Tag Archives | advice

Image by 27707, pixabay.com

The moment you announce you got into college, everyone will start bombarding you with memories of their own student days. But even though you will receive all kinds of advice, there are certain things that people will always forget to mention.

Here are five tips you are not likely to hear, but should know.

1) Utilize your professors’ office hours
Starting your university career can feel overwhelming. Suddenly there’s so much to do – so many classes and assignments, but so little time. Rather than panicking all by yourself, keep these two magic words in mind: office hours. Every college professor sets aside a few hours each week to meet with students one-on-one. Make use of this time. Not only can your professor help you make sense of tough assignments, he or she will also get to know you as someone who is serious about academic success. Being perceived as a good student can never hurt.

2) Avoid the campus bookstore
Your university and your professors will most likely suggest you to get your books from the campus bookstore. Don’t do that, unless you are swimming in cash. The campus bookstore is generally the most expensive place to buy textbooks. Instead, you could go on your university’s Facebook page to see if fellow students are selling their used books for the classes you want, and check out online stores. Textbooks.com carries over 10 million titles and you can even just rent them instead of buying. Chegg.com is another site that rents and sells books, and you may get an e-book to use online while you wait for the physical copy to arrive.

3) Count on getting sick
During finals week your stress levels will shoot through the roof as you will have five big exams coming up and four term papers due. The stress causes your immune system to take a hit, and guess what – you will get sick at the worst possible time. If you are bedridden and miss your deadlines, this could even postpone getting your bachelor’s degree. To avoid this fate, you will need to plan ahead. Make sure to finish your assignments several days before they are due, and start studying early for exams too. This way you are less likely to be in serious trouble even if you get sick at the wrong time – which is almost a given.

4) Enjoy the parties
The never-ending parties are one of the main reasons why many people cherish their college years. Try to say yes to as many social events as you can, whether it’s a Greek organization’s toga party, a formal dance or the PR club’s fundraiser. These social functions are great for getting to know your classmates and making lifelong memories. Some students even prioritize social life over academics, saying, “You can redo an exam, but you can’t relive a party.” That may be overkill, but try to arrange your studies so that you’ll still have time for fun. For example, Thursday is often “college night”, meaning a major night out, so if you can, avoid taking early classes on Fridays.

5) Sign up for campus credit cards
Banks will often come to university campuses to promote student credit cards, and will offer perks like free beach towels or pizza to applicants. Take advantage of this opportunity to get approved for a starter credit card and ignore the notion that credit is evil. That’s not true. If you use your student credit card responsibly and pay off your balance in full every month, you will build good credit within a year. A high credit score will help you immensely later on: you can get approved for car and house loans, rental apartments, cell phone plans, and airline credit cards with high sign-on bonuses. This means you can take a spring break trip to Cancun with frequent flier miles instead of paying high season flight prices.

This article was contributed by guest author Mirva Lempiainen.

Image by Uwww.audio-luci-store.it on Flickr

Image by Uwww.audio-luci-store.it on Flickr

As most of you know, the first year of university is always the hardest to adjust to. The addition of taking care of yourself, making new friends, learning how to get around campus, and school can sometimes be too much to bear. Some kids get the luxury of living on or close to campus in order to make sure that they stay focused on school, but in my case, I was commuting three hours a day to and from the campus.

I would like to attend medical school after my four-year undergraduate. It is well known that medical schools are very competitive and require extremely high marks to even be considered. I had always known that I was meant for medical school and worked hard to achieve 90%+ all throughout high school. I enrolled in life sciences and knew that I wanted to do a double major in neuroscience and psychology, but of course, I wasn’t so fond of the prerequisites to get to that stage. Taking math and physics wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do in my first year, especially when I thought I would finally be studying what I liked.

So after the drowning I call first semester, I looked back on my grades and was shocked. I had never seen numbers like this before; I really didn’t even think they were possible. I had heard that medical schools liked to see an upward trend, so I was dismayed and hurt, but tried not to think about it. Having your grades stripped from you when that was all you had was a huge thing I had to overcome – I defined my worth by how “smart” I was and getting past that mindset was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

After I saw my grades, I kicked myself into high gear. I started working hard, keeping up with assignments, and realized the mistake I made taking a bunch of unnecessarily challenging courses. As if that wasn’t enough, all our lab/practical hours were cancelled and grades had to be shifted around because our TAs went on strike. One of my classes was even cancelled because they were picketing in front of the building. At the end of my second semester, my grades weren’t as high as I wanted them to be, but I accepted it. I knew that there were reasons for the discrepancies but I still saw a huge improvement in my marks from first semester. I had enjoyed my time in my second semester and even though I wasn’t where I wanted to be, it had nothing to do with my place in the university. It was very eye-opening and taught me what I needed to do in order to achieve MY best – not what everyone else considered to be the best.

I’m now taking a summer school course and my marks are astoundingly better than what I was getting during my first year of school. My work ethic precedes my first year grades and I know that if I apply what I learned during this year to the rest of my years in school, I will be exactly where I need to be. The important thing to note from my story is this – adjustment and success takes time and work. You can’t expect to start a new job or do something new and be amazing at it right away. Your learning may not look good on paper – but the lessons that stay engrained in your memory are worth much more than marks or experience to put on your CV. Work hard, stay positive and make sure you enjoy what you are doing. Though I had a rough start, I’m sure my lessons and new attitude will carry me much farther than just to medical school.

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

Image by GotCredit, Flickr

  1. Readings will pile up – fast.
  2. Between attending lectures, tutorials, extra-curriculars, and writing essays, readings were sometimes pushed aside in my first year. However, I realized the importance of readings, not only for refreshing my memory, but also to help supplement the lecture material. It’s important to stay on top of readings – it really helps with studying. Plus, I paid for all my textbooks, so I decided I may as well get the most out of them.

  3. Many opportunities and resources will become available.
  4. University is full of different opportunities. The first few weeks, I was overwhelmed by the number of clubs and resources available. I took advantage of the writing centres on campus, which help to organize and edit essays and assignments. I also joined a mentorship program for first generation students as a Mentee. I participated in many learning and social events and met frequently with my Mentor. Through dedicated participating, I will be a Mentor-in-Training for next year, which I am extremely excited about!

  5. Balance is key.
  6. Between all the opportunities I took and the school work I had to do, balancing life was sometimes a struggle. Creating a schedule became my solution. I planned out when I had time to study before, between or after classes, and when I had free time for some fun. Sometimes one area of my life took over more than others (have I mentioned that time I had four essays due in the same week?). But as I said, balance is key.

  7. Budgeting will lessen financial worries.
  8. First year brought many expenses for me, from tuition to textbooks to transportation. I was lucky to win a few scholarships that helped to cut down on some of the costs, but budgeting throughout the year was helpful for the rest of my expenses. I took advantage of student discounts – there are thousands out there! I also planned out how much money I should be spending each month and which expenses were necessary. For example, although it’s awesome to eat out, bringing lunch to school is much cheaper.

  9. Being hard on yourself will get you nowhere.
  10. I thought that I could juggle absolutely everything this year. I was so excited to take advantage of every opportunity and to learn as much as I could in subjects I loved. When I started to get overwhelmed with everything I was doing, I wondered if there was something wrong; but it just came to realizing that I’m not superhuman. I learned to say no when I didn’t have time to help out with extra-curriculars. My first year of university has been the most thrilling experience for me. After reflecting on my year, I’m ready to take on second year!

Image by Linda Tanner

Image by Linda Tanner, Flickr

So here you are; you’ve finally arrived! After grueling hours slaving over final secondary school exams and tediously completing complex supplementary forms, you have reached the light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Except, that one tunnel that you’ve been racing down has now branched off into other multiple roadways for you to choose from, and life just got a whole lot more complicated.

For some of you, following that road sign marked “Next Stop: Undergrad Years” was unquestionably the correct path you should have taken. It abides by the 12-step plan you and your parents have created for yourself since your diaper days, and any other possible direction you could have gone down would have been unthinkable.

For others, that same path appears far more intimidating, as you may not have yet concretely decided what it is that you want to do in life. You’re looking to post-secondary as an opportunity to experiment and have some adventures, taking it as a chance to escape the parentals and learn what independence entails.

If you’re entering college or university with a crystal clear plan on what it is that you want to do and exactly on how to achieve that, then awesome! You go and take the world by storm! And if your planner for the future is filled with white-outs, unintelligible scribbles, and an abundance of question marks, then that’s okay too. In fact, it’ll probably be an asset when you enter your undergraduate life.

However, regardless of whether you are stepping through those doors on the first day with laser-precision focus or a scatterbrained attitude, it is more than likely that everyone will experience an overwhelming sense of disorientation and personal displacement at one point or another. New classrooms, new classmates, new teaching methods; it’s easy to quickly feel lost and alone whilst sitting in a full lecture hall (especially if you decide on attending a large school away from home). This internal feeling of being lost can manifest itself over into your studies, inciting questions of uncertainty and conflicting emotions that revolve around your ultimate purpose in a post-secondary institute.

So if you find your mind pondering matters such as “What am I doing here?” and “Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?” – read over these following 3 tips that will hopefully help you feel less like you’re driving around blindfolded and more like you’ve just been momentarily reading the map upside down.

1) Nothing is permanent. A lot of the time, we forget that we actually have a choice. If you’re no longer enjoying what you are learning or doing in your classes, then maybe try something different. Despite the contemporary age that we live in, change is still cringed at and shied away from. But when it comes to matters of your life and future, change is inevitable and will, more often than not, bring about bigger and better things. So whether you’re in first year or fourth, it’s never too late to switch majors or even schools if you really wanted to. Yes, it’ll be a bit of a hassle at first and you may even need to play a bit of catch-up, but in the end you’ll be a lot happier and successful in pursuing a field that you genuinely enjoy and have passion for, than in a career that feels like a chore and you only followed out of a sense of obligation. This is your life, and ultimately you are the one who gets to call the shots and make the final decisions that will determine if it will be an enjoyable one or not.

2) Shut out the negative. Being in college and university can lend you a newfound sense of anonymity and isolation that you may not have previously felt before. Away from familiar environments and people who have served as your support system for the majority of your life, motivation can be easily lost when you are fighting against exhaustion whilst finishing a ten-page paper on Nabokov at 3 am. Decreased self-esteem and the consistent presence of competition that hangs in the air throughout campuses can make it difficult to stay focused on what you want to achieve during your time as an undergrad. At times like these, try to keep in sight your long-term goals and continually remind yourself as to what it is that you are working towards accomplishing. Ignore the voices that are telling you that you can’t do it, especially the one coming from your own head (note: this is meant figuratively of course, If you actually hear disembodied voices, please consult a doctor as soon as possible). Pessimism and blows to your self-worth will only affect you if you let them. So whatever you are working towards, remember why it is that you want it, use that as fuel for your drive in all that you do, and don’t let anyone or anything stop you.

3) Take a step back. On paper, the years you spend in schooling appear extensively and tediously long. Yet months fly by in seconds when you’re in the moment, and the real world looms closer and closer as assignments, midterms and finals are completed in succession; one after the other. And let’s not forget the ever-present financial issues of student loans and tuition debts, which call for the simultaneous searches for jobs, internships and scholarships or bursaries. Juggling these along with trying to maintain a social and healthy lifestyle can seem damn near impossible, and has the high possibility of resulting in a full-scale meltdown of both the body and mind. To prevent the likelihood of this from occurring (particularly during exam periods), do this: breathe. Take a moment out of your busy schedule, even if just for a few minutes, and do something to de-stress and relax. Go on a leisurely stroll, bake, do yoga, read (something other than those assigned in class), curl up for a cat nap – take a breather to lower your anxiety levels and refocus. It’s important to have aspirations in life and to continually strive and remain driven towards attaining them, but it’s also vital to remember that you are not a robot or Beyoncé (no matter how desperately you wish it). So often we have the blinders up and face only what is ahead, and forget to celebrate the hurdles and mountains we have surpassed in order to get to where we are now. Be aware of the accomplishments you have achieved so far and give yourself the credit where credit is due, then redirect your newfound energy into your next project or goal.

