As someone preparing for graduate school, I feel as though I have a million questions! The experience reminds me a lot of my experience with my first year of undergrad. The difference now is that I’ve already been living away from my parents’ home for a few years now so my worries are more about the actual program than they are about living on my own for the first time. With that being said, I made it through my undergraduate degree and I also worked for a university in a role which involved helping students transition into first year after high school, so I think it’s safe to say I have a few bits of wisdom worth sharing!
Will I make new friends?
Yes, you will! Even the shyest, most introverted people will make friends in university! The very first girl who introduced herself to me in my first university class became my closest friend throughout my undergrad and we are still close to this day. I know it can be hard leaving behind your high school friends, but that doesn’t mean you should hold yourself back from meeting new people. While I did lose touch with the majority of my high school peers, I am still extremely close to my high school BFF (she’s still my #1 girl!) and I currently live with another friend who I met in the 7th grade! So go ahead and meet new people; it doesn’t mean that you’re leaving behind your old friends completely, it just means you’re making new life-long friends who will help you through the trials and tribulations of university/college!
What if I get home sick?
This was probably my number one concern when I was moving away for my first year of university. In fact, I started to feel homesick 2 weeks before I even moved away and I was an emotional mess for those two weeks leading up to the big day.
While the first 2-3 weeks were rough, I eventually adjusted to living in a new city. Personally, I lived off campus so I had to get acquainted with public transit routes and times, the locations of grocery stores, the bank, and other key places, as well as getting used to starting university. Admittedly, I had a really hard time with the transition, but I made it through and I didn’t quit even when I desperately wanted to. If I can survive the transition, so can you!! (if you’re reading this and you’re currently going through the homesick phase, feel free to leave a comment below if you want to talk to someone about it <3)
Note: if you find that you are really struggling it might be a good idea to reach out to your on-campus mental health services. The therapists there will be able to provide you with professional advice about coping with the transition and they can provide you with the extra sense of support throughout the adjustment phase.
Is university really hard compared to high school?
I’ve answered this one already in a previous post if you want to check that out, but the long and short of it is that I did not experience a huge difference in the level of difficulty. The one major difference was the course load. In high school you complete a lot more assignments but they are worth less so it isn’t as big of a deal if you miss one or two. However, in university there are a lot fewer assignments worth a lot more (we’re talking assignments and exams worth 40-60% of your mark) so it is absolutely imperative that you complete ALL of your assignments and submit them on time in university.
Do I really need to go to orientation week?
As an introvert, I completely understand why the thought of orientation week (freshers week, frosh week–whatever you want to call it) sounds like a living nightmare. But trust me, it is important that you attend. Orientation week gives you a chance to meet new people who can support you over the course of the next few weeks as you adjust to university/college life. They may not be the people who you remain close to for your entire university career, but they will be familiar faces in a somewhat overwhelming world during your transition. Plus, orientation week gives you the chance to explore campus and find your way around which is obviously essential knowledge to have, especially when you’re on the hunt for that evasive Psychology 101 classroom at 8am on a Monday morning.
Is the ‘freshman 15’ a real thing?
Yes and no. In my case, it was more like the freshman 20; however, I know other people who actually lost weight in first year university because they started going to the gym without having to pay a monthly membership fee. If you want to avoid the freshman 15 the simplest way to do so is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It will be tempting to eat pizza and burgers for dinner everyday, especially if your university cafeteria is an all-you-can-eat style buffet; however, it’s a better idea to stick to the healthier options like the salad bar and healthier sources of protein to give you energy to get you through the day. Eating healthier will not only help you maintain your weight, but it will also make you feel better and keep your immune system strong which will help you perform better in your classes.
Should I have a part-time job during school? Will I be able to manage it?
This really depends on your program and how much time you are dedicating to lectures, labs, tutorials, and maybe even internships or placements. Personally, I did not work in my first semester of university because I had so many other transitions to deal with. However, I worked for the rest of my degree (part-time during the semesters, full-time in the summer) and at one point I was working 3 jobs at the same time (approximately 10 hours at each).
While I would NOT recommend working three jobs while you are a student, I would definitely encourage you to work one part-time job throughout the school year, even if you’re only making enough for pocket money. Every little bit helps when it comes to university/college and you would be surprised how much debt you’re saving yourself by working 10-20 hours per week in university. It may not seem like it adds up to much when you’re spending the money on groceries or rent as soon as you get your pay cheque; however, that means a few hundred dollars per month that you won’t need to take out in the form of a loan or line of credit. In the long run, this could save you thousands of dollars by the end of your degree.
What if I don’t like my roommate?
I’ve been there. Yes, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. If you find that your roommate is not the instant BFF that you’ve been imagining, that’s totally fine! You will make other friends! The important thing now is setting some ground rules (ie. keeping the room clean, quiet times, etc.) so that you can co-exist without being completely miserable and becoming arch-enemies. You don’t have to be best friends, but you DO have to respect each other.
Do I really need to buy all of the textbooks on my reading list?
NO!! I wish I knew this in my first year of university because it would have saved me hundreds of dollars! Wait to buy your textbooks until the first week of school when you receive the course outline (also known as the syllabus). This will give you an idea of how often you will be reading content from the books. If there is a book that you’ll be reading every week then it’s probably a good idea to purchase a copy. However, if there is a book that you only need to read a few chapters of, consider borrowing it from the library instead.
Also, it’s a good idea to look online to see if your required books are available for a cheaper price if you buy them used. I’ve bought the majority of my textbooks cheaper online than the prices at the campus bookstore and I’ve found quite a few for really good deals on used books online! Have a look to see if you can get a used copy for a fraction of the price!
Should I live in residence for my first year or stay at home?
When I worked for a university, this is one of the top questions that students would ask me. A lot of students these days are choosing to go to schools close to home in order to save money; however, they fear that they will be missing out on the experience by living off-campus. The truth is, living in residence can be a great way to feel more immersed in the university experience, but it’s not essential to feeling connected to your university community.
Personally, I never lived on campus because it was cheaper for me to pay rent than it was to live in rez. I found ways to stay connected to campus and meet new people by getting involved in campus activities and getting an on-campus job. This way, I got the best of both worlds because I saved money by living off-campus while still feeling like I was living that university experience that I treasured so much!
These are some of the questions that I wish that I had the answer to before I moved away for university so I hope that it will help to ease the worries of others who are going through this transition in the coming weeks/months. Let me know if you have any other questions or if you’d like to see more posts like this! I’ll be creating a whole university series of posts over the next few weeks as I gear up for grad school in September! In the mean time, I hope you’re all enjoying your summer!
Thanks for stopping by!