A first year’s guide to university according to George Roy

First-years, you’re not in high school anymore. University, as I’m sure you’ve been told, is much different than high school. Maybe you don’t believe it. I didn’t when I began university. Knowing now how this place works now, I wish I had changed a few things back then. And there are a few things I wish someone had told me.

I’m sure by this point you’ve figured out how to sign-up for classes. Although, some of you may have had your parents or someone else do this for you. Mistake. Check over the classes you’re in; talk with an advisor.

Don’t wait until you’ve wasted time and money to discover you’ve taken useless classes. You can use you U1 year to take a variety of courses to figure out what you want to do. The sooner you have a goal, the sooner you can finish it. Double check to make sure you know the prerequisites for future courses. I missed a social science requirement and ended up having to come back to take a single introductory course.

Once you finally get into a class, learn to make friends. Not only with those around you — they’ll help you study and serve as note takers when you’re sick — but also with the prof. Learn where the prof’s office is and ask questions. Not only will this help you learn, but the prof now knows your face — this is a good thing. This is the start of making connections. It’s never too early to think forward to when you’re done your degree and starting your career.
The more people you know in your field the easier it will be to find work later. If possible, find someone who’s already done what your doing. They’ll have a lot of tips specific to you, which could save you a lot of frustration.

Don’t throw out your course syllabus. What you may not know, and what your prof may not even know either, is that that piece of paper is important if you ever want to go to another institution and need to transfer class credits. They need that information to assess what you’ve been taught.

It’s also a good idea to check over that syllabus for what readings you will be assigned. If you need to read only a few chapters out of a book, it may be easier and cheaper to borrow the book or read it at a library than to buy the whole thing. If you do need the whole thing, check for books at Archives, the UMSU used bookstore, as well as online at sites like Amazon.com or Kijiji.ca.

You’re a small fish in a big pond now. Popularity is no longer the ultimate goal; nerds are usually the ones that make it here. Dressing and acting like you belong elevates you to a more sophisticated level and shows you know what you’re doing. Spending lots of time on campus helps you get into the student mind frame. There are plenty of student groups, things to do, places to eat, etc. that all help you absorb the campus life.

If you feel a little behind, don’t worry. Avoid the lines and pay your tuition online or with a cheque in the drop box. Your student card is only really necessary for the bus or gym right now; wait until the lines die down to pick it up.

Be organized and attentive. A routine is a great help to keeping your sanity. If you do find yourself a little panicked, “Keep calm and carry on.”