As August moves along and September appears on the horizon, back-to-school activity begins in ernest. First time Kindergarteners hurry around Staples clutching their parent’s fingers and pick up crayons and craft paper. High school juniors wonder how they can possibly make it through another two years of school, and college freshman sit around selecting courses, paying tuition and buying things for their dorm rooms.
They all ask the same question: what will this year hold?
While elementary and high school are slightly more predictable, university is a total mystery to those of us on the outside. Sure you’ve watched the movies, read the articles and seen the meme’s, but what is it really like to sit in a lecture hall of 1500? What is it really like to spend all your waking hours in the library during exams, and what is it like to specialize your studies?
Last fall, before I moved in to my residence, I had no idea what to expect. Though some of my older cousins had gone to university before me, I didn’t exactly know how to ask them for advice, and while my parents tried their best too calm my nerves, university had changed since their schooling days. So, instead of turning to actual people, I searched Pinterest and Blogs across the internet, reading article after article titled: “What To Expect In Dorm Life” and “20 Ways To Make Your First Year Rock”. Knowing that other people were going through the same messy emotions helped me through that entire summer.
As a sort of thank you to all the blog posts that helped me out, and as part of my Back-To-School Month posts, today’s is all about tips, tricks, and advice so you can kick butt in first year!
Buy an agenda before school and force yourself to use it. Write everything down. I mean everything (yes, even what you want to eat that day)! My agenda is my lifeline, and honestly, I don’t think I’d make it through the year without it.
Also use a big (pretty) wall calendar. Agenda’s are great for carrying around, and a big wall calendar is perfect for putting over your desk. It’ll help you see busy weeks in advance so you can stay organized and ready.
Plan your readings. Use your agenda to plan what work you need to get done everyday. Sit down on Sunday night and plan your readings/homework/assignments for the week so you can stay caught up (or ahead). This extra time also lets you see what’s coming up that week (maybe a friends birthday) so you can make room for important extra curricular’s or social events.
Protect your syllabus at all costs. This packet of papers is your life line for that class. Keep it safe, make a photo copy (seriously having a back up is a life saver), and highlight any important information. Transfer important dates to your agenda and calendar immediately and keep in with your notes for that class.
Don’t fall in to the “wear pjs and sweats all day everyday” state of mind. It’ll make you feel more tired and lazy. Dress up for yourself and I promise you’ll feel 10x more confident and ready to tackle your school work.
Don’t force a relationship with your roommate. It will come with time, and if it doesn’t, it’s no big deal! Not everyone ends up being best friends with their roomie. As long as you’re civil and respectful, you’re good as gold!
Do assignments right away. This is always easier said than done, but your stress level will lower drastically if you start the essay the day it’s assigned or brought up in class.
Find your library. Some libraries work for some people, and others don’t. Take the opportunity to try out different libraries and study spaces on your campus until you find one that’s perfect for you. Once you find a space you can study in easily, it’ll take a lot of the pressure off.
Work out every day. For the love of God, please get out of the library and move. It can be a dance class, a run, a yoga break or even a brisk walk through campus, anything. Just get up and do it. Not only will your body thank you, but your mind will be more focused to learn afterwards.
Don’t be afraid of taking morning classes. So many people tell you not to, but it’s a great feeling to be up early and done with lectures by noon. It’ll give you lots of time to be productive and get things done during the rest of the day.
Wake up early. Even if you decide not to take morning classes (sorry 8ams, I’m just not feeling it) consider waking up early. Building a routine helps you fall asleep easier (and sleep better) and if you wake up early, you can get the bulk of your studying out of the way so you can enjoy the rest of your day! If you’re not a morning person don’t worry, I wasn’t either, but if you force yourself to get up at say 8am (whether you need to or not) you’ll notice a big difference in productivity.
Get out of your comfort zone! Join the intramural team, rush the sororities, take a really weird art history class or just go to student plays and art shows. Whatever you do, learn new things and step outside of your boundaries. Chances are you’ll find a new passion or hobby.
