10 Tips for Incoming First Year University Students

Course offers have arrived and it’s time to think about university, the next big step in your life.

Going from secondary school to university is a big adjustment. Teachers expect students to be more independent. You have more freedom and choice. In some cases, you might be moving out and living on your own for the first time.

Here are some tips to make the transition easier.

1. Get your bearings

Before the school year begins, learn where everything is: classrooms, offices, student union, library, cafeterias, etc. Take a walk around when it’s quiet and there’s no time pressure. Soon enough, you won’t need that map.

The campus will be way larger than your secondary school and you might worry about being lost, but universities are prepared for the influx of new students every year. You won’t be alone and there will be plenty of people around who will be happy to help in the first week. You will get used to it.

Calculate how long it takes to get from place to place so you can know when to leave the house and be prepared.┬áIf you’re commuting from home or live off-campus, this is especially important to do. Work backwards and figure out how much time it takes to get to class and get ready.

2. Pay Attention at Orientation

Orientation is where you will get your schedule, ID, learn some important information about the school, and you’ll meet people and possibly get free food or gifts like tote bags or planners.

Orientation may sound boring, but pay attention. They will answer a lot of common questions and address concerns that a lot of students have.

3. Organise your room and keep it neat

Unpacking bags is never fun. It’s tiring to have to do that after lugging heavy bags out of the car or bus, up the stairs, and into your room. Get it out of the way, then you can go and have fun.

Start the year with your room organised, so you know where everything is and you feel comfortable. Try to keep your room neat and clean throughout the year because there is a housing deposit and you want to get it back and because cleaning up as you go is easier.

If you forgot something, don’t worry. You can always find a shop in town to get what you need.

4. Join a club or society or two

University isn’t just about academics, it’s also about getting to know people and trying new things.

Clubs and societies cost a small fee to join, but if you take advantage of it, it’s well worth the money. They are a great way to meet people outside your course and try new sports or get into new hobbies. Being on the committee of a club or society looks good on your CV too and is an excellent opportunity to learn about leadership. Some of them even offer chances to travel.

5. Budget your money and time

Budgeting isn’t fun either, but it is a necessary part of adulthood, so it’s important to get into good habits in university.

The first two weeks are action packed, lots of parties and going out. It’s easy to spend a lot of money, so have a limit and stick to it.

Know how much money you have to spend and have an idea of what things cost. Figure out how to stretch your money and prioritise what is important. Also make sure you budget some money for an emergency fund. You don’t want to find yourself struggling at the end of the month.

Save money by going to the library and checking out the books you need rather than buying. Take advantage of student discounts and remember to bring your student ID with you to places that offer student discounts. Talk to your roommates about what you need in the house and split costs. Buy stuff secondhand (especially at the end of the school year, that’s when everyone is trying to get rid of stuff). Get in the habit of comparison shopping. Avoid convenience stores and do a weekly shop instead.

Not only is budgeting money important, but also budgeting time. Make sure you set aside enough time for study, relaxing, self care, and socialising. Don’t skip class. It is tempting to skip class because sometimes it doesn’t affect grades, but it’s for the best that you don’t miss a class because it is hard to catch up.

6. Be realistic with your grades

The course work will be more challenging in university and you might experience a slight drop in grades. Don’t panic and don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes because you are learning something new. Five classes per semester is more rigorous than you think and it’s hard to keep up with at first.

Ask for feedback and find out where you went wrong and pay attention to any comments your instructor writes on your assignments and tests and take them into account. Most instructors are happy to meet with you during their office hours and talk about your concerns.

Tutoring is often available on campus. Most universities have free supports like a writing centre or maths learning centre.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It can be intimidating to ask for help in a big classroom. You might worry what people think of you asking questions that might seem obvious to them. There is no such thing as a silly question. Asking those “silly questions” might lead you to ask the less obvious questions. Professors aren’t mind readers so if you have a question, just ask.

If you are worried about asking a question in front of a lot of classmates, another option is asking questions just after class or right before class or via email. Instructors also like to speak to students during their office hours because they have to be there for those hours and usually no one comes in. Still, if you are going to your professor’s office hours, drop an email beforehand.

If their office hours clash with classes or work, email them to set up an appointment outside those hours. It’s their job to help you. When you speak to your professors, it helps you build rapport and they might be willing to write you letters of recommendation for postgrad or a job.

8. Be responsible and take initiative

In university, you are an adult now. You need to take responsibility for yourself. Practise and learn how to cook nutritious meals, wash and repair clothing, and do basic home repairs. Keep your belongings safe and lock your room when you go out. Don’t procrastinate on assignments. Do your share of chores.

As well, take advantage of any opportunities you get. Volunteer to apply what you’ve learnt in class and learn important job skills. Do an Erasmus semester. Get to know locals in your university town.

9. Talk to upperclassmen and classmates

When you pick your course, check Facebook for any freshers groups or course groups and join them. You can also join international student groups even if you’re not an international student. In the student groups, people talk about classes, events on campus, list spare rooms, and sell stuff.

This is easier to do with a smaller course, but if possible, set up a Facebook group for your course so you can get to know classmates, ask questions, and learn from each other.

10. Be yourself and have fun

Ending this list on a positive note, just have fun and stay true to yourself. Don’t fall into peer pressure. Go out and try new things, meet new people, learn about different cultures, make friends. You can do this.

Good luck!

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