You’ve been accepted to university, congrats!

Whether you’re staying at home, moving to another country, or somewhere in between, here’s a list of tips and tricks for managing your first year in a new school.

Tip #1 Plan your classes accordingly

Some universities have you sign up for courses and do most the grunt work for you. They’ll plan out what your schedules look like entirely, and while you can play around with your course schedule after you receive it, you have no say in the initial planning. Others have the courses all planned out before you even sign up, such as the University of Toronto and require the student to put together what their class schedule will look like. What can make this especially challenging is how massive UofT’s campus is. If you just select certain classes that interest you without considering where the buildings are located, you could possibly be trying to get from one end of downtown Toronto to the other in only 10 minutes. Most of the time universities will set up your first year, first semester classes for you, but after that it’s all on your to plan your next semester. Make sure you find out what kind of course selection policy your university has, and if needed, find a map!

Tip #2 Find where your classes are the day before

It’s a new campus, it’s understandable you might not know exactly where to go just yet. However there’s nothing quite so embarrassing as showing up to a class late. Even if you’re stealthy about it, chances are at least one other person will see you. In addition, if you’re late, you may not even be able to get the seat you wanted (unless of course, you wanted to sit at the back of the lecture hall).

This is also especially helpful if you have two back-to-back classes and may need to speed-walk to get there on time. Nothing worse than showing up late and sweaty.

Of course there’s also the flip side to being late, which is being ridiculously early. In my first year, I had no clue where I was going so I ended up getting to class at least 30 minutes before it even began. Imagine how productive I could have been if I hadn’t been so worried about being late!

Tip #3 No, you don’t have to raise your hand to go to the washroom

High school has a certain way of drilling into your head that you need to ask for permission to do anything other than sit at a desk and pay attention. In university, people don’t pay much attention to what you do, so just get up, try not to disturb anyone, and go. You don’t need to disrupt an entire class of 500 students to inform them you gotta go.

Tip #4 Start your assignments and readings early

I cannot stress this enough. You may look at your syllabus on the first day and think it doesn’t look like much. Pssht, two assignments, that’s all? You had to do 20 of them in high school. You laugh at the readings. One chapter a week is nothing.


You are wrong.

University moves quickly, and a the work can pile up fast.

I’m a huge keener, and nothing quite gives me second-hand anxiety such as a friend who says they have a ten-paged assignment due at midnight that they haven’t started yet, because they still had to do the textbooks readings necessary to complete it. By forcing yourself to do this last minute work you likely won’t be able to produce your highest quality and thus may get a lower grade than you want.

It’s good to get ahead because then it gives you room to let yourself fall behind to where it’s recommended you be. There will always be at least one week in your semester, no matter the program where all the assignments , projects, and midterms seem to fall into. Get ahead in your courses to allow yourself room to breathe during these monstrous weeks.

Tip #5 Go visit your teaching assistants

Most classes have teaching assistants, TAs, especially the large ones. No one expects one professor to mark 500 student assignments in a week.

A lot of the time, the marking of assignments is done by TAs, therefore it’s more beneficial to visit them than your actual professor. TAs can be a very good resource for finding out what kind of things are going to be marked on your assignment. Chances are they’ve also take the course you’re in before (maybe even with the same professor) and may have tips and tricks for how to study and pass the midterms and finals.

Tip #6 Put your student email to its full potential

Besides being more professional than that email you created in 3rd grade, your .edu email has a lot of benefits.

No matter the program, you’re likely to write something online, whether it be your class notes or the assignments you professor insists must be .pdf. However a lot of writing programs can cost money, or offer you a limited amount of storage. With an .edu email, you’re able to get the entire Microsoft Office for free. Yes, free – visit this link.

What’s next is your email can get your free Amazon Prime, so you can get items delivered to your place in two days for free. All you need to do is sign up with a student email.

Many other websites also let you get discounts on their products just for being a student, such as Spotify, Apple Music, Adobe, and others. Sometimes it pays to be spending the money for school!

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