Tag Archives | students

Why Are Modern Students Drinking Less?

Image by Yutacar, unsplash.com

Image by Yutacar, unsplash.com

Drinking and students have been said to go together like nothing else. What else are university years for if not to give you a misspent youth which you can look back on with a combination of rue and pride in years to come? However, reports are beginning to leak out that more and more modern students are of the opinion that one’s university years are for studying rather than for partying. Is there any truth to this rumour? And, if so, why are drinking rates falling among the students of today?

Of course, there have always been some students who simply weren’t party animals – students who preferred to entertain themselves in other ways, or who didn’t like alcohol, or simply wanted to devote their time to a subject about which they were passionate. But these students used to be rather in the minority. Now, according to certain reports, they’re becoming more the norm. It’s not like there’s no party scene at universities any more. In fact, there’s still way too much of a party scene on many campuses. But it seems that students are not only getting a lot more self-aware about their drinking, but that a combination of factors are coming together to slowly push partying further down the priority list for many new students.

For a start, youth culture is once again starting to rebel against the constraints placed upon it by adult culture. And the way it’s doing so these days, bizarrely, looks a lot like conformity. While youth culture often thinks of itself as acting in opposition to adult culture, in fact the two feed off one another in a semi-symbiotic manner, swinging up and down like ends of a teeter-totter. Our parents’ generation was ordered by their parents to live sober lives of study and hard work. As a consequence, they spent their youths drinking and taking drugs (and using the influx of new wealth going around the West at that time to do so). The result of this is a generation which now works hard to market drink and the concept of the misspent youth to their own children. Countless movies glorify the hard-partying university lifestyle of our parents. While older generations may preach sensible sobriety with one hand, they nonetheless smile wryly at tales of student misdemeanors, often pitching in with reminiscences about their own drunken student exploits. So, just as the young British Victorians rebelled against the profligate debauchery of their Georgian forbears by emphasising a ‘sensible’ society, and just as the post-war generation rebelled against their parents’ ideas of righteous warfare by becoming peace-loving hippies, modern students are turning their backs on their parents’ idealised student-dom by insisting on doing things ‘right’. However, in order to produce such a societal sea change, big cultural shifts have to happen. And these should not be overlooked when considering the new, sober student.

Why are some students behaving so much more seriously than their parents did? It may be because the world has become a much more serious place for young people. Economic recession, and a world which feels increasingly unstable, is making many young people try hard to ‘lock down’ as much stability as they can. It’s easy to party while times are good, but when things are looking dicey, it makes more sense to get a bit more serious about things, and try to forge a stable future for oneself in any way that one can. War, the prospect of war, political upheavals, encroaching radicalism, collapsing economies, human displacement, ecological disaster…many young people feel beleaguered on all sides. Little wonder that today’s students are a more sober generation than their parents were.

Which brings us to self-awareness and the social conscience. Today’s up and coming students have grown up in a post-AIDS, post-climate change, post-credit crunch world. As such, they are accustomed to a degree of societal scrutiny, and accustomed to understanding that actions have consequences. This may not be true on an individual level – but it’s certainly noticeable on a cultural level. The outrage which has recently accompanied tales of drunken violence and assault on campuses has brought about a degree of self-awareness surrounding the typical ‘student lifestyle’ which never used to exist. Today’s students who get drunk and do some damage are likely to experience the kind of cultural kickback which never existed in their parents’ times (when such things would be dismissed with ‘boys will be boys’ and that kind of rhetoric). And nobody wants to wake up as social media’s next pariah.

Of course, plenty of students do still enjoy a party! If you’re a party animal, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t indulge yourself (so long as you don’t hurt yourself or others while doing so!) But, if you don’t want to party, know that you’re not alone – and don’t feel pressured into drinking too much simply to ‘belong’. That kind of thing is way out of date!

This article was contributed by guest author Anne Green.

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Is it Worth it to become an Amazon Student?

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By hackNY.org on Flickr

Amazon Student is a special service offered by Amazon which – you guessed it – caters specifically to students. Available initially as a free six month trial, the service can be extended after the trial for $39 a year, for up to four years. Once your four years of Amazon Student are up, the service automatically switches you to Amazon Prime, the regular premium service with similar benefits, for $79 a year. So what is it exactly that you’re paying for as a student?

The trial version of Amazon Student includes free two-day shipping for the whole six months, and members will receive email updates on promotions. Amazon Students get exclusive deals on products, and can take part in giveaways and contests that a non member wouldn’t be eligible to partake in. Amazon Students members can also get a $10 referral credit for each friend that they refer to Amazon Students, with no limit on the amount of friends that you refer.

Being a Amazon Student member has other bonuses that include having access to Prime Instant Video and their photo storage service. Prime Instant Video is a streaming service with access to a large amount of movies and TV shows (just as any other streaming service would have). The photo storage service is a nice additional feature which allows Amazon Student members to store an unlimited amount of photos.

For Canadian and American students who enjoy shopping online, Amazon Student is a great option, especially for the free two day shipping that it comes with. Online shoppers will save money on shipping costs and receive their purchases more quickly – which is also great for last minute gifts! Students who enjoy watching television and movies will benefit as well from the large amount of content available on Prime Instant Video. Photo lovers who may be running out of hard drive space, or wish to keep their content in the cloud will benefit from the unlimited photo storage offered. Amazon Student appears to be a great service with great features.

The biggest con here of course is the price. However, you get six free months to test out the service and see if you like it (and use it) enough to warrant the $39 per year fee. Keep in mind that you’ll be switched over to Amazon Prime once your four years are up. If you don’t want to spend the $79 per year at that point, you’ll need to find another place to store your photos.

For more information on becoming an Amazon Student, check out their website.

Highlights:

  • Six month Free Trial
  • Free Two-day Shipping
  • Unlimited Photo Storage
  • Prime Instant video streaming service
  • $10 credit per referral
  • Access to special deals, promotions and contests
  • $39 per year until graduation or four years of use
  • Automatic renewal (must provide credit card information upon sign up
  • Automatic switch to Amazon Prime ($79/year) once your four years are up
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Dealing with Depression at School

Image by freefotouk, Flickr

Image by freefotouk, Flickr

University can be host to a wealth of triggers for mental health issues. Away from home and separated from their families, students are faced with the task of juggling their transition to university with personal expectations for academic performance, relationship complications, social problems, financial constraints, and concern about the future. Suffering from depression can make you feel helpless and weak, but is extremely common – one in four people between the ages of 15 and 24 will suffer a mental health problem of some sort – and is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.

What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder typically characterized by feelings of severe despondency, dejection, hopelessness and/or inadequacy. Depression can be accompanied by a lack of energy, heightened levels of anxiety, and difficulty in maintaining concentration or interest in life. Depression affects everyone differently, but symptoms may include:

  • social withdrawal; isolating yourself from friends, avoiding calls from home
  • feeling alone or distant from others; feeling like a burden to your loved ones
  • feeling overwhelmed, drained, irritable, guilty, worthless, numb, empty, sad, and/or hopeless
  • appetite loss or increase; weight loss or gain
  • changes in sleeping patterns, trouble sleeping, or insomnia
  • recurring thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • worrying constantly; experiencing high levels of anxiety, restlessness, stress, or panic attacks
  • physical aches and pains
  • feeling as if you are functioning in slow motion
  • simple tasks take an inordinate amount of time to complete
  • reduced ability to concentrate, short term memory loss
  • experiencing frequent mood swings
  • fatigue, lacking energy or motivation

Seeking treatment
If you suspect you are suffering from depression, but feel that your circumstances are so bleak that nothing could possibly do anything to improve them, it is imperative to tell yourself otherwise. Learning about a) why you are feeling a certain way and b) how to alter certain aspects of your lifestyle or behaviour in order to feel better is a crucial step in becoming able to cope with depression. I know that the prospect of going out and looking for help seems laughable when the act of actually getting out of bed at all is a Herculean task in itself, but seeking some sort of treatment is the first step in ensuring that your depression doesn’t become debilitating.
If you are convinced that nobody else will understand you, the truth is that you might be right. Everyone may not be able to understand. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who will very much want to try.

Types of treatment
The good news is that there is a plethora of different ways to get help. The hard part is finding the right kind of help for you. People are unique. We have incredibly varied past experiences, family histories, personal beliefs, fears, insecurities, temperaments, and dispositions. We are different, and depression affects each of us differently as a result. Accordingly, the effectiveness of any given coping technique fluctuates from person to person.

If you don’t know where to begin, I recommend looking at the mental health page on your university’s website. This is a private and informative way to research which methods of help you are interested in getting. There will be contact numbers for your university’s mental health centre, which can direct you to find a psychologist or psychiatrist. The difference between the two, you ask? Both psychologists and psychiatrists are mental health specialists who are trained to assess and treat mental illness; however, psychologists provide ‘talk therapy’ to help you alter your behavioural habits and thinking patterns as a primary method of coping with depression, while psychiatrists generally view depression as the result of a bodily abnormality or chemical imbalance in the brain, and prescribe anti-depressant medication as a primary means of treatment.

