How to thrive in your first year


Photo by Heather Davidson
Photo by Heather Davidson

Starting university will bring a lot of changes to your life. You’ll meet new people and perhaps lose touch with older friends.

You’ll notice a change between style and pace of teaching from high school — things will move a lot faster now.
Most of you are living away from home for the first time and that is fairly overwhelming. First year may seem tough at first but as time goes by you begin to adjust and it becomes a lot easier.

As you embark on this journey, you should be prepared. The following are tips to make your university experience as meaningful as possible.

Get to know the campus; Wilfrid Laurier University may not be as big as other universities, but it has quite a few neat places. In your free time, try to walk around and explore. From the concourse to faculty lounges, you are bound to find a spot to study alone or with friends.

Introduce yourself to people in your residence; these are the people you will either be living with for the next year or seeing on a regular basis.

Say hello to the person you ride the elevator with — you might end up with a new friend. Get to know your floor, go to the dining hall together, form study groups, have movie nights and so on.

Participate in extracurricular activities; take initiative and get involved in some of the variety of activities available.

Laurier has a variety of clubs, organizations, fraternities/sororities and sports that students are encouraged to try. If you are not able to find a suitable club, you can start your own.

Extracurricular activities are a great way to get to know people with similar interests and make new friends. They are also a great way to explore new interests and build important skills. However, though extracurricular activities are important, it’s important that you don’t over-commit yourself and sacrifice your studies. Some people are able to play sports, write for The Cord, volunteer in the community, work on campus and still keep a great GPA. Some are not. Know your limits.

On the topic of academics, the best way to learn the material is by attending class. Sometimes a textbook is required, but don’t solely rely on it.

The majority of what you are tested on is lecture material. Professors also give subtle hints in class about what they are looking for in a project or which material will be tested.

Sometimes sleeping in and missing early morning class is tempting, but try your best to avoid it.

In addition to attending classes, keeping up with the assigned readings is essential to getting good grades.

Even though some professors and some of your friends may share their notes online, it is important to take down your own notes regularly throughout the semester to avoid extra stress around midterms and exams.

This will give you extra time to review notes. Do practice tests, and more importantly, learn what you don’t know before it is too late to get help from a professor, a teaching assistant or a friend.

Professors hold office hours every week, and it can be extremely intimidating to go to their office at first, but it is worth your time. Whether it is advice, trouble with assignments or opportunities on your field of study, professors will be able to help. They have ample experience and are passionate about what they do; you can learn a lot from them outside of the classroom as well.

Get to know them and let them get to know you. Some day, this connection you’ve made might result in a glowing reference letter for a graduate school application or job.

Studying is important, but so is finding a balance between work and fun. University is a great time to get out there and try new things. There are many opportunities to do this at Laurier.

For example, you may want to attend events at Wilf’s, concerts put on regularly by the faculty of music or the events put on by the residence councils.

Make sure to stay informed on the many events happening on campus throughout the year and attend them with friends whenever possible.

Something to always keep in mind is it’s okay not to be okay; if you are sick, feeling isolated or depressed, make use of the services available at Laurier. You do not have to face these issues by yourself. Contact the Wellness Centre to receive advice on treatment options and book an appointment. You can also talk to your don, as they are trained to assist students who are struggling. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.



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Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.