Features

University Survival 101

Photo Credit: Aloysius Wong, Photo Editor

Helpful advice for first-year students

Sharon Lee, Associate Features Editor

It is the month of September and you know what that means — another brand-new school year has just begun! Starting a new school year is quite exciting; you get to reunite with friends you haven’t seen in forever or start a new course that you’ve been waiting so long to take. The unfortunate fact is that it may also come with a lot of stress. If you’re an upper-year student, you know the feeling of scrambling to find textbooks at an overcrowded U of T Bookstore. The stress is even worse, however, when it’s your first year of university. I still remember the panic of having to figure out what each building code meant, then having to find the location of my small classroom within the huge building. No one deserves to go through such trauma, so to help all the first-years make the most out of their four years here at the University of Toronto (U of T), here is a list of advice that I believe will make your university career a memorable one. You can thank me later.

Join a club or sports team — or do both

I know, this tip is a little bit obvious and overused, but that’s because it is truly the best thing to do in university. Unlike high school, classes at U of T consist of a lot of students, with some even reaching over a thousand students. With so many new faces each time you go to class, it’s almost impossible to make a new friend, let alone sit with the same person twice. In a club or sports team, you get to spend a significant amount of time with people who share the same interests as you. University is not all about academics; getting involved in extracurricular activities outside of class is an effective way to take your mind off work and relieve the stress that builds up alongside your amount of homework. As a bonus, some executive positions of clubs offer students a credit for the Co-Curricular Record (CCR), which is an official document of your involvement on campus. The CCR is a great way to show off your skills and experiences to future employers or graduate schools. So, start off your university life by getting involved! Perhaps a position as a writer for The Mike may interest you.

Go to events held on campus.

In my opinion, this is the fun part of being a U of T student. I always look forward to attending various events on campus because of what they offer to students. Their offers range from academic advice to social gatherings with friends. Some of them even come with free food or swag to collect! These events are hosted by different student groups or organizations that are made specifically for U of T students throughout the year. Some examples include a night of figure skating at the Varsity Arena, hosted by MoveU, where skates and helmet rentals can be provided for free to students. You can also watch a musical or play by various drama clubs at Hart House Theatre. Within the University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) community, student organizations such as the USMC Student Union or the team of commuter dons are always preparing a list of fun events for everyone to enjoy. Their events are made to allow students to get to know each other and to become familiar with student leaders who are available for help, so it is a good idea to attend them. Some events that are helpful for school are the academic talks and seminars explaining how to get a successful career in the future. Professors, researchers, and other special guest speakers are invited to these academic sessions to give their best advice for students. Always be on the lookout for more events by following different student clubs and other organizations on social media. Attending events on campus will leave you with a good impression of all the things that U of T has to offer.

Take advantage of U of T resources.

As a U of T student, you have exclusive access to the many resources offered to help you with both your academics and lifestyle. So take advantage of them! If you were to take only one thing away from this article, let it be this: Go to office hours. This may seem like an unpopular opinion, but going to office hours is not a waste of time. Your professors are taking time out of their busy schedules to personally answer questions that students may have. Even if you don’t have a question to ask, sitting in office hours and listening to discussions will help with your understanding of the course content. Other helpful academic resources are the writing and research centres, such as the one located at Kelly Library. The counselors at the library help look over your work to improve your writing and research skills, whether it be for an English essay or a scientific research paper. Furthermore, U of T offers one-on-one appointments for resume and cover letter writing help, which are located at the Koffler Student Services Centre. These appointments definitely help with landing a job interview. Lastly, to help students cope with the overwhelming stress that comes with schoolwork, there are health and well-being resources available for students to use. This year, with a new mental health task force established, U of T is on track to aid with the struggles that may be experienced in the lives of its students.

Take elective courses that interest you.

Take a break from the usual subjects that are required for your program and take a course that appeals to your interest. Taking elective courses is one way to fulfill the breadth requirements needed for graduation. Breadth requirements include five categories, each one consisting of courses that range from different subject areas. The benefits of taking elective courses include expanding your knowledge outside of your main field of study and motivating you to study by providing courses that aren’t as difficult as compulsory ones. As a first-year student, you have priority access to unique courses known as First-Year Seminars, which are classroom-sized courses intended to help with completing breadth requirements. Since these courses are restricted to first-year students only, it is a good idea to try them out while you still can. If you’re ever doubtful of how well you will do in a course, there is always the credit/no credit (CR/NCR) option that you can fall back on. This option, only available on elective courses, allows a course to be counted toward a breadth requirement or a degree credit, but it will not affect your GPA. With this in mind, go out and find a course that will make your semester look a whole lot brighter.

Look after yourself.

University has its ups and downs, so make sure you double-check on your well-being throughout the year. In order to be successful in school, place self-care first in your priorities. In university, you have many responsibilities that no one will remind you about, so make sure to manage your time well. Try creating a daily timetable for writing down your plans for the day and include time for any breaks that you may need. After a long day of hard work, brighten up your mood by treating yourself at your favourite restaurant or going for a bubble tea run with friends. Remember not to put too much stress on yourself, and if needed, utilize the mental health resources available to you on campus!

Time flies by when you’re having fun. In the blink of an eye, you will find yourself walking across the stage at Convocation Hall to receive your degree. Make sure you get the best out of the four short years of undergrad here at U of T by trying out my five tips. Good luck first-years, I’ll see you on the other side!