Talking to a therapist
Showing up to an appointment with the express purpose of divulging intensely personal information to a complete stranger so they can help you overcome your depressive symptoms can be intimidating, to say the least. Try to keep in mind that you are in a confidential space, and that your therapist has the tools to help you – the better they know you, the challenges you face, and how you deal with those challenges, the better they will be able to advise you. Your comfort level will grow over time. Also, your therapist gets to know you by listening to the way you perceive yourself, your relationships, and the events in your life. Talking to a therapist allows you to have an objective opinion from someone whose relationship with you is not that of an acquaintance nor friend nor family, which can be extremely enlightening experience.

Taking time off 
Your therapist may recommend deferring your exams, reducing your course load, or taking some time off school. Do whatever you feel comfortable with. Taking a break to relax, reflect, and heal may do a world of good. To prevent slipping into even more of a rut, plan out your leave of absence. Continue with whichever form of therapy you feel comfortable with, keep a regular routine of sleep and exercise, and take up some activities that you didn’t have time to do before. Read. Write. Rest. Paint. Build. Explore. Do anything that reminds you of the beauty in the life we live. Also, as important it is to practice mindfulness and be reflective and thoughtful, it’s important to focus on the outward as well as the inward. Volunteering in the community might give you a sense of routine and purpose.

Mind and body
Your state of physical health can influence your state of mental health all too easily – a good thing if you take care of yourself physically, and a bad thing if you don’t. Follow these tips to ensure you are staying healthy at university!

 Recovery
Coping with any mental health issue is an immense struggle. Overcoming depression is neither quick nor easy, but it is far from impossible. When you are thoughtful about the way you perceive and feel about the events in your life, you become more sensitive and insightful to the world around you, and this will enable you to grow. You are given the chance to examine yourself critically without being critical of yourself. You learn to change the things you can and adapt to the things you cannot. I wish you all the best.

Internet resources
Student Health 101
The Jack Project
Kids Help Phone
Mental Health Commission of Canada
Mind Your Mind
Canadian Mental Health Association
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Teen Mental Health

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.

 

Before You Go on a Trip

Image by hyperakt, Flickr

Image by hyperakt, Flickr

There are few things more exciting than having the opportunity to pack your bags and set off to explore a new place! While nobody really plans on getting sick, injured, or pickpocketed while on holiday, it’s best to be proactive and prepare for events which might pose an inconvenience to your adventure. Before you leave, check out this list of things that will keep you covered in case something goes wrong:

Keep copies of important documents.
Make two photocopies of your passport, flight tickets, hostel or hotel reservations, credit card, and driver’s license. In the event that any of these items are misplaced or stolen, you will still have access to your personal identification. Leave one set of the copies with a close friend or family member, and take one the other set of copies with you. Make sure to keep them separate from the original documents. You can also keep an electronic copy by e-mailing yourself a scan of the documents.

Update your address book
In case you have to make an emergency call, look up the phone numbers and contact information for your insurance company, credit card issuers, or health professionals, and put them in your phone before you leave.

Consider getting travel insurance
Nobody plans on getting ill or injured while on holiday, but unfortunately, it can happen. As someone who once ended up in a Belgian hospital with a broken nose, I’d recommend taking the extra cost into consideration – you never know what will happen.

Read a guidebook
Abandon any pretensions of not wanting to do anything “touristy” and embrace being a tourist wholeheartedly. You’re not a local, it’s not a secret, and it’s time to do your research. Travel websites like Lonely Planet and other travel blogs will not only help you navigate your way around the city and help to tailor your trip to your specific interests – they will have a lot of useful information about the culture, laws, and customs of your destination.

Bon voyage!

Glossary of Cooking Terms

Photo by ollesvensson, Flickr

Photo by ollesvensson, Flickr

Trying to cook, but stumped by your recipe instructions? This glossary of cooking terms is here to help!

Bake Cook with dry heat in an oven.

