I knew university would teach me new things, but I never thought the topic would be myself. I went into university with a solid plan of completing an undergraduate degree in business, and continuing onto law school, with an end goal of specializing in corporate law. Now, halfway through my first year, I have this new desire to go study primates in the Congo.
…. Is not how you go about picking your major. Flipping a coin won’t cut it, either. Unfortunately, there is no short-cut around this decision, and it’s going to take a ton of consideration. The time to declare our majors is quickly approaching, and ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. Unfortunately, I can’t offer any advice, as I’m currently struggling through the same crisis, but I have had the opportunity to ask some upper years, and here’s what they had to say about this crucial time of your education:
STOP. RELAX. Enjoy the easy-going high school days— it’s the calm before the storm. You’re stressing so much about the future, and on university acceptances that you’re forgetting to enjoy what’s right in front of you. Don’t take those high school friends for granted. Don’t take the participation marks, that are worth 30% of your grade, for granted. Don’t take the free education, the lack of homework, or the classroom of no more than 25 kids for granted. I’m warning you, you’ll miss all of that.
If you think getting into university is the hardest part, you’ll realize it’s definitely not— it’s staying in that’s the challenge. You’ll study for hours for tests and work late into nights on assignments, but one thing high school failed to teach you was that studying hard doesn’t guarantee you good grades. What you’ll quickly come to learn upon entering university is the trick is to develop good study habits that work for you, so that you can spend less time studying “hard” and more time studying effectively. But, once you develop a good study plan, you won’t mind the excessive workload, and you’ll actually come to love what you’re learning, because the work is so much more interesting than what you’re doing in high school, and you’ll come to appreciate that!
Also, you should know, DON’T BELIEVE ALL THOSE UNIVERSITY FACTS YOU READ ONLINE! First of all, you really should stop looking up every single concern regarding university, and about what you should expect, because Google can’t even begin to explain the real university experience– you’ll experience that for yourself soon enough, so stop scaring yourself with other peoples’ experiences. Just like everything else on the internet, be wary! Your marks DO NOT drop by 30% (as long as you maintain good study habits and don’t slack off). You won’t make life-long friends within the first two days (good friendships shouldn’t be rushed)! People HAVE NOT suddenly and drastically matured (first-year is just a bunch of overgrown high school kids- same immature minds)! And most importantly, despite many claims that “first year doesn’t count”, it most definitely DOES count (so don’t even think about slacking off).
You did it a few months ago in high school, yet somehow, the concept of 8am classes has become unthinkable. Whether you’re an economics student like myself, or just procrastinated with course selections, there’s a good chance that you got stuck with an 8am class or tutorial in your first year. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to manipulate your schedule, ending up with an early class at some point in your university career is inevitable. From my experience, the best ways to tackle an early morning would be to:
Prepare for your day at night.
Prepare your bag and get your clothes ready the night ahead of your early morning. Do as much as possible the night before and leave as little as possible for the next morning. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to do everything 10 minutes before you leave for an early class will never end well, and you’ll find yourself forgetting half your textbooks and nothing to write with once you get to school.
Set alarms. Not one, but several.
Your phone should look something like this:
You’ll hate yourself in the morning when your alarm is going off every 5 minutes, but you gotta do what you gotta do to make your 8am class on time!
Skipping breakfast may save you time in the morning, but you’ll regret it when you’re starving halfway into your class. And on top of being grumpy about having to wake up early, you’ll be even grumpier when you’re hungry.
Having my fair share of 8am classes, I can confidently say that the best way to combat 8am classes is to avoid them. There’s no secret formula to tackling early mornings, and if you’re not a morning person, chances are you won’t miraculoursly become one at any point in the semester. So if possible, try scheduling later classes. If there’s no way out of an 8am lecture, then try some of these tips to help get you through your early mornings!
I’m sure that first semester was quite an experience for all of us, and by “experience”, I’m referring to Professor Randy Pausch’s definition of the word: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”. We all came into university with preconceived notions of what to expect, but statistically speaking, many first-year students are shocked during first semester, when they’re hit with the reality of university. That said however, although we all may have made our fair share of mistakes during first semester, it wasn’t a completely unfulfilling experience. Hopefully, we can all learn from our first semester of university, avoid repeating the terrible mistakes we made, and make our second semester even better.
One thing that I hope everyone has accepted is that, as soon as the semester starts, we need to dive face-first into work-mode. Most people were still in the summer or frosh mindset when school started in September, and the first few weeks of school were spent socializing and procrastinating on readings. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to ease our way into the workload if professors aren’t going to ease into the course (which they don’t). We can’t start off laidback and then eventually become immersed in university life when we feel ready. Again, after that amazing winter break, it’s a struggle to go back to studying, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from first semester, it’s that we have to push ourselves to get back into that mode to avoid falling behind so early in the semester!
The next thing we should be quickly learning, especially around this time when textbook sales are soaring, is that it’s important to keep notes from your past classes. After my exams, I threw out all of my old notes as a celebration of completing the course and never having to take it again, but I now learned that was a huge mistake. That old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” could not be more true when it comes to old course notes, where the price you’re selling a textbook for can go up by ten to twenty dollars with notes included! Also, it’s important to keep your textbook in prime condition, to get more money from future buyers.
Lastly, the golden rule: GO TO CLASS! Skipping class to get a few more hours of sleep may seem like a great idea at the time, but it’ll leave you full of regret when you’re drawing a blank on the final exam because you missed an important lecture. Also, remember you pay for all your classes, even the ones you skip, so you might as well go!
Referring back to Professor Pausch’s idea of experience, he says, “Experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer”. Hopefully, you all use your first semester experiences to create an even better second semester for yourself. Good luck!
This year, instead of just looking forward to winter break for the food and family time, I’m also looking forward to the stress-free feeling that this winter break will bring.
Unlike high school, where exams are scheduled in January, university exams are held in December, right before the holidays, leaving you absolutely stress-free and able to enjoy your break to the fullest. In high school, when exams are in January, half of your winter break is dedicated to studying (or at least should be, because that seems to make sense).
But when do high school kids ever make sensible decisions? So the winter break often goes by with lots of sleep and lots of fun, but very little studying, which leaves you feeling extremely guilty.
But this year, now that exams are finished right before the break, we can set our textbooks aside for two whole weeks without feeling guilty! So take advantage of this winter break and enjoy it to the fullest, whether that’s spending time with friends and family, or doing absolutely nothing and just relaxing. I know that when these exams are over, I’m going into hibernation 🙂
Today I was walking down the shady tunnel between Kaneff and Davis, when I heard footsteps behind me. Knowing that there was someone behind me, I held the door open for him, and he was so grateful. The man behind me was an elderly janitor, who had just finished work for the day at UTM. He seemed friendly and we struck up a conversation immediately. At one point, he asked me if I was in first year and how I was liking it so far. I told him it was pretty good, just a lot of work. He agreed and said it did seem like a lot of work. Then he uttered these golden words that really stuck with me. He said: “But if you never start, you never finish”.