Tag Archives | first year

Hit the Ground Running: 5 Tips for Incoming College Freshmen

Image by Davide Cantelli, unsplash.com

Image by Davide Cantelli, unsplash.com

High school is finally over and you can’t wait to head off to college. The next four (or five) years will be some of your best, but you might get to campus and find yourself suddenly nervous and overwhelmed. Here are a few tips to help incoming freshmen get off on the right foot.

Don’t Over Pack
You know when you go on vacation and only wear half of what you brought? Your freshman year of college will be kind of like that. You don’t need 27 notebooks. Start with one per class, a few extra pens, just the basics. You can buy other stuff as you need it. And don’t even think about bringing every pair of jeans you own. Dorm rooms are small, don’t bring more than you can easily organize.

Let Your Parents Be Involved
Sure, having your parents hovering around when you’re settling in may feel embarrassing, but trust us, you won’t be the only one with hovering parents. Aside from the fact that one or both of your parents is probably a master unpacker and organizer, going off to college is hard for them too. Let them have the little bit of extra time. You’ll be glad you did when they get in the car and drive away.

Don’t Flip Over a Bad Grade
When you’re in college, your GPA can feel like everything. Maybe it’s really important to you get to those additional cords when you graduate, but at the end of the day, your GPA doesn’t determine your success outside of school. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t work hard and strive for good grades, especially if you want to go on to grad school, law school, or med school, but don’t forget to enjoy your experience and make new friends.

Ask for Help
Going off to college can be challenging, from being in an unfamiliar environment to the higher expectations. If you need help, ask. Whether you’re struggling in a class or having a problem with someone on your floor, there are plenty of people around who can provide you with the help you need. Learning how to ask for help is also a valuable real-world skill and the sooner you develop it, the better.

Get Involved
This is especially important if you’re coming to school from out of town. Schools like UC Clermont College encourage getting involved in sports, clubs, or other activities that will help you find like-minded students and develop new relationships. It’s also important to network, whether within these organizations or with teachers and other authority figures who can help you get a TA position or internship.

A great start to your college career will make it easier to have a great finish. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and make your freshman year exciting. When you look back at your college years, you’ll be happy you started on the right foot.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

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5 Freshman Mistakes You Are Going to Make

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

Image by COD Newsroom, Flickr

Being a freshman is a vital point in your collegiate life. The first year of your college career will serve as a preparatory stage in determining your ability to succeed on the level of higher education. It is not unusual for a freshman to make mistakes, but fortunately, learning from others can help you avoid the costly mistakes that can jeopardize your chances of getting a degree in your field of interest. Let’s take a look at 5 freshman mistakes you are bound to make:

Procrastination
Procrastination is a freshman’s worst enemy. It can prevent you from accomplishing important tasks within a reasonable amount of time. Managing your time properly is the key to neutralizing procrastination – you can always get help from your professors or a campus tutor if you are struggling to stay on top of your assignments.

Oversleeping
Oversleeping is probably one of the biggest reasons freshmen miss their morning classes. There is a strong possibility that you will oversleep at least one time during the semester. This normally happens when you stay up too late. Investing in a battery-operated alarm clock (and keeping it out of reach if you’ve got a habit of turning it off half-asleep) can help you wake up on time.

Failing to Prioritize
For some students, going to college is a golden opportunity to live on their own for the first time. The temptation to attend big parties and neglect school work will loom over your head. Managing your time properly becomes crucial as you balance your school work, extracurricular activities, and social life. Additionally, you could find yourself in trouble if you become a party animal your first year of college. Not only is the excessive alcohol consumption commonly found at college parties bad for your health — it could lead to driving under the influence and a subsequent DUI conviction. If you’re under the age of twenty-one, as many freshmen are, according to attorney J. Lee Webb you could face additional charges related to the possession of alcohol. The wisest thing to do is stay clear of parties, especially before you reach legal drinking age. Small get-togethers with your closest friends can be even more fun than the big parties. Remember why you enrolled in college – to get a degree.

Credit Cards
Many credit card companies and retailers target freshmen. Don’t be surprised if you get several credit card applications in the mail during your freshman year. Although credit cards are ideal for substitute payments, they can create financial troubles if not used wisely.

Before applying for one, you must understand that a credit card cannot be viewed as free money. You are entering into a legal agreement that will require you to repay the money you spend. You will be responsible for covering the interest if you fail to repay the outstanding balance on time. Talk to your parents before applying for a credit card, and remember that a debit card is a solid option that can help you stay out of debt.

Cramming
A couple of dates and parties during the week will reduce your study time tremendously. Cramming for an exam may seem like a good idea, but it can hinder your chances of getting a high mark on your exams. You should devote at least three hours of your daily time to studying or completing school work. This approach will help you retain information better instead of trying to absorb as much as possible mere hours before a test.

Life as a college freshman is exciting. Although we’re all likely to make some mistakes during first year, following the tips above can help you overcome these mistakes with ease.

This article was contributed by guest author Emma Sturgis.

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First Year and Friends

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

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

Arriving that first day on campus can be unnerving and have you wondering if you’re ever going to make any friends. Going to a university far away or without any high school friends may seem scary at first, but fear not: you will make many friends! While high school may have been a bit cliquey, university is full of many people who are new as well and open to making new friends.

If you live on residence, the first thing to do is make friends with your roommate(s). Depending on your living arrangements, you may only have one person to live with, or multiple people. No matter the amount, it’s always smart to be good friends with people you are living with. For the first couple of weeks (if not the next four years!) they will be your best friends. You and your roommates are all experiencing the campus together for the first time, which will help you bond.

For those living in a dorm style residence, you will have an even easier time making friends! The first couple of weeks will be all about getting to know your floormates and becoming great friends with them. Hanging out in the hallway or in a neighbour’s room are pretty common and this definitely helps you bond with your floormates. Get out there and socialize with the people on your floor – they will want to as well.

Worried about making friends when you’re commuting to school and not living on campus? Classes are a perfect location to make new friends and meet other people who will be in your program. It’s as easy as introducing yourself to the person next to you and striking up a conversation with them. Eventually you will end up sitting in your usual spot in class and talking to the people who are usually sitting next to you! Talking to the people around you is the easiest way to make friends in class no matter if you’re in a large lecture or smaller class session.

Make sure to take advantage of all the social opportunities on campus if you’re having trouble making friends in class or in residence. Universities have events, clubs and meetings dedicated to making students friendlier with each other. Clubs are the perfect place to meet people who may be from the same place you’re from or who share the same interests as you. Don’t pass on these opportunities to meet people like you.

Put yourself out there and don’t let shyness stop you from meeting new people. Don’t be afraid to get out and make friends – remember, most first years are feeling the same way you are!

For more help on social life at university check out our 10 tips for a successful first year.

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The First Year Struggle

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.

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Five Things I Learned in my First Year of University

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!

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Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me

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.
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  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.
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  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.
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Settling In: Make Your New City Feel Like Home

Image by caribb, Flickr

Image by caribb, Flickr

 

Are you moving to a whole new place to start school this fall? Uprooting yourself to go live in a different city or country can be totally thrilling, but it can also get a little lonely at times. Feeling unsure of your surroundings can be incredibly daunting and disorienting; however, this period of uncertainty is one to be enjoyed, rather than feared. Once you begin to explore your surroundings, each step you take will carry you closer to feeling settled in your new home.

Be a tourist in your own city
Abandon any pretensions of not wanting to do anything “touristy” and embrace being a tourist wholeheartedly while you still can. You’re not a local, it’s not a secret, and it’s time to do your research. Buy a guide book, read the entertainment section of local newspapers or magazines, and fire up the Google. Websites like Lonely Planet, Google Maps, Yelp, CitySearch, and Urbanspoon will not only help you find your way around, but might lead you to your future favourite spots to eat, shop, and hang out.

Google Maps actually has a feature where you can input your address, type an asterisk (*) into the “search nearby” bar, and the map will retrieve a list of establishments indicated near your location. You can also browse through some independent local foodie or fashion blogs, or even search the name of your city on Instagram, if you can distinguish photos of cool places or beautiful scenery from the ocean of selfies.

Bring a bit of home with you
No matter where you go or how much you change as a result, it’s important to remember who you are, where you have been, and where you came from. Plenty of incoming students think of university as a fresh start, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the desire for change and the desire for familiarity are not mutually exclusive terms! For example, my first-year roommate was used to moving around. Having spent her childhood living in a new country every two or three years, she had gotten into the habit of decorating her bedroom – regardless of the house, city, or country in which it happened to be – with the same posters, framed photos, art prints, and knick-knacks. Wherever she went, her room was a constant. Here are some other ideas to decorate your room.

Another great way of incorporating your old life into your new one is to keep your hobbies active. Doing something that you a) enjoy and b) are accustomed to doing is a great way to help you feel happy and comfortable in a new place, not to mention meet people in the community with similar interests! Join a local yoga or dance studio, tennis court, running club, swimming pool, electronic music scene, gaming shop, soccer club – the possibilities are endless.

