A little about myself: I started at Saint Mary’s University (SMU) in 2012, and just recently finished in December of 2015. I studied Geography and Sociology, was involved in my departments society for 3 years, and worked on the campus for the 4.5 years I studied there.
University can be a hard time, and sometimes freighting prospect. When I was starting my first year, I would often feel worried or stressed about having all these things to do. Yet, even so, there are some things you can do to make post secondary more manageable. On that note, this blog post is going to be about university tips and tricks. Here we go!
One thing I took to doing early (and often) was making a schedule. I used to get really anxious looking at my syllabi and seeing all the things I would have to do at some point soon. When I started plotting my assignments, tests, papers, etc. onto a calendar, I really helped me in two ways. First it allowed me to see when every thing for my semester was due in comparison to my other classes, and second, it allowed me to see when my busier or slower weeks were. This second point was important for me because I would use those slower weeks to do readings or assignments due in the future. That way you have less to worry about later!
Another thing I’d mention as a tip is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there if you see something you want to be involved in. For instance, I loved what I studied, and when the opportunity came along I decided to join my topics society. This was really good because it looks awesome on a resume, and it also gets you more involved in your field as well as the people within the same field. That means opportunities to get to know your classmates AND professors. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to your professors! There are a ton of opportunities they can bring to you if you know them a bit. At first it may be nerve racking but I promise they’re people just like you and I.
A lot of the time when you have tons to do in what seems like a short period of time, it feels like you can’t take a break. Well, I’m here to tell you that you should always remember to take a break! If you work for hours upon hours without taking some time for yourself to recuperate, then you won’t retain the information as well and you’ll burn out quickly. Think of a university semester as being similar to a marathon. You need to pace yourself!
When I was finishing up Grade 12 and had already decided to go to university, I had loads of people asking me “what are you going to study?”. I didn’t figure this out until later, but here’s another good tip: if you’re just starting your university journey it’s okay to not be sure! There is no harm in exploring. A lot of students don’t know what they want to study, so they take classes in different topics. This is a great approach to take because you get a larger array of classes under your belt, and you also get better comparisons between subjects. Yes, at some point you will have to pick a subject, but just remember that you have tons of time to figure that out! During my undergrad I didn’t pick my major until my 3rd year.
If there is anything more I’d mention about university, I’d say there are a few important differences compared to high school. One thing I remember in high school was that if you didn’t hand in an assignment for example, they teacher would come asking for it. In university, your professors are not likely to track you down or keep reminding you of your due dates. They expect you to be on top of that (that calendar really helps with remembering due dates!). Another thing is that in your first year, your classes are going to be big. The first university classroom I walked into had about 130-150 other students in it. However, that’s okay! In first year courses they all are most likely new like you. Lastly, because you have multiple classes and assignments on the go most of the time, make sure that you have some way of keeping yourself organized. Professors expect you to come to class prepared for that day. There are different expectations in university, but don’t let them scare you! Your classmates are in the same boat, and they can be a great resource for help when you need it. Also, in your first year your professors understand that you’re adjust. Like I mentioned earlier, they’re people too.
Looking back on my university experience now that it’s over, the one thing I am most thankful for is that I allowed myself to have fun with those 4 years! You’re going to make new friends and meet lots of people. Just because you all have a ton of work to do doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have fun! All university campuses have social events, and there will definitely be something social for you to do in the city off campus. With everything that comes with being a student, just remember to enjoy your time as best you can!
Catapult 2009, SMU Grad 2016