Blend Mix two or more ingredients together.
Blanch To immerse in rapidly boiling water, allowing food to cook slightly.
Boil Heat until bubbling, usually on the stove.
Braise Cook slowly in fat in a closed pot with small amount of moisture.
Broil Cook on a grill under strong, direct heat.
Chop Cut into small pieces.
Cream Blend ingredients until soft and smooth.
Fry Cook in bubbling oil or fat, usually in a pan or griddle on the stove.
Garnish Decorate a dish, usually with herbs, in order to enhance its appearance.
Grate Rub the food against a grater to create shavings.
Julienne Cut into long, thin strips.
Knead Press and fold dough with the hands until it is smooth.
Marinate Soak or brush food with a sauce or liquid mixture of seasonings for a period of time.
Mince Cut or chop food into tiny pieces.
Melt Heat a solid food (like butter) until it becomes liquid.
Pan-fry Cook in a small amount of fat.
Pare Slice off a thin layer of skin, usually when peeling fruits or vegetables.
Poach Cook in simmering liquid.
Purée Mash foods until perfectly smooth.
Reduce Cook or boil down until very little liquid is left.
Roast Cook meat or poultry in the oven by dry heat.
Sauté Fry rapidly in a small amount of oil on high heat.
Sear To brown very quickly using intense heat.
Sift Pour dry ingredients through a sifter to mix them thoroughly together.
Simmer To cook in liquid that is just below boiling point.
Skim To remove fat or scum from the surface of a liquid during cooking.
Stew To simmer slowly in a small amount of liquid for a long time.
Steam To cook over boiling water.
Toss Mix ingredients together lightly with a lifting motion.

5 Ways to Stay Healthy at University

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Do you know what really causes the “freshman fifteen?” Hint: it’s not just about what you eat! What you drink has a lot to do with unhealthy weight gain, and being sedentary and sleep-deprived just pack on the extra pounds. Due to the myriad of social and academic obligations of university life, the variable schedule of the average student can wreak havoc on one’s diet, sleep pattern, and exercise regimen. Staying healthy, however, will boost your mood and energy levels, which will bolster your academic performance and help you to maintain a positive mindset. Here are some basic ways to stay healthy at university:

1. Sleep well

Good sleep is essential for your physical and mental wellbeing – it will help maintain your metabolism, improve your memory, and heighten mental clarity. Poor sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy level and ability to concentrate, and results in higher levels of irritability, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, sleep deprivation causes an increase in appetite, which may result in weight gain. Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern of eight hours each night, going to bed and getting up at the same time.

2. Exercise frequently … and sneakily
It’s easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle at school. What do you do in a lecture hall? You sit. What do you do in the library? You sit. What do you do in the cafeteria? You sit. While university seems to require a lot of sitting, it is important to be active in order to stay healthy. Establish a routine of regular exercise – treat your gym time like an extra class in your schedule, or split your workouts into shorter and more frequent increments that will fit into a busy schedule. If you don’t think you can muster the self-discipline to make it to the gym alone, sign up for an exercise class with a friend. Try something interesting and new – kickboxing, squash, yoga, tennis, or Pilates are all great ways to get moving. Don’t forget the little things that you can do in between workouts to maximize your level of activity – walk to class, take the stairs, and stand up to stretch your legs for every hour you find yourself sitting in the library.

3. Watch your beverages
There are four types of beverages that can have an impact on your health: alcohol, soda and soft drinks, caffeinated drinks, and water.

Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories and no nutritional value whatsoever. The excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can have serious physical effects – if it isn’t enough that a single shot of vodka contains a whopping 100 calories, studies show that regular consumption of alcohol impairs your ability to absorb nutrients and burn fat over time.

Soft drinks, sodas, and sweetened fruit juices also cause unhealthy weight gain and slow your digestion. They contain high levels of sugar, and their diet equivalents simply substitute the sugar content with chemicals that are just as toxic for your system. Soda should be a treat, not a habit. Substitute your sugary fix with a refreshing cup of tea (chamomile and mint tea promote relaxation and digestion, and sweeter flavours such as strawberry, peach, ginseng, or lemon keep it interesting). You can also switch your soda for a sparkling water.

Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption, too. Caffeinated drinks are often dehydrating – remember to drink two glasses of water for every coffee or energy drink you consume. Also, drinking coffee too late in the day might disturb your quality of sleep at night. Most importantly, watch out for the unhealthy additives in calorie-laden lattes or specialty drinks at your favourite coffee shop – one chai tea latte from Starbucks sounds innocent enough, but even its smallest size packs an incredible 240 calories (not to mention 41 grams of sugar).

Make sure you drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining general health and energy levels, and helps to control your weight and appetite, improve your skin, flush your system, and improve your quality of sleep. Try to drink a glass of water every hour and before each meal.

4. Everything in moderation
Don’t be afraid of bread, pasta, and cereals – in moderation, they can be part of a healthy diet. Avoiding them completely can have a negative impact on your metabolism, which is essential to fighting that freshman fifteen. Just keep in mind that dessert should be a treat, not a habit. Make sure you fuel up on nutrient-rich foods with plenty of fibre – whole grains, lentils, spinach, broccoli, beans, and zucchini, among others. Add avocado, lettuce, and tomato to your sandwiches. In the cafeteria, avoid fried or breaded items, and choose the grilled option instead. Add chicken to your salad for a protein boost. Substitute brown rice for white rice, mustard for mayonnaise, whole grain for white bread, and olive oil and vinegar for creamy salad dressing. For motivation and inspiration, look to food blogs and Pinterest recipes to get you excited about eating healthy.

5. What you eat is just as important as when you eat it.
Between classes, assignment deadlines, exams, parties, and going out with friends, it can be difficult to plan a regular meal schedule. Remember to eat breakfast (it starts your metabolism and gives you a boost of energy, which will help control your appetite and prevent overeating throughout the day) and pack healthy snacks to bring to campus (baby carrots, pretzels, apples, and almonds are all great ideas) to tide you over until lunch (a sandwich with a soup or salad is always a healthy option). Avoid midnight snacking, ordering pizza at two in the morning, or grabbing a greasy bite after a night out with your friends – studies show that eating late at night can cause unhealthy weight gain. Stress can also have an effect on how you eat, so try to avoid unhealthy and excessive snacking when you are bored or worried about something, and do not skip meals – a diet of regular meals and nutritious snacks is important to the maintenance of your overall health.

Is Advanced Placement Right for You?

New-ap-photo-me-yes

According to the AP Canada website, the Advanced Placement (AP) program is a rigorous academic program which “provides opportunities for motivated and prepared students to experience college-level courses while in high school, thereby fostering critical thinking and college persistence and success.” Created by the College Board in the United States, the AP program was designed by university-level educators and experts with the intention of administering university-level curriculum and exams to high school students. Since its debut in the United States, the AP program has also been introduced to select Canadian schools over the course of the past decade.

How do I choose which APs to take?
Choose your APs based on how you would choose your regular courses. Examine your personal academic interests and strengths, or experiment with a subject you might consider pursuing in university.

Will taking an AP exam qualify for university course credit?
Be careful. Not all universities recognize AP exams for course credit. Individual university websites will often specify which AP subjects they accept (spoiler: not all of them) and may stipulate that you achieve a certain score in order to be eligible to receive course credit. However, if you fulfill the given requirements and qualify for course credit, you will save both time and money later on!

Are AP exams like university exams?
The AP exam period resembles the university exam period in its capacity to evoke a brief yet intense state of stress which is tempered only by frequent snacks and the sudden camaraderie that develops between you and your peers in the throes of your collective suffering. They are also like university exams – and most exams, perhaps – in the sense that they require hard work, but can yield rewarding results upon completion.

Be prepared for an adjustment that might be difficult, rewarding, or both.
The AP program is designed to prepare you for AP exams, which often means incorporating new exercises into your usual academic routine. For example, my AP French exam involved a speaking component, in which my verbal observations of an image depicting a certain event were recorded on tape. After years of studying French through conjugation charts, vocabulary lists, and gentle conversational exercises, the prospect of soliloquy terrified the entire class. However, we spent a great deal of class time practicing speech exercises, which ultimately improved our confidence actually speaking the language.

Are AP courses more difficult than regular high school courses? Are they as difficult as university courses?
One of the most touted values of the AP program is its exposure of students to learning material of greater depth and quantity. The workload for AP courses is generally heavier than that of regular high school courses, which might be a valuable experience to have before you careen into university and become overwhelmed by the weight of your unread readings, only to watch them build up and eventually crash down on your GPA.

Whether or not the critical depth and quantity of AP course material is equally stimulating as a university course is difficult to judge, as the difficulty of a university course can depend on many factors aside from the material itself (your personal strengths and interests, the demands and temperament of the instructor, the work assignments involved). While university course material may be more challenging in its requirement of a greater deal of critical thought for excellence, many students seem to struggle with the amount of material there is to tackle, rather than the critical depth of said material.

Regardless of the level of difficulty of the work you have in high school, one thing you can usually count on is that there will just be more of it in university. Ultimately, a big part of the academic transition to university is adjusting to the difference in workload, and the AP program might help you improve your work ethic early on.

Good luck!

