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Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

05/09/2017
With summer coming to an end, it's time to kick your life into full gear. No matter if you're going back to school or you work full time, fall is a fresh start for everyone.  Today's post is about the things that I wish I did while I was in university, ways to be more productive, better time management, making new friends and getting better grades. When fall rolls around it's hard not to feel a little excitement about the weather and 'back to school feels' before having a twang of sadness that you're now climbing the corporate ladder instead.


Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting University

When I was in university I was looking forward to working full time, and although I prefer working over being a student (who can say no to a stable pay cheque?) there are still aspects of post-secondary that I miss. Being able to see your friends, choose your schedule, have more freedom and choices than you do while you're working. Here are some tips for those of you who are still in school.

 Note, this is from my perspective as a student who still lived at home and commuted ~1 hour each way to school. As such your experience might be way different than mine, this is just my 2 cents.

Choose your Schedule Wisely
In university I minored in French and as there are limited numbers of classes I had two options. Either take the class from 9-11am twice a week, or take the same class from 6-8pm twice a week. At that time I was looking through my course catalogue imagining how nice it would be to sleep in instead of waking up early (like I was used to in high school) so I circled the 6-8 pm course and went along my merry way. Wow do I regret that. I would sleep in during the morning and then slowly start getting ready to go to school. By the time I got home at night (after an hour commute!) the weather, the weight of my backpack and a full day of classes mentally exhausted me, so I would just go to bed instead of doing any homework....this started a horrible cycle of "I'll just do it tomorrow" and then finding every excuse in the book to wait yet another day.

Really look into the options that you have for classes. Do they offer similar classes at different times? Where are they located on campus? Will it take you a while to walk from Class A to Class B? These are all questions that you need to ask before deciding on taking a course. It might even be worth it to skip a course until next year/semester so that it can fit your schedule better. 

Use Downtime to your Advantage
Sometimes when I would have an hour between classes I would just chill; by myself, on my phone, with friends or go for a walk. I would highly recommend that you use any and all time to your advantage. If you have an hour between classes, go directly from class A to class B and sit down in the room/hallway and do some readings or homework while waiting. If you have an essay you can jot down major points and start figuring out your thesis. You can start searching for books and articles to put on hold at the library for you to pick up. It's so easy to just have this little hour long breaks just slip by and then before you know it, you've completed a full day of classes but haven't actually completed any work.

Make a Schedule and Stick to it 
Schedule in everything, hanging out with friends, study sessions, work, going to the gym etc etc etc. By doing so it makes it a lot easier to stick to the plan instead of "doing it later".  Later, this word should be your enemy while you're in school! Seriously just buckle down and start it now! After a few weeks in school you should start to get a hang of things so now is when you should know how long on average it takes to do readings/homework/assignments per class, so change your schedule accordingly. Maybe in the beginning you have more time for friends and the gym, but once midterms come around, you might have to rearrange some things.

Write it Down and Plan Ahead
Literally it's so easy to do and yet I wish that I was better at it. Now that I'm done school I love my moleskin notebook, I carry it with me and I love cracking it open and filling up the pages. The main problem with using a planner in university was; 1- the agenda was too big for me to carry everywhere and 2- "I'll just write it down later". Go to the bookstore and buy a cute agenda for $20. The ones at school are free however they're large and clunky so I always hated carrying it around with me, and as such, I barely carried it around and never used it, so it was as if I essentially never even owned an agenda, rather relying on "I'll just remember it".

Maybe paper agendas aren't your thing, but seriously, there's an app for that. Whatever it may be to help keep you organized, there's an app for it. 

Use your friends to your advantage and make sure that you keep each other accountable, either with sticking to a study schedule or something as simple as keeping each other accountable for writing in your agendas.

Use your Resources
There are honestly so many resources available for students; financial, physical, educational and psychological- you just have to put in the time and effort to find them and use them. Don't be ashamed. I always had a twinge of guilt that I was going to get extra help because 1- I was nervous about how stupid I would appear to the teacher/TA/student helping me out 2- I would have rather hung out with my friends 3- I didn't want to trek to another part of campus (especially during winter)

Honestly, those are all really stupid excuses (#firstyearmistakes)

Side note, my friends and I would always laugh about #firstyearmistakes that we did because seriously being new in post secondary is a huge change relative to high school.

Join Extra-Curriculur Activities
Now this is probably the most cliché one that there is and I do say it with a grain of salt. Joining a sports team or some sort of club is a great way to meet new people, no doubt about it. But in between a full course load, a part time job, friends, commuting and trying to get ample sleep , I couldn't justify yet another commitment, especially when the hours were all over the place. Sports practices could last as late at 10pm but if I had class until 4.... I didn't want to herp derp around campus for that long. Yes of course I could study, but I couldn't relax at all because I wasn't at home and had my bag with me.

Figure out the Campus Hot Spots
What I mean by this isn't wifi hotspots (although important) or drinking hot spots, rather places where you can find a microwave to heat up your food. Find a place where you're allowed to eat and relax; couches, cheap eating options etc etc. Libraries are great and all but what about just hanging out with your friends? Where do you heat up last nights spaghetti and where can I refill my tea with free hot water?

Also, washrooms.

Figure out where the best washrooms are because when you have layers and layers of clothes, a heavy backpack, headphones and your lunch bag, you need to figure out where you can go to a clean washroom where you have enough space to turn around and put your stuff down.

What do you think are some of the things that you would have told your younger self before starting post-secondary? Or better yet, what are some of your #firstyearmistakes? Let me know in the comments below!

-Diana
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