What I Learned From University
- Everyone is super friendly, especially in the first few weeks → Introduce yourself to the people sitting near you for the first few weeks of lectures. Everyone is looking for a friend or at least someone to talk to!!
- If you commute, make that time productive → My bus ride was an hour there and back each day. It sucks but I would try to be productive for at least half of the commute. I have a post about being productive on public transport here.
- On that note, stay on campus as long as possible each day → As soon as I got back home I would procrastinate every little thing. Stay in an already productive environment for as long as possible.
- Maybe don’t buy your textbooks used → I thought I was being smart by buying used textbooks (most schools will have a buy and sell facebook page for textbooks). I ended up having to pay for access codes in order to do my online homework – access codes that cost ~$70 separately and came included with new textbooks anyways. Email your prof or talk to someone who has recently taken the class to find out if you need an access code. If you do, your best bet is to buy a new version of the textbook (unless you can get a seriously cheap used textbook).
- Print off your timetable and find all of your classes before the first day → This helped me so much! I found exactly where all my classes were before the first day of class. I wrote down little tricks to help me remember where everything was (i.e. my calc lecture is in the arts and science building which is also where the only subway on campus is).
- Don’t knock living at home to save money
→ If you’re lucky enough to have a college or university close to home at least consider living at home. Getting your own place or living in dorms is expensive. (But if you have to find off campus housing on your own, don’t leave it too late or you might not find a place)
- Figure out the best way to take notes for each class → You have to customize the way you study for each class, all depending on the prof and the content. I hand-wrote notes for some classes (chem, calc, and physics), but not others (psych and bio). If you’re writing by hand you can always just annotate your textbook notes or lecture slides (if they’re posted before class). If you fall behind while taking notes, just leave a gap and check out a friend’s notes after class.
- Adjust your expectations → Don’t expect to get straight A’s, like you might have in high school. You can strive for straight A’s but be realistic as time goes on. For classes I struggled with, I expected to be near the class average. If I was a lot lower than the class average then I would know to invest more time.
- Make time for physical activity → If we’re being honest I hardly exercised during uni. Go for at least a half hour walk each day and try to start a physical activity routine. Get a friend and join a sports team, go to a fitness class, or commit to some form of a daily workout with them! You’ll feel bad bailing on someone else, plus working out is more fun with other people.
- Review content throughout the semester → Reviewing little bits of content will save you a massive content review right before finals! Look through old notes while you wait for your daily coffee or take 15 minutes to watch some khan academy videos on stuff you learned in the first month of classes.
- Think seriously about how much you can handle → Don’t take on too many responsibilities at once and consider all of your options! I worked weekends and some week nights throughout the school year. Looking back I should have worked less because my stress levels were way too high. Also, quite a few people I talked to took 4 classes instead of 5, for their first semester of university. I don’t think I would have done it, in the end, but it’s always something to consider.
- Have fun but be responsible at parties → Always go to parties with people you trust!! If you didn’t do much partying/drinking during high school (like me), remember to pace yourself when drinking! Eat before you go out and have some water between each drink, till you find your limit. Don’t let yourself be peer-pressured into anything but also don’t be afraid to have fun! And check out if your uni has a safe walk program (someone will come and walk you back to your dorm or your car if you feel unsafe or nervous for any reason)
- When procrastination hits, aim to be productive in some way → The only reason my biology mark was so high was because I would study biology whenever I got sick of studying for physics and calculus. If you know you need to study but just can’t do it, start by being productive in some other way – study a subject you do like, do your laundry, organize your study area, etc. Get your brain to start thinking productively.
- Labs are difficult so be prepared → I had so many labs first year. Some tips: eat and hydrate before labs, never assume you can finish your prelab last minute, be nice to your lab partner, always remember lab safety (don’t be the person trying to wear shorts in the lab, TAs will not hesitate to kick you out), don’t rush through an experiment but be efficient, and ask for help (even if you feel like you’re bothering your TA).
- Please go to bed early. Sleep affects everything → I was so dumb and would never go to bed early even though I had to be up at 6 am almost every day to catch the bus. Lack of sleep will catch up to you eventually!! Also, all nighters are not necessary, unless you make them necessary. I prioritized and never had to stay awake too late. And never pull an all nighter the night before an exam (you’re better off getting sleep and resting your brain).
- Bring a water bottle everywhere → Buy a decent water bottle and always carry it with you. Even though my uni is small there are still tons of spots around campus where I can refill my water bottle!! Stay hydrated my friends!
- A practice problem a day keeps the F away → This saying probably works best for science classes, but I guess a reading a day will get you somewhere too. Do something for every class each day, even if it’s just a practice problem or a quick reading. Develop a routine!
- You’ll have lots of midterms → I was under the impression that midterms happened just once a semester (I thought I would have one week where I had a midterm for each class). That was not my reality. I had 2 or 3 midterms for each of my classes scattered throughout the semester. Study really hard for your first set of midterms till you get used to the high expectations!
- Don’t worry about what other people are doing or thinking → This is mostly in regards to social media. I was bummed when I looked back on my first year of university, because I felt like I hadn’t done anything fun compared to other people. You only see the image that other people want you to see. You don’t know how hard someone worked or how hard they didn’t work. Just focus on you and how you can affect positive results in your life.
- Other people literally don’t care about your appearance → My friend’s little sister visited campus and asked us “Why is everyone wearing sweatpants?” People literally don’t care. Dress nice and put lots of makeup on one day, because you feel like it, and wear sweats the next day.
- Start essays and reports as soon as possible → You never know what might come up so be prepared for the worst! Outline your essay or graph your data as soon as you can.
- Eat healthy and do meal prep → You can eat healthy during university! Set aside a couple of nights each week to do meal prep. Cook food in bulk to save money and don’t eat out too much. Try to have at least 1 serving of fruits or veggies with each meal or snack you eat!
- Find a good study spot on campus → Explore your campus and figure out your favourite places to study. I had a couple of spots where I would always meet my friends to study and quiet spots where no one would bother me. Studying outside or in an area with natural light is always good.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to your profs and TAs → This is the number one thing I’m going to try to do more of in my second year. TAs are chill to talk to and they can tell you tons of useful information on what upper year classes are like, which professors are good, why they chose to go to grad school, etc. If you’re struggling in lectures or labs, talk to your prof or TA! Make an appointment and be sure you can tell them exactly which concepts you’re struggling with or at least where you got lost. One of my profs told us he just waits hopefully during office hours for someone to come in. (Also profs love it if you ask them about their research or any topics they seem passionate about during lectures.)
- Explore all the resources your university has to offer → My university has a program that is basically people bringing their dogs around for students to pet, in order to relieve stress. It actually works and gave me something to look forward to! Just be aware of your options so that if something in your life changes you know where you can go to ask for help.
- Get a planner and utilize it → There’s no excuse not to have a planner of some sort. Use your phone, get a bullet journal, or buy a cheap planner. Have somewhere where you can record important deadlines and make to do lists. I also recommend back planning all of your studying at the beginning of the semester. Write down your midterms and finals dates and write down how much you’re going to study each day leading up to the exam. This way you’ll be able to look ahead at each month and figure out what needs to be done (i.e. getting an essay done early because the due date falls during a busy week of midterms)
This post ended up being a lot longer than I expected whoops. Take the things I said into consideration but remember that everyone’s experience will be different. Good luck to everyone heading to university!
My Other Posts: