While school has already started for a bunch of people, I have one week left to savour summer vacation and relax before I drown in readings and assignments.
The first week of university is simultaneously the best, and worst week of the year. You’re totally overwhelmed with information about your classes, new people, and might even be starting to feel a little bit home sick. On the other hand, you’re enjoying tons of freedom, and have a newfound sense of confidence and responsibility. Either way, that first week is daunting, especially when your first class is with 1500 other people!
Here are thirteen things you can do in that crazy first week to set yourself up for an awesome semester!
Buy an Agenda — I’ve heard it all:“I had an agenda in high school but I never used it.” and “I have a really good memory, I won’t forget about it.” or “I’m not organized enough to use an agenda.” Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, forget the excuses, and buy yourself an agenda. While your first week (or even month) of university might seem incredibly easy and relaxed, don’t be fooled! Things will pick up soon enough, and when they do, you’ll have no idea what hit you. Having an agenda will help you organize your time and make sure you’re on top of things in the midst of midterm and exam chaos.
Organization and time management is so much more important in university than it ever was in high school, so it’s helpful to have a system for keeping track of everything. It doesn’t really matter what agenda you have, but make sure it fits your needs and is small enough that you can take it with you wherever you go. Write down important dates as you become aware of them, and use it to plan what work you need to get done every day. This way it’ll be pretty difficult to miss a deadline and you’ll be on top of your readings and assignments. You can rest easy knowing that any important information about your classes and projects, have been written down and are easy to find.
Print Out Your Syllabi — These packets of paper are your lifeline for each one of your classes. Once you get them, print them out, hole punch them, and store them together in a folder.
Before your classes start, go through each syllabus and highlight important information including: your professors name and contact information, office hours, test and exam dates, assignment deadlines, and anything else you think will be important to know. As soon as you’ve highlighted these things, you can start transferring important information to other places. Test and due dates should be added to your calendar (I use the mac calendar app) and your agenda, so you have easy access to them, and contact info can be written down in your agenda or on your class schedule.
Keep your syllabi safe, they’ll be helpful once exam time comes around and you can’t remember exactly what sections you covered in class.
Make a Schedule — This might sound like overkill to some, but I always find it incredibly helpful to write out a schedule for the semester and hang it on my bulletin board. My schedule usually involves all my classes, work hours, volunteer times and when I plan to workout.
Having a visual representation of how your day will look is really helpful when things start getting more hectic and time management becomes key. It’ll also make it easier for you to plan what work you can do each day and when, so you stay on top of everything.
Find your Classes — To avoid getting lost and feeling anxious about going to class, do a mock run. Write down each building and room number and visit each of them before your classes actually start. This way you’ll know how to get to class on the first day and you’ll look like a pro doing it (who knows, maybe other freshman will even ask you for directions)!
Start your Readings — Don’t be fooled by the easy going vibe of the first week or two of school. Start your readings and try to get ahead while things are still settling. You’ll thank yourself for putting in the extra effort when midterms arrive and you have a bit more room to breathe.
Figure Out the Textbook Situation — Don’t buy your textbooks weeks in advance. Wait until school starts and check the updated syllabus to make sure they haven’t changed. Your professors will likely also mention whether the textbook is actually necessary in your first class. This way you can avoid buying books you won’t actually use.
Find your Library — You’ll be spending a lot of time at the library, so it’s in your best interest to find it (or one of them) during your first week. University libraries often host a bunch of informative intro courses for first years (and anyone else who’d like to take them) so you can become comfortable with the way your school’s library system works. Trust me, going to the library for the first time when you need to do major research for a paper isn’t exactly stress-free. Help yourself out and get familiar with the library system asap!
Find a Study Spot — This is something I cannot stress enough! Find a place you can study effectively on campus as soon as possible! Having a place you know, you study well in takes away a lot of stress and also eliminates the time you’ll spend figuring out where to go for a study session.
You don’t have to make a big deal about this at first (it is only the first week after all), but try to find a spot you enjoy the atmosphere of and is conducive to your study style. Later on in the semester you can always find new spots, but it certainly helps to know one off the bat, even if it’s not quite perfect.
Join a Club — Just do it! Look up your school’s club directory, and narrow it down to one or two groups you’re really interested in. Clubs are the perfect way to get involved in your campus community and to meet people with similar interests and values. I regret not joining any clubs in my first year and have already made a promise to myself to join one as soon as school starts!
Sign up for an Athletic Class — Take advantage of your university’s athletic facilities and programs. There are likely hundreds of intramural teams and registered classes waiting for you to join them! Sports and classes like pilates or yoga, are great ways to meet friends, and also allow you to set aside some time for personal health. Your body and mind will thank you.
Communicate With your Roommate — Don’t wait until the middle of the year to talk to your roommate about what standards you have for your room. It’s important to get everything out on the table asap so you can talk about the things each of you need to do in order for your year together to be successful. Talking about things early also lowers the chances that you’ll have a full fledged fight later in the year.
Some people suggest creating a contract with your roommate, stating all the things you hold each other to, and others are fine with just talking about their expectations and putting some rules in to place. Either way, make sure you have the talk early on.
Hangout With People in your Residence — Don’t shut yourself away! Even if you’re shy (like I was) make sure to reach out to the girl across the hall or the twins next door. They might become your new best friends, or not, but either way you’ll have someone to eat with until you find a more solid group of friends.
Call your Parents — Don’t forget to call the people who love you the most. Your parents are probably struggling just as much as you are, and would love to hear about how everything is going. They’re also the perfect people to call when you aren’t sure about a class, or how to talk to your roommate when something is bothering you.
These are a few things I found super helpful in my first year of university and I’ll definitely continue doing them this year.
Good luck to those of you who have already started (I know you’ll have a great year), and enjoy the rest of your vacation to those of you who have another week to go (savour every moment)!