Get acquainted with your surroundings
Exploring a new place does involve stepping beyond the perimeter of your apartment, and you might have to get comfortable exploring solo. My only recommendation would be to arm yourself with some sort of map or navigation device before you go (although getting lost and bumbling your way around is one of my favourite ways to explore a new place! Some of the best things in the city can be hidden in plain sight), and not to worry about walking around or eating out alone. In a new city, it’s understandable that cruising around flanked by a complete entourage of friends would be a bit of a luxury. Relationships take time to build, and you’ll make friends eventually. In the meantime, the anonymity of being a nameless face in the crowd can be incredibly liberating. Embrace being able to do what you want, when you want to do it.

First, get the essentials down by finding your local grocery store, pharmacy, walk-in health clinic, tech repair shop, and train station or bus terminal. Establish your favourite haunts – a coffee shop with a cookie you like, a bookstore without any aggressive salespeople, a movie theatre with the plushiest chairs, a quiet study nook beside the window in the library, a restaurant with cheap brunch on weekends, a park to relax in and people-watch on sunny days. These places will become familiar and favourite haunts over time, and one day you will be there with company.

 

10 Tips for a Successful First Year

Image by clpo13, Flickr

Image by clpo13, Flickr

HEALTH

1. Eat well

Being a victim of the Freshman 15 is never good. Since you don’t have a schedule that starts and ends at the same time like high school, you may end up skipping meals or eating at abnormal times. If you don’t watch what you eat, you’ll end up a few pounds heavier. Not only will it make it more difficult to fit into your favourite pair of pants, but it will also have detrimental effects on your health. You’ll become lethargic and irritable, making it more difficult to concentrate on your studies.

2. Exercise

In university, you’re always going to feel tired. This will make it really difficult for you to muster up the energy to go and exercise. Force yourself to find the time to exercise every week. It can be a 30 minute jog or a full workout session in the gym every few days. Students who exercise do better on tests and exams than inactive students. Combined with a good diet, it can help keep the lethargy away and keep you motivated to study.

3. Relax

You’re not in high school anymore. University is extremely stressful. When you feel like you’re being suffocated by all the work, take a moment to breathe. Grades and staying on top of your work are important, but keeping your mental sanity is even more so. When studying, take a 10 minute break every hour. It helps keep you from stressing out too much and also helps you retain information. If you feel too stressed, take the day off or seek professional help. This is only your first year of university. Enjoy it!

SOCIAL

4. Introduce yourself to the person sitting beside you in class.

Not knowing anyone else in class is not fun, especially when your prof decides to give you a group project. Before class, introduce yourself and chat with the person sitting beside you. Follow up by meeting up after class for a cup of coffee. Having a friend in each class is really important in case you miss a class or need help on an assignment. Outside of class, you’ll always have somebody to grab a bite to eat or drink with. Everyone is different and it may be more difficult for some people to warm up to you. You will meet people who don’t like interacting with others at all. If someone is not agreeable, sit somewhere else in class and introduce yourself to someone new.

5. Join in

There is a club for everything in university. Sign up for clubs that interest you and you can meet plenty of new friends who have the same interests. Attend events around school like football games, concerts and film festivals. Not only will you meet new people, but it might also peak your interest in something new.

ACADEMIC

6. Get to know your professor

Your professor is going to be one of the most important people you know. You can ask them questions and get feedback so you can do better in their class. If you maintain a good relationship with them after the course is over, they’ll also help you get a job by giving you letters of recommendation, or even notifying you of opportunities.

7. Make use of your school’s resources

Your school offers plenty of free resources like career centres, counselling and workshops. Make use of these to help you get a job or improve your essay writing skills. It’s always good to find ways to improve yourself.

8. Take interesting electives

Don’t take a course just because it’s an “easy A.” Your GPA may be spectacular, but you wasted thousands on a useless course. Take courses that really interest you. Unless you’re actually interested in the “history of meteorology” or “contemporary gemology,” take an elective that you like. If it’s something you really enjoy, the assignments will be a breeze and good grades will follow suit.

BALANCE

9. Budget your money

Tuition is expensive. Transportation is expensive. University food is expensive. Everything is really expensive. A lot of students are thousands of dollars in debt after university and spend several years trying to pay it off. Don’t be one of these unlucky folks – start budgeting so you can more easily manage any debt you may accumulate. That doesn’t mean you should stop having fun altogether, but learn to be smart with your money.

10. Work hard AND play hard

The biggest regret of someone who partied too hard in university is that they didn’t study enough. Someone who studied too much wishes they would’ve partied more. Learn from their mistakes and find a good equilibrium. Enjoy your youth but also prepare yourself for the future. Good luck and have fun during your next few years of school!