Hello hello hellooo!
As many of my readers already know, I’m going to be starting grad school in September and I am beyond excited! I’m going to be registering for courses soon and with the next steps fast approaching I am reminded of the worries and questions that I had going into my very first year of my undergraduate degree. As a result, I thought I might channel some of my excitement about going back to school into a post that might help newly-graduated high school students prepare for university! So, without further adieu, here are my words of wisdom for the first year of university:
1. It’s not as scary as you might think
I remember being terrified at the thought of university. Moving to a new city, meeting so many new people, being responsible for getting all your work done and still finding time to take care of yourself; it all seemed so overwhelming. While the first few days or weeks might be challenging, it’s not as bad as your anxiety might have you predicting.
2. The assignments aren’t that much harder…just different
The transition from completing high school assignments to completing university assignments is really not that much more challenging. The main difference that I noticed is that university assignments tend to be bigger and worth a lot more of your final grade; however, there are also a lot fewer assignments that need to be completed. If you’re completing an arts degree like I did your classes might only consist of one major paper, a presentation, and an exam while other classes might have 3 exams and nothing else. It might take some getting used to, but if you stay on top of assignments and get a head start rather than waiting until the last minute to complete things then you should be fine.
3. Make time for yourself
In my first year of uni I was so worried about getting straight A’s that I spent every waking moment doing readings or working on assignments. I stressed myself out so much that I ended up in the hospital (twice) due to an illness that the doctors suggested could be linked to stress. After that I started to make more time for myself and I found that I was better able to focus and retain information when I allowed myself to take breaks.
4. Nothing is more important that your mental and physical health
Again, don’t let yourself get so overwhelmed and stressed out that it makes you sick. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can have a detrimental impact on your ability to successfully complete your degree so make sure you are self-aware and if you need support then visit your campus health centre. I live in Canada so my university had a healthcare plan for students to access mental health services. This may vary depending on your country, but it’s worth doing some research and figuring out what services are available to you and making use of those services while they are free!
5. University is not like the movies
Movies have a habit of depicting the university experience as one giant party palace in which students go to class by day, party all night and still manage to pass with decent grades. News flash: if you spend your time partying every night, or even every week, you will not be able to keep up with the workload of university. If you are going to university for the sake of parties then you are basically throwing away thousands of dollars worth of tuition.
6. Financial aid exists, even if it is elusive
Speaking of tuition, financial aid is something that every university student will have to think about at some point or another. If you’re going to be attending a public university, you will most likely have the opportunity to apply for various scholarships, bursaries, and grants. I cannot stress this enough: APPLY FOR AS MANY AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!!! I have spent the past year of my life working for a university alongside financial aid officers and I cannot believe how many students miss out on opportunities for financial aid simply because they do not take a few minutes to fill out an application.
7. If you can, find a part-time job to help you financially
I remember when I entered my first year of university I quit my part-time job that I’d had since grade 9 because I expected that it was the norm for university students to dedicate all of their time to their studies. I expected the workload to be so rigorous that I would not have time for a job. This was not the case. In fact, I can’t think of a single student in my program that did not have a part-time job while completing their degree. By my second semester of university I was back to working 20-30 hours per week and by my fourth year of university I was working three jobs to pay rent, tuition, groceries, etc.
8. You need to hold yourself accountable
This is probably the biggest difference between high school and university. If you do not hand in an assignment in high school, teachers will hound you until you finally complete it. In university, professors couldn’t care less if you complete your assignments or not. If you don’t do your assignments, you fail. Simple as that. You have to be responsible and manage your time effectively. I recommend purchasing an agenda and marking the due dates of all of your assignments at the beginning of each semester so that you never miss a deadline.
These are all of the pointers that I have for now, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty more university-inspired posts coming your way as the school year approaches! I hope that this post has been helpful for those of you who are getting ready to start university! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or additional words of wisdom!