Applying for Admission to an Ontario University: Getting Started

Image by uniinnsbruck, Flickr

Image by uniinnsbruck, Flickr

Studying at university can be an incredibly rewarding and interesting experience. First things first, though – you have to apply! Don’t worry. Applying for admission to an Ontario university can be a very straightforward and relatively painless process.

First of all, start by researching different universities. The world (well, in this case, Ontario) is your oyster! Consider the reputation, location, tuition cost, residence fees, and program selection of each institution. Even if you are unsure of what you want to study, comparing schools will help narrow your options and refine your search.

The application process might seem intimidating, but you don’t have to do it alone. Make an appointment with your guidance counsellor to discuss any questions and concerns you have about the future. He or she might be able to give you information about events such as the Ontario Universities’ Fair and University Information Program Sessions, both of which will have a wealth of resources available for prospective students. While you browse and research university programs, it’s a good idea to discuss your interests and options with your teachers and your family as well. Also, remember to keep track of any program-specific admission requirements and deadlines – this will be important when the time comes for you to submit your application.

Speaking of submitting your application, the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) is the processing centre for undergraduate applications for admission to the universities of Ontario. The OUAC is not in charge of admission decisions – they simply process and forward the details of your application to the universities of your choice.Depending on your academic history and place of residence, different types of undergraduate application procedures exist. If you go to secondary school in Ontario, you will receive an “Access Code” letter in the fall. This letter contains the three important codes you will need to apply to OUAC online: your school number, your student number, and your PIN.

Important resources to help you navigate OUAC can be found below:

Good luck!

How to Visit a Property

Image by gardener41, Flickr

Image by gardener41, Flickr

After a long and laborious housing hunt, the time has finally come for you to tour a prospective home. You’ve scheduled a visit with the property owner, and you’re ready to go! Here is a list of things to keep in mind when touring a property:

  1. Take a friend or family member with you. 
    It’s always helpful to have a second opinion! They might notice things that you otherwise would have missed. Also, if you have arranged the tour appointment online and are not personally acquainted with the person who is showing you around the property, it’s wise not to go alone.

  2. Bring a camera, cell phone, notebook, and pen.
    You want to be able to take pictures and record all the details about the property. You won’t remember all of it later!

  3. Bring a list of questions to ask while you tour the unit.
    Don’t be shy! This is your opportunity to ensure that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises for the duration of your lease.

    • Which utilities are included in the rent? Are Internet, hydro, and electricity included?
    • Do I have to pay a security deposit?
    • What is the method of rent payment?
    • Are the building tenants mostly families, students, or retirees?
    • How safe/quiet is the building? Are there security cameras or personnel?
    • Do I have to pay for parking?
    • Where do I dispose of my garbage and recycling?
    • Who is responsible for apartment maintenance and repairs?
    • How old is the property/when was the building constructed? Have there been any major changes or renovations? (The older the building, the more likely maintenance problems are to result from old ceilings, windows, plumbing, or flooring.)
  4. Examine the property.
    Take your time, and do not hesitate to really scrutinize the space when you’re looking around – this is your potential home. Take pictures of each room. Check the doors, windows, and locks. Flush the toilet, run the water in the sinks and showers, check the water pressure and temperature. Take note of (and photograph) any damaged walls or carpeting, as well as any broken fixtures or appliances. Look in the cupboards and the corners under the sink – this is where the insects tend to hang out. It hadn’t occurred to me or my roommates to check those spaces for evidence of any gnarly sort of infestation, and we were not exactly thrilled to discover a whole bunch of tiny new multiple-legged friends doing the congo in the back of our spice cupboard shortly after we moved in.

  5. Be polite. 
    At the end of your visit, thank the landlord or property manager for showing you around. Be cautious when it comes to making a snap decision or signing the lease on the spot – if you are interested in the property, you can tell the landlord that you are interested, and will be calling him or her soon.

  6. Speak to current tenants in the building.
    Trust me, it’s not weird, and it’s a wise thing to do. If you don’t know any of the tenants personally, hang out in the lobby and see if anyone passes by. Explain that you’re thinking of moving in and ask if they have a minute to answer a few questions. Ask if they feel safe living in the building. Ask if they enjoy living there. Ask if they have had any problems with the building or building management. Ask if the landlord or building manager are dependable and responsive to repair requests. The building tenants do not care if you move in or not, and might be more honest as a result. You won’t regret it!

  7. Visit as many properties as you like.
    It’s good to have a number of options to compare. Once you decide which property best suits your needs, make sure you know everything you need to know before you sign the lease.

    Good luck!