You’ve heard it time and again: “University is going to be very different from high school.” And indeed there will be a lot to adjust to, including technology.
Even if you were practically born with a smartphone in your hand, there are probably still some tech-related skills you have yet to master that will prove useful in your studies. Here are a few skills you should definitely be prepared with before you head off to uni.
1. Online and email etiquette
In university, you’ll likely keep in contact with your lecturers via email, so before you pop off a quick email to your professor, double-check for clarity, brevity, and mistakes such as typos or grammatical errors.
Though it depends on your lecturer (as some are more laid-back than others), it’s best to keep the tone of your communications formal – be sure to address them correctly (if they have a PhD, address them as “Dr.”) and keep it professional (no memes or emojis, please!).
When it comes to communicating with groupmates for course projects, it’s fine to be a bit more casual, but do remember to remain respectful. Pro-tip: If you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed at the thought of someone other than the intended recipient reading your message, perhaps you should think twice before hitting ‘send’.
While using social media, it’s understandable that sometimes you’ll feel the need to blast out a rant or post photos of that crazy weekend. However, do bear in mind that if your posts can be viewed by the public, that includes your classmates, lecturers, university administrators, future employers, and yes, even your grandmother. So either set it to private or don’t post it at all.
2. Privacy and security awareness
It’s easy to take our online privacy and security lightly. The past several years has seen a rise in cases involving students being duped by online scams or making themselves vulnerable to hacking.
Before you download an app, check its permissions and vet its legitimacy. Otherwise, you could be signing away your privacy and creating vulnerabilities in your device that could be exploited by hackers.
From time to time, change your password and make sure it’s one that’s not easy to guess (a combination of numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and symbols, if possible). Don’t share it with other people, either.
If you use a public computer to do work, such as at a computer lab, be sure to sign out from all accounts before leaving.
3. How to conduct online research
If your researching repertoire only extends to Google and Wikipedia, you’re going to need to brush up on your skills. Read up on how to make the most of search engines and academic journal databases, as well as how to use Boolean operators to narrow down your search.
Keep an eye out for useful online resources and make sure to use only legitimate sources. With the rise of fake news sites, it’s become easier to be fooled into believing false or misrepresented information, so do cross-check any information before using it in your work. Pages that end in .gov, .org, and .edu are usually safe.
4. Knowledge of basic software programmes
You’ll need to know your way around basic software like Microsoft Office in order to complete assignments, so you should be able to add photos and tables to documents, generate graphs based on data in a spreadsheet, and put together a snazzy presentation.
There are plenty of free or open-source software, too, and it’s useful to have some experience with photo and video editing software.
When it comes to devices such as a laptop, you should also learn how to set it up for conducting a presentation to avoid any technical snags on the important day.