Your first semester at university can be pretty exciting. New city, new school, new people. Ooooh they’re cute. Oh wait, that’s a statue. But your first semester’s courses can be pretty challenging, too.
Here are some of the things you can expect from your first semester of university courses:
Where am I?
Compared to high school, which is likely one or maybe two buildings, a university campus is massive. Take a jolly walk around campus a few days before school begins and determine where all of your classes are actually located so that you’re not scrambling to find Room 307AB&% in the forest that only appears when you sneeze on the first day.
Also, check and re-check your class schedule periodically before school begins. There are often last-minute classroom changes as the schedule gets finalized. Many students show up to the wrong classroom throughout the semester because of this. (Don’t panic! It happens.)
We’re starting right now?!
Some students may tell you to just skip the first lecture. You can risk it if you want. If you’re lucky, the prof will simply read the syllabus out loud, tell you a bit about themselves, and then end class. BUT… don’t be surprised if your professor jumps immediately into new stuff on the first day. And gives an assignment. Due next week.
Tip: As soon as your professor(s) start teaching new material, start studying. Don’t leave it for a few weeks. If you do, you will struggle to catch up (and likely NEVER catch up).
Before Thanksgiving: Ha! This is easy.
Some professors start off the semester really slowly. Also, the curriculum in some university courses may overlap with the curriculum from some high school courses. So, the first few weeks of university may be a breeze. Don’t get cocky. This will not last.
After Thanksgiving: This is overwhelming. You’re going too fast.
Something about that turkey… It seems to flick a switch in the professor’s head and they suddenly put the pedal to the metal. Professors often cover several chapters in a single lecture. Consult the syllabus before going to class, and be proactive. Read (or at least skim) those chapters before going to class so that you have an idea of what the professor is going to talk about during the lecture. Then, when you’re taking notes in class, you will be able to learn more effectively, and not just concentrate on writing everything down.
Even though you are used to early mornings (most high schools start at 8am or 9am), the dreaded 8am or 8:30 am classes just feel so early. And, if you’re really unlucky, you may have a class that same day that doesn’t end until 10pm. If you live on campus, make sure to get some downtime in between classes. If you don’t live on campus… Make some friends who do. “Hey, can I borrow your bed for like… An hour? No, not with you in it.” Sounds creepy now, but trust me… 8:30am to 10pm really starts to wear on the psyche by December.
Pizza, sub, pizza, sub, pizza…
Even if you’re living at home, you’re going to have to buy food AT SOME POINT on campus. Some campuses have full-on all-you-can-eat all-included cafeterias. Some campuses have food court style cafeterias. Food is expensive. Save where you can. If you have an all-inclusive meal plan, use it as much as you can bear. If you have a fridge in your room, order groceries from the grocery store (or go for a walk and pick them up yourself). If you enjoy cooking, use that as a way to relax after studying.
Tip: Invest in a coffee machine. Don’t spend $3 – $10 a day on coffee at Timmies or Starbucks. Order flavoured coffee online or pick some up at Winners/Home Sense and make the fancy stuff at home for waaaaaay cheaper.
Don’t drink coffee? You will… You will…
It’s Monday morning, and you have no clean underwear left. Aww nuts. What did your mom say to do again? Laun…dry? Ew…
Keep your laundry card loaded with cash (or lots of loonies and quarters on hand) so that you can pop into the laundry room and get a couple of loads of laundry done at a moment’s notice.
Try to figure out when the laundry room isn’t crammed with people so that you don’t have to wait around for a free washer or dryer. Sunday is a pretty popular laundry day. Friday night? Not so much.
Tip: Run out of loonies or quarters? Head to the vending machine with a five-dollar bill. Put it in. Press the “return my money to me, please” button, and voila. Instant change.
High school may have been free weeknights and weekends for hanging out with friends, but uni is going to be all about that studying. Like I said earlier, start studying right away so you don’t get behind. A wise man once told me: “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Don’t wait until the last minute to cram everything in. That doesn’t work. Study at a moderate pace throughout the semester and you won’t have to cram. That means studying on the weekends, too. Brunch and linear algebra? Yay?
Finding a different way to socialize.
Humans are social creatures. We like to be around other people! But with the added homework and studying that university brings, you may not be able to have an amazing social life, great marks, perfect clothes, blah blah blah that you planned for when you were dreaming about that uni life.
So how do you get your friend fix without letting the rest of your life fall apart? Make friends with people who are in the same program and classes as you, who understand that the struggle is indeed real and study with them. Set aside a time in your schedule to meet up at a coffee shop, a favourite place on campus, or at someone’s place. Then, you can all tackle some particularly different problems from calculus or linear together. Then, you won’t have to schedule in separate time to recharge your social batteries during the week.