Study at school and university at the same time
At the University of Basel, pupils have the opportunity to study while they are still in school. Lectures at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science are also regularly attended in the course of this program. Two of the partaking pupils - Daniel Niu and Katarina Trailovic - talk about their experiences.
From classroom to lecture hall
Usually, it is through a teacher that pupils find out about the possibility to attend classes at the university while they are still in school. «I was made aware of this during aparents' evening», Daniel says. Because of the personal relationship and close contact to their students, teachers can assess the level of their students well. «My class teacher, who was also my math teacher, suggested that I study at university in addition to going to school because I was very good at math», Katarina says. If pupils are interested in studying and would like to attend classes at the university, the application process can begin. «At our school, there were two teachers who organized the applications. You had to contact them first so that they could pass on your request to the university. The application included a letter of motivation and a recommendation from the teacher who taught the subject of interest, in my case the recommendation came from my math teacher. Then an appointment was made with the student organizer and a person from the department at which one wanted to study to discuss which lectures were feasible and which were more difficult. The application process was generally well structured. We were adequately supported and informed in every step», Daniel remembers as he explains the process. «I received a supervisor at school who supported me with the application process and was at my side throughout my time as a student» Katarina adds. «But you should find out beforehand which lectures are suitable for you because of the [school] timetable» according to Daniel. After applying successfully, pupils will receive their unibas email address at the beginning of their first semester.
Compatibility of school and university
Of course, school should be a pupil's priority. Attending classes at university is only recommended if there is enough capacity so that school education does not suffer. «In my opinion, the program is very compatible with school and [I found] all the classes that I attended were just right in terms of difficulty.» says Katharina, who, in addition to school, took the classes linear algebra 1 & 2 and analysis 1 & 2. «[I am] probably not the best person to assess the compatibility of school and university, as I have attended and completed so many events with great enthusiasm» she adds. Daniel was mainly interested in computer science and took the classes basics and advanced basics of programming, pattern recognition, and also the programming project. The basic classes were «at a good level for me, you only need very little or no previous knowledge, which is suitable for me as a pupil. You still had to spend a few hours every week because there was a lot of focus on the exercises» he reports. The pattern recognition lecture is intended for students in their fifth semester, so «as a pupil, you should have a lot of interest in this topic to pass this lecture. Matrix bases and statistics are essential here. The standard is high and a lot of rework is needed.»
Studying at school takes away the uncertainty
Even if it may feel a little strange at first to attend classes at university before graduating school: What's important is the willingness to acquire and deepen knowledge and to have fun with it. «Katarina was the best student I have ever had (although she was still in school)» says Prof. Blanc. Studying both at school and university at the same time «takes away the uncertainty [...] and gives an insight into the desired subject area. There is no reason to advise against taking university classes since everyone can drop them at any time without any consequences if it becomes too much.» Daniel says. The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science stands out, amongst other things, for its excellent teacher to student ratio. Lecturers and tutors are happy to help and are always available for questions. «The tutors and professors can always be reached by email. Questions are always answered as well as possible.» Daniel says and Katarina agrees «the relationship between students and teachers [...] is very good. Above all, I received great support from Prof. Blanc and Dr. Glatzel when I applied for a double degree in mathematics and physics.» At the end of the semester, pupils receive a certificate of their achievements. The credit points they have acquired can be credited if they start studying at university as regular students.
Escape everyday school life
One question naturally arises: What was the best thing about studying at university in addition to school? «What I particularly liked about it was the way mathematics is taught at university. For me, the dual role as a pupil and a student was helpful, because I found the lectures at university very exciting and thus was able to escape everyday school life» is Katarina's conclusion. Studying in addition to school, however, «involves more work and effort» and you have to «commute between high school and university», Katarina and Daniel both agree. Apart from all things concerning campus and schoolyard, Daniel reveals another advantage of being a student at university: «The best thing was the unibas email address that I got. With that, I was able to get student discounts, for example on Spotify. Free WiFi in all universities in Switzerland and student software were also very practical.»
Daniel is still in school and will graduate soon. He has not decided yet if he will return to the University of Basel as a full-time student. Katarina has meanwhile finished school and is studying mathematics and physics at the University of Basel.