This post is going to be a lot different than all my other posts, however, as the exam month is beginning and the end of my first year of university is nearing, I decided to come up with a list of 10 things that I wish I knew before university/I learned while in first year university. I know these may not be applicable to every single person in their first year, or those going into first year, but they are pretty important lessons that I’m going to take into consideration while I continue my university education. I attend a university about an hour away from my moms and my dads houses. I loved my first year, and I absolutely hated my first year. It just depended what day it was. I had a lot of ups and downs in my first year and the key thing is to just stay positive every day because the school year goes by faster than you could even imagine!
#1: University is NOT high school (or anything close to it)
University is a lot different from high school in many different ways. You’re now doing things on your own. And by doing things on your own, I don’t just mean living on your own, or cooking for yourself. I mean you’re completing assignments, readings, essays, etc all on your own with no teacher there to remind you that something is coming up, or something is due. In high school the teachers gave you a good amount of time for assignments and would give you daily reminders as to when these assignments were due. In university, the teachers could care less whether you hand your assignment in or not. Remember to stay organized and know when things are due or what readings to read because there will be no one on your back to remind you unless you make the effort to remember everything.
#2: Go to Every Lecture
In university it is SO simple to sleep through lectures or just skip lectures. It’s not like in high school when you would be the biggest rebel for skipping that one english class to go to Starbucks. There is no attendance in most Lectures/Tutorials/Seminars so it is your choice whether to show up or not. However, showing up, is a better idea then you would think. I had one history class this year and as my friend Danielle put it, “if you miss one lecture you miss like 500 years of history”. And it was true! In high school you have units so you learn a lot of information over a month or so within the unit. But on the other hand, in university information is jam packed into one class because you only end up having the class 1-4 times a week! It’s also important to attend every lecture because the professor will typically reward students who attend them by telling them different tips for tests or exams, which is awesome!
#3: Don’t take Naps (unless you REALLY need to)/ Proper Sleep Schedules
My roommate and I can probably both agree that nap taking was one of our biggest mistakes in first year university. We had HORRIBLE sleep schedules and would take naps almost every day at no particular time; it could be at 3pm or at 9pm, it didn’t matter, if we were the slightest bit tired, we would nap. We had never felt so gross in our lives not having a proper sleep schedule. Not only do you feel gross, but you feel absolutely lazy and miss half the day by sleeping! Once we learned this lesson after first term and got our sleep schedules in tact for second term, we felt 100 times better than we did when we were taking naps and had a crappy sleeping schedule. So my biggest tip: NO NOT TAKE NAPS unless you are so tired that it is impeding your learning/day a lot. If it’s not, try to make it through the lull of tiredness and have a cup of tea or some coffee, or go exercise, do anything to wake yourself up again!
#4: There is such thing as Healthy Eating on Campus/The Freshmen 15 is Real
When you live on campus you feel surrounded by unhealthy food choices. Unfortunately, it’s very typical that there will be more unhealthy food choices on your campus than healthy choices, however, that does not mean there are absolutely no healthy foods around. If you are a person who is concerned with their weight/the freshmen 15, definitely check the school website hospitality services menu and see the healthy choices that are available and know what you can get to remain healthy! It also becomes very easy to snack throughout the day. What I would suggest if you tend to be a snacker is to go to the grocery store by your school and pick up some healthy snacks like fruits, veggies and granola bars and keep them in your room so you don’t feel obligated to go and buy some ice cream or a bag of chips everyday. It’s important to maintain a healthy/not eatings just junk food all the time lifestyle because although there are tons of junk food options available to you and no mother to tell you you can’t have that chocolate bar before dinner, you will feel 100 times better, have a better sleep, feel more active and focus more in school if you are healthy. Because the freshmen 15 is definitely real.
#5: Procrastination is NOT your Friend
It is SO easy to procrastinate in university. You have a lot of spare time on your hands, but it is easy to not use it properly and study what you need to study or work on any assignments you may have. Because, is it possible to do that essay in one night? Yes, yes it is. However, is it possible to do that essay WELL in one night and get the best grade you could on it? Probably not. Give yourself enough time to work on your assignments and study for quizzes/tests/exams. Your course syllabus from the beginning of the year should list off every single assignment and test you will have that term, how much its worth and when it is due. Therefore, procrastination is a horrible excuse because you have tons of time to plan when you are going to do assignments and then you can get better grades.
#6: Your Meal Card is Real Money
It is so easy to swipe your meal card and act like it’s not even real money. But, that is real money, and that is likely YOUR parents real money. Make sure to budget properly or else you’ll be like me and end up with zero dollars on your meal card a month before school ends and you’ll be stuck eating granola bars and the 10 boxes of oatmeal that your mom kept sending you home with all year (okay, that may not be applicable to most people, but it is to me! Oatmeal is my most important meal of the day now). Just remember that your meal card is real money and budget properly so you have money left for meals the whole year. Of course you can always put more money on it but you already paid enough for that meal card and there should be enough money for the whole year on it.
#7: Don’t be Afraid to go to your TA’s Office Hours/Ask Questions
This may be one of my biggest lessons. Although TA’s/Profs may seem a little intimidating, DO NOT be afraid to ask them any questions you may have! Thats what they are there for. I even found that at the end of the year my grades were improving a lot because I would stay after class for 2-5 minutes and ask a few questions just to be sure about things on the assignments or the exam. It never hurts to ask questions and it can actually help improve your grades a lot more than you would think.
#8: NEVER Buy New Textbooks (unless there is no other choice)
I learned this lesson after first term. Do not by new text books. Used text books are real, out there and almost every upper year is trying to sell them to you for a price that is 10 times cheaper than that brand new text book from the bookstore that you will likely end up opening like 10 times throughout the year. Then after that term is over you’re forced to sell it for even cheaper than you bought it from the bookstore. So why not help yourself out, and an upper year and buy used text books? It is probably one of the best ideas you will have in all of university whether you’re a first year or a fourth year…saving money is always a good thing.
#9: Make To-Do Lists/Keep an Agenda
As I mentioned earlier in #5, procrastination should not be an excuse. Make sure at the beginning of the year you write down any assignments you have in your agenda/planner. Personally, I use an app called ‘IProcrastinate’ on my macbook. It is also available for your phone and your Ipad if you want. I wrote down all my assignment dates and test dates in the app at the beginning of the year and it would give me reminds as to when the assignments were due or when the tests were taking place. As long as you keep track of all this, you should have no problem handing things in on time. Also, make To-Do lists in order to make your days more productive. They don’t have to be obscure or anything, they can be really simple, just to make sure you’re not sitting around doing nothing all day when there are actually tons of productive things you can be doing/working on!
#10: Netflix is your Worst Enemy (Contrary to popular belief)
Netflix is awesome. Actually, it’s probably one of my favourite things that exists on the internet…there are 100’s of movies and shows to pick from and it’s just an all around awesome website. But you know whats not awesome? Watching so much Netflix that you are not doing that assignment that’s due tomorrow. It’s so simple to start a series and then say “ok…one more episode”. Two days and 3 seasons later your assignment was already due…but you were watching Netflix. Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic about the whole thing but Netflix is awesome, up until you actually have more important things to do. So, get your priorities straight and only use Netflix as a treat for when everything else that is more important is complete – or else Netflix will become your school work’s worst enemy, believe me.
So there you have it! The top 10 things I wish I knew before university/I learned in my first year of university. I’m sure there are a lot of other things I could think of, but these are the most important lessons I learned during my first year. Let me know if you have any other tips and I hope this helps you get through your first year of university/any year of university smoothly!
Xo Ali Grace