Don’t worry about dating. If you have a boyfriend, great, but if not, don’t sweat it! Statistically people in university aren’t the ones getting in to long term commitments. You’re in school to learn and grow as a person. Take new chances and focus on expanding your mind and interests. The right person will come around eventually and you’ll be glad you didn’t rush it.
Flash cards are sent from heaven. Make them, read them and then read them fifty other times. They’re perfect for studying and you can have your parents or sibling or roommate or the guy you tend to sit near on the subway quiz you at literally any point in the day. Make them and use them.
Go to class. This is pretty self explanatory, but a lot of people still skip. You’re paying a lot of money to be there, so show up and get the most out of your education. However, if you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and skipping really is the smarter course of action, don’t be afraid to miss a class or two. You’re the only one who knows what you need to do in order to succeed.
Do the readings. I was always told that it’s impossible to get all your readings done in uni, but when I started, I found out that that wasn’t true at all. If you budget your time properly and are studying effectively, you should have no problem completing the required readings. Make the effort, because having already read the textbook helps a lot the night before your exams.
Rent your textbooks. If your student bookstore has the option, rent those babies. Textbooks are so expensive and renting is usually way cheaper and easier to go about than buying. Most schools give you the option to pay the difference if you decide you want to keep it.
Talk to your professors. Go to office hours, and student/staff mixers. Ask them questions after lecture and email them (as a last resort) if you really need to. Contrary to popular belief, your profs want you to succeed but they can’t help you if you don’t reach out!
Set goals. When you know what you want to achieve and the things you need to do to reach those goals, it’s so much easier to stay motivated. Figure out what these goals are, write them down and stick them on the wall near your desk or in your agenda. Read them when you’re finding it difficult to open a textbook.
Take breaks. Sitting for twelve hours straight in the library is not good for you. Your brain needs breaks to properly store the information you’ve learnt and honestly, after that many hours in front of your books, you probably aren’t giving your work 100% anymore (Instagram and Facebook start becoming really important). Get up, take a walk, listen to music, or eat a (healthy) snack.
Nobody cares if you go to the party. It’s no surprise that there’s going to be drinking and rowdiness all over campus most nights of the week (students party when they can). If you choose to go to those parties, all the power to you, stay safe and have fun! But if you aren’t an avid party goer (like myself) nobody really cares. Stay in and do your own thing of go bowling with friends. It’s all your choice.
Nobody cares if you drink either. As someone who doesn’t drink at all, I was really worried that people would judge me in university. Would they think I wasn’t cool? Would I get made fun of? Would the pear pressure be too much to handle? Nope! Nobody really cared, and if they did comment, it was usually to say that they thought it was cool I could go to parties sober. So if you don’t drink, have no fear, just do you!
You might not make many friends. I thought I was going to make a bunch of really good friends in my first year, but the truth is, I only made a couple, and that was totally fine. While quality is way more important than quantity, you will find your group of people as the years go on. Universities are often gigantic, but your homies are hiding in there somewhere!
Keep in touch. Call your parents and your grandparents. Send your high school BFFS letters and care packages. University is scary, and sometimes all you need is a reminder of the love you have back home. Don’t use distance as an excuse for letting important relationships fade. A text twice or three times a week is all you need.
Try to get a job. It may be hard to juggle with homework and clubs etc. But you’ll be so thankful to have some extra cash coming in!
Don’t hold yourself back. Just because you’re frightened or anxious, doesn’t mean you should stop yourself from doing things. If your scared of taking a semester abroad or taking an internship, chances are, it’s a perfect opportunity for learning and growth. Don’t be silly, take the leap!
Have fun! University is stressful and pretty scary, but it’s also an amazing time! You’re learning so many new things and there are opportunities to help you grow around every corner. While school is often crazy busy, make sure you take time during the week to hang out with your friends and do something fun.
I think I probably could’ve come up with more advice (it’s one of my favourite things to write about if you couldn’t tell), but I’ll save that for another time. I hope this has been slightly helpful to a few of you who are heading to uni for the first time (or even if you’re a fourth year veteran)!
If you have any advice or suggestions, leave them in the comments, I’d love to hear what gets you, through a hectic year!
Hope you’re all enjoying this lovely Tuesday!