Though it may seem like everyone around you knows exactly what they are doing and why they are there, chances are that each of them has felt the same sense of confusion and dislocation that you are experiencing now. The important thing to realize is that this feeling won’t last and you aren’t on this road alone. Remember this, and you’ll find that maybe there’s actually a detour around what you thought was a dead end.

Image by Kamyar Adl, Flickr

Image by Kamyar Adl, Flickr

I was awash with information during my first year of university. However, no one really sat down with me and discussed some of the smaller – yet still really useful – bits of advice. So, I’ve compiled a list of my own experiences and lessons learned:

  1. There are tons of different places to buy textbooks.

    As a first year student, I put little time or effort into scheduling my classes or being organized in general. Eventually my disorganization caught up with me, and I had to rush out at the last minute to buy several textbooks. Of course I didn’t have the luxury of shopping around: I headed straight to the school bookstore.

    Although the bookstore is almost guaranteed to have the textbook you need, you also pay a heavy premium for the convenience. Textbooks can often be found cheaper from other students, secondhand bookstores, or online. When I started my second year, I met with other students to sell my old textbooks, and bought new ones in the same way. I’ve also had a lot of success with the Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange.

  2. Organization, planning, time management and motivation are key skills to succeed in university.
    I was not a lazy or unmotivated first year student, but I was a disorganized one. I didn’t realize, but the Student Federation at my school hands out free student planners at the beginning of each school year. It’s vital to snag a planner early, and then find out the due dates of major assignments, projects, and exams. You can find all of this information in your course syllabus. Go through your planner and highlight any important dates. Organization is vital! If you take a few baby steps now in planning your year, it will pay off in the long run. I stuck to this method for the rest of my academic career, and realize now that there is no such thing as too much planning. There’s nothing worse than forgetting about a deadline.

  4. In my first year of university I wanted to cycle to school. Great – off I went!
    I would lock my bike up outside on a bike rack. However, a few months later I finished class one day and came outside to an empty bike rack – my bike had been stolen. I was gutted, as it was a pretty new bike, and my main way to get to and from school. For the rest of the semester I was relegated to taking the bus. However, when finishing my final semester of first year, I learned that York had an underground, gated and locked, bike cage. I wish I knew about it before. Eventually I saved up enough money to buy a new bike, and by my second year I was back to cycling, and now storing my bike safely and securely.

    After a quick look, most universities offer some kind of bike cage. Although they are not normally advertised, it’s definitely worth looking into. For example, University of British Columbia, University of Calgary and York University all have bike cages.

  5. Here’s a tip I was lucky enough to hear before I started first year: if you haven’t been able to get into a course that you really want, fear not!
    The first week of college and university is a big game of musical chairs: students will constantly be adding and dropping courses. There’s a good possibility that if you try to enroll every day, eventually you will be able to get into the course you were after. It’s also best to attend the course, even if you are not enrolled. Explain your situation to your professor, and they can often help with your enrollment, and your previous attendance is a great example of your commitment to the class. Just be careful of class drop/enrollment deadlines, and make sure you have a backup in case you don’t end up getting into your preferred class. This tip allowed me to get into classes that were previously full. It’s frustrating when you desperately want to get into a class that is full, but it’s important to remember not to give up and move on too easily. Keep at it, and eventually your persistence will be rewarded.

  7. Here’s something I didn’t learn until my third or fourth year: relax.
    Your first year of university is not necessarily about blitzing classes and getting A+’s in everything. First year is really about finding your rhythm. And you will find it! First year classes are an introduction to your academic career, and are designed to make your transition as smooth as possible. I will always remember my first year economics professor juggle three balls. He said that each ball represented a part of your life: school, work, and your personal life. You will eventually drop one of these balls – but that need not spell disaster. Know that you will struggle and fail in some areas, and that there is always support to help you succeed.