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Things to Know in Your First Year of University

University can be overwhelming and difficult to understand at first. There is so much information thrown your way, that little things are bound to be forgotten. This blog will consist of things that both myself and my peers did not know about in our first year in University that would have been very useful.

1. Know your minimum grade requirements that you have to maintain in order to stay in your program.

This is something that is different for each program and each school. It is always good to know beforehand, so if your grades do slip too close to the requirement, seek a mentor or a tutor!

2. If you have a University website that is difficult to navigate through to find specific pages, google your question.

For example, as a University of Ottawa student I would google: “UOttawa grade scale”, to know what the University considers to be an A or and F (my school goes by a scale of 1-10, other schools will differ).This tip also helps you avoid being overwhelmed by all the information on the website. Eventually, you will know where to go on the website for what relates to you directly, but at the beginning google can makes things easier.

3. You can drop a class and no one will judge you.

I thought I had to maintain a full course load in order to stay in line with everyone else. In first year, I would have appreciated knowing (after talking to an academic advisor) that I could take 4 classes instead of 5 and make up for that class later and it was still considered a full course load. A lot or students do this and take summer classes in order to graduate on time. In University, summer is treated like any other term, and a lot of people find it helpful. It all depends on the workload, and how you would like to manage it. Make sure to talk to a counsellor at your school to make sure your program works with a different schedule.

4. This correlates to number 3, but know that your school experience will be unique.

You should not compare yourself to anyone else because although it may look like your on the same path, you are still likely to go in different directions. Every one in the same program as you has different goals, values, and ways of achieving their goals. Though there can be that “competitive” factor, focus on yourself and it will workout.

5. You will hear this, but if you want to save some money, make an effort to buy your books used!

You can find stuff on Facebook Marketplace (often there are Facebook groups for your school, dedicated to textbooks), look online (like Amazon), or your school bookstore. Some students would even go to their library and scan pages if they only needed a few rather than buying the entire book.

6. A balanced social/study life will help you much more than studying 24/7.

Grades are very important, and although it may seem at first that you are alone in the stress, you are surrounded by people you can study with and who could help you. Joining clubs and study groups can be very helpful to breaking the ice with people if your find the idea of making friends intimidating. As well, being involved in your school gives you the memories and well-rounded experience that people talk about. Universities are filled with a variety of clubs to join and have club fairs so that you can check them out. It is always a good idea to look at a few, attend a couple meetings and then narrow down your choices based on what suits you. If you do not find that any of the clubs are appealing to you, talk to a mentor in your program about creating your own club!

7. Check out the buildings and resources for Mental Health, Career Centres and Writing Centres.

Even if you may not use them, always know where you can go and what you have access to as a student. Taking care of your mental health is key, and if you know that you struggle with mental health, look at the programs your school options have in order to help you. Some schools are not equipped to help their students, but are being pushed to do so with the climate of the world. Career centres will help you build a more professional resume, as you will now be applying to internships, CO-OP, and apprenticeships. Many Universities have CO-OP now, so consider that when applying to schools! Writing in High School and writing in University are very different. Most schools offer an essay writing course (sometimes mandatory), but if you feel yourself unable to formulate a cohesive paper, the writing centre is a great place to make mistakes and learn from them.

8. Get to know your Professors and Teaching Assistants!

Getting to know your Professors and Teachings Assistants will assist you in taking the most that you can out of a course. Participating in class discussions or attending office hours are just two ways to connect. As well, some professors or T.A’s spearhead extracurricular activities. This is very helpful if you intend on applying to any Grad Schools, as you will need roughly 1-3 academic references (the number of academic references depends on which school and program you are applying to).

University is a challenging experience, and the first year is a huge learning curve. These are just some things I, along with my peers, wish we knew earlier. This blog does not cover absolutely everything, but just some basics. Do not put too much pressure on yourself to know everything and be the perfect student right away. As well, if you are ever in doubt, reach our to Rural and Ready to talk to University students who are dedicated to helping you succeed!


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