on matters you are truly interested in.

Coming into university, what surprises most people is the harsh fact that your secondary school grades don’t really matter any more. At top-tier courses, your 45 points (or equivalent top score) mean nothing when you are surrounded by people who have achieved equally high grades. What’s more, secondary school grades often do not act as a reliable indicator of what you might be able to achieve at university, given that the skills needed are vastly different. In public exams, memorisation and certain exam strategies may work for candidates, but they may not be helpful at tertiary level.

A top score in secondary school does not automatically translate into a top score at university – sorry. (This is not me being “salty”; your writer did get a 45).

Bearing this in mind, it is best to approach your subject with a more humble, careful attitude. While you might feel you have mastered it after spending countless nights in the library (this is not me, by the way), it is easy to overestimate your proficiency in an area when some course conveners do not provide marking schemes to past papers, leaving you with no way to verify whether your knowledge is as accurate and comprehensive as it seems.

The most important thing is the fact that a genuine interest in a particular area will be rewarded through a comprehensive, nuanced, and interesting answer. Whether it is an animated debate about the nature of automatic resulting trusts or the “true” rationale for awarding damages for pure economic loss (very interesting, I know), your interest should lead you to discover further arguments and ideas in your wider reading which you can use effectively in your exams.

As university exams also often offer a selection of questions for you to choose from, there is no need to fret over topics that are unable to engage you in a meaningful way. Having fun with your work helps you stand out.

Although exams and results unfortunately remain the key sources of stress for students at university, my experience with law tells me that these worries are less pronounced when you are doing a degree you have freely chosen to pursue and genuinely enjoy. There is life after secondary school, and a much better one at that.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne

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