10 tips all first-year students should know

Starting to freak out about the beginning of your university or college adventure? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. :) Check out these tips and get ready to start your first year like a boss!

Attend orientation events

Orientation events often occur the week before or during the first week of school. They are an opportunity to get to know your peers, get advice from upper-year students, get to know your way around campus, and learn about the resources available to you—all before you start your classes. This is a great way to meet people in a comfortable setting without the stress of school on your mind. That way, when it comes to finding a seat in class on your first day, it might be comforting to see a few familiar faces in the crowd. It’s also a great way to find out the resources available to you on campus.
The first week at university can be overwhelming, especially if you’re moving away on your own for the first time. Orientation is a great opportunity to ask questions and get tips on all things university-related. Ask anything from basic questions such as where to get food and laundry services to what you should bring to class on the first day. Orientation is made to help ease you into the transition from home to school life, so it’s best to take advantage of it. Not only that, it’s also about having fun while you do it!

Do not take 8:00 am classes

Unlike high school, you get to make your own schedule in university. Unless you are an avid early riser or no other time slot is available, don’t take super-early classes. You might think, “Hey, it won’t be so bad…” It will most likely be that bad. Imagine that you had to stay up super late working on a project, watched a TV show way too late, or went out with your friends the night before until 2:00 am… and now you must get up at 7:00 am to get ready for your 8:00 am class. That combination won’t set you up for success – just a mixture of sleep deprivation and caffeine addiction. Most people avoid early morning classes because, for lack of better words, waking up early sucks. Not only that—think about when your brain is functioning at its highest capacity. Are you more alert and aware at 8:00 am as opposed to 10:00 am? If your answer is yes, then go for it: take that 8:00 am. But otherwise, it might be wise to avoid it and prevent you from having to drag yourself to class every morning.

Remember: you aren’t alone

Imagine this: it’s your first official day of university. You walk into your first class of the day and it’s a huge lecture hall of at least 300 students. You feel scared, alone, and intimidated because you don’t know anyone, but also excited about the new experience. You might feel as if you are the only one feeling this way, but more likely than not, all your classmates are feeling the exact same way. So, introduce yourself. The only way you can make new connections and friendships is by talking to people and putting yourself out there. Ease yourself into it, get involved, and don’t be afraid to be yourself. Know that creating a good network of friends takes time, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make lifelong friends in the first week of classes. In time, you will be able to find a group of like-minded individuals and connections that may last a lifetime. It’s all about taking that first step and remembering that you are not alone; everyone is feeling the same way you are.

Expand beyond your program

Throughout your studies you will have many opportunities to gain experiences within your program, but don’t forget to expand beyond that bubble. Get involved in other areas that might interest you. You can do this by joining clubs, taking electives outside of your program, or engaging with other opportunities offered through your school. This is a great way to not only find out what you truly enjoy doing, but also a way to meet even more people that you might not have met had you chosen to not expand. Who knows? You might even find an area you are so passionate about that you choose to change your major. Don’t be afraid to try and explore new things.

Practice self-care

Manage your time wisely and be sure to take time for self-care. After studying for a long time or finishing an assignment/exam, leave time to reward yourself. Whether it’s watching your favorite show, reading a good book, or hanging out with friends, make time to take a break from your studying to keep you motivated. Too much studying can make for much faster burnout and leave you even less motivated to keep working. Work hard, but also play hard, because you deserve it.

Find study methods that work for you

University work is different from high school work, so to keep up your grades, you may have to find new methods of studying that will work for you. What may have worked for you all throughout high school may not work the best now. The major difference is that you are in charge of your own learning. You will find, in most cases, that you will be teaching yourself the content outside of the classroom and, when you come to lecture, professors will go more in depth on what you are supposed to be learning. The best way to find what works for you is through trial and error. Research different methods of studying and try them out. Sometimes failure can reveal your strengths and weaknesses and, if you fail, you can always try again.

Ask for help when you need it

It may seem scary to ask for help as a first-year student, but as mentioned before, others are going through the same things you are. So ask your friends for help, join a study group, get a tutor, and, most importantly, attend office hours and ask your professors/instructors for help. That is what they are there for. Most professors are happy to help and encourage you to ask them questions; this lets them know that you are engaged in the material. If you are too nervous to ask in person, maybe try shooting them an email instead!

Keep organized

It might be in your best interest to buy a planner to keep all your deadlines and important dates in check. The worst feeling is finding out you have a project that’s due the next day and you haven’t even started it yet. At the beginning of each semester, look carefully through the syllabus for each of your classes and write down all the important dates. You will often be referring to the syllabus for each class, so keep it handy. This will help you see how much time you must set aside to work on projects and study for exams so you can schedule other activities such as hanging out with friends, exercising, or anything else you may want to do in your free time. Make sure you are scheduling in time for yourself to establish a work-life balance and keep stress to a minimum.

Don’t stress about getting lower grades than you are used to

As mentioned previously, university is different from high school—and this goes for your grades as well. Most students going into university are used to excelling in their classes, but it is not uncommon to see lower marks, especially during first and second year, when you are just getting used to the post-secondary transition. It’s okay if you don’t make the same averages you did in high school. Don’t get discouraged. Unless you must maintain a certain average for a program, scholarship, or some other reason, there isn’t as much emphasis on the importance of grades. Most times, as long as you are passing, you will be okay. Even in later years, employers most likely will not be asking you for a copy of your transcript. All in all, don’t stress about your grades too much. University is more about the experience, learning, and building connections than it is about your grades.

Party, but not too hard

Once you hit legal drinking age, there will be lots of opportunities to party and have a good time. While you may want to take every opportunity, it is important to know your limits and stay within them. Partying to excess can affect not only your studies, but your mental health, relationships, and overall health and wellbeing. If you miss a party, don’t worry about it; there will be plenty like it in your years at university.

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