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How to prepare in high school if you want to study history in university

I am currently a Gr. 12 high school student who is interested in humanities and social sciences field (especially history) and would like to take one or two in these field as major(s) of study. I have read some academic books written by various historians, philosophers, sociologists and literary critics, I also watched some courses from learning websites. But I still constantly feel not enough for college study. How can I improve?
#high-school #social science #university #history


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Alison’s Answer

Hi Eric,
I think it may be a good thing that you’re feeling a little nervous about college level studies. It may help motivate you to try your hardest in your classes. Believe it or not, not all students do that.

The most important skill you’ll need for college is learning how to think. That may sound easy, but as you rise up through the various levels of education, thinking becomes less and less about repeating what you know, and more and more about doing something with that knowledge. If you are reading and taking some extra online courses, you are already laying a great foundation for yourself. When you’re looking at this material, and your schoolwork, ask yourself a few questions, such as:
-Do I understand this well enough that I could explain it to someone else?
-How does this information fit in with other things I’ve heard about this topic?
-What else does this information (or how it fits in with something else I know about) make me think of?
-What conclusions can I draw based on this information?
-What parts of what I just read/saw let me draw those conclusions? How do they do that?
-What else do I need to know about this?

When you get to the point where you can analyze your own understanding of the material and how you got to that understanding, you will probably be pretty well set up to be a high-functioning college student. On a practical level, college students also need to keep themselves organized, make sure all assignments are turned in on time, be ready to take a variety of classes, and know what kinds of study situations truly work best for them (hint: a lot of people think it’s pulling an all-nighter. It’s really probably not). If you can manage your time and stuff well, and you can think - really think - about what you’re learning, you will likely be a successful student.

Best wishes to you and good luck with your studies!

Thank you so much, I think I will try harder and follow your advice Eric L.

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EmilyAnn’s Answer

First off, my advice would be not to worry TOO much, as it sounds like you are motivated and doing your best to prepare. That's already way more than a lot of people!

The great thing about college courses and major tracks is that you don't necessarily need much prior knowledge about the course content. You will start out in introductory courses which will teach you what you need to know as you progress in your studies. Personally, I am not a humanities major (I am a physics major) but I do know many people in my major who came in with little to no knowledge of physics and are doing perfectly fine! It is always great to supplement your studies and I ALWAYS recommend learning more about what you're interested in (and what you're not), but don't stress about not knowing enough.

In my opinion, the best way you can prepare for college courses is to really focus on your studying habits and time management skills. Many people struggle with this when they first get to college, so if you can work on them now, you'll be set when you start your classes. Then, you can focus on learning the material effectively and really get the most out of your classes. In short, take the time now to figure out the best way to learn, and you will be fine with the course material even if you don't have much knowledge going in. Good luck and don't worry!!

Thank you for your advice on study habits. Sometimes I do feel that my study habits are bad, I am not consistent enought and I sometimes have strong procrastination, so I will definately work on that. Eric L.

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Bonnie’s Answer

Hello Eric,
As a Grade 12 student, you are in a great position to tackle your concern early on, and Allison offered some GREAT pointers for general discipline and skills needed in college. The aspect of your question that interests me is that you framed this question in terms of taking History courses, so I'll zero in on that.

I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in the US, majoring in philosophy with a minor in history. It took several times of changing my major and following advice very similar to what Allison provides for me to end up there.

Reading original books from philosophers and historians is a great way to get started, some might say THE best way. But I think that reading and watching online courses has to be about more than consuming information. Once those ideas have become situated in your brain, it's important to do something with them. If your college experience turns out to be anything like mine, you will be required to talk about what you read, either in class discussions or in written homework assignments. So practicing that now while you can might be helpful in the very near future. But how can you do that when you're not in a college class yet?

Perhaps consider participating in conversations about the things you've read already. A good place to start is with your local library. It's quite possible that there is already a readers' circle, book club, or special interest group with people eager to interact with other interested (and interesting) people. Especially with the COVID-19 situation, many libraries have been encouraging and sponsoring online chat and discussion groups. So whether you live in a small town or big city, it is becoming easier to join up with people to do the work that you historians generally do: seek out stories from the present and past, think and write about your ideas and discoveries, and share what you've learned with others.

Now, if you follow that advice, you might discover that as a year 12 student, you are significantly younger than the people who make up the groups you are thinking about joining. It's helpful to not let your age or experience be a reason not to participate. But if you genuinely cannot find a group you feel comfortable enough to join, you have just proved that one needs to get started, so the task is to get someone to help you do that.

I am only half-kidding when I say that having to organize a group of people is a great skill to cultivate as soon as possible. You will find that college is just like high school: you are going to be in classes with people who...ummmm...don't find history as interesting as you do. You almost certainly realize: just because people have to take a class doesn't necessarily mean they want to. Don't let that discourage you. Keep looking for ways to find and interact with people who want to think and talk about the things you like.

Bonnie recommends the following next steps:

Contact a local librarian to ask about book clubs and discussion groups they sponsor or support, or if they need help organizing such a group.

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Howard’s Answer

It sounds like you are going to be better prepared than most other students. Do you write well? That is very important. Is there a particular aspect of history that interests you? Start to ficus your reading and research now.

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Alex’s Answer

If you have a love for history keep reading! My advice would be to read widely and choose a range of perspectives. When reading history i always found it helpful to take notes of key dates and events to refer back to later when preparing for exams. A good study outline can help you extract what you need from your history texts to process what you've learned and be able to recall it/use it later.

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