University/College freshmen – do your homework! 6 tips to help you prep for first year

This post is specially for my followers who just graduated from high school and their parents/families. High school is a time you can look back to as one of your favourite four-year sets of your life so far. Key words: so far. If you’re continuing on to post-secondary studies in a college or university, those few years may be even greater.

University lecture hall
University lecture hall. Photograph by Anu J Photography.

Post-secondary education is a new chapter of your life, and can often be overwhelming and daunting, but worry not! Go in prepared — to have fun and to do what you went there to do — and it’ll be a helluva lot easier. Here are some tips to make your life less worrisome as you enter the world of post-secondary…

1. Follow your school through social media

Think you’re a social media guru? Chances are you’re not using it to its full capability. Find your school, your registrar services, your student government and clubs on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and more. They’re everywhere. Schools recognize that young people are most active online and they are using their websites and social media sites to provide helpful links, resources and information to prospective, incoming and existing students. Follow follow follow! Check out my post Ontario University resources on social media; and coming soon… Ontario College resources on social media.

2. Find your peers

Social media, again, can be a great tool. Facebook, for example, provides numerous groups that help people with common interests meet each other. Search for your school and for your student government, and for related clubs on Facebook. Connect with the students that’ll be attending with you, studying in the same program, living in the same residence building, etc.

3. Find a mentor

Most schools have a student mentoring system or orientation system that helps new students get accustomed to life at their new post-secondary institute. Even if there aren’t programs already in place, contact your school’s administration or admissions department and ask them if they can help you arrange something like this. Find a student (2nd year or above) preferably in the same program and similar interests to you. They can help you navigate the campus, find extra-curricular activities that you may enjoy, or help you out with understanding the academic structure of the institution you’re entering. There are a hundred things I know going into third year at my university that I wish I’d known going into first year itself. Let their experience benefit you!

4. Know who your academic advisor is

At a high school, student bodies are just a few hundred students… chances are that you and your academic advisor (or guidance counsellor) know each other by name, they know your academic history, they know your goals and your circumstances. But in post-secondary, with single class sizes themselves being a few hundreds, the student body consists of thousands and thousands of students, and often limited advisors. Call your faculty or program department in advance. Find out about their student advising services. Who do you go to for advice on program courses? Enrolling issues? Grade reappraisals? Better to know who it is that can help you before you come to the point where you will actually need to use that resource (and then going on a last-minute wild goose chase)!

5. Get involved

It’s easy to find out what clubs and student associations your future school offers. Pick and choose which you want to get involved with, and definitely get involved. Start off with general membership in the first year, so that in future years, you can get more and more involved in a particular club/activity and hold a role of responsibility and leadership. Being involved in a club allows you to meet new friends and future colleagues, get leadership and teamwork experience, do the things you love outside of the classroom, get references from your seniors and supervisors, as well as get a great addition to your resume.

6. Do campus tours, and ask questions

“I already did a campus tour last November before I applied to the school!” is perhaps sufficient for some, but to help give you the best start to your post-secondary experience, do at least one more campus tour. Universities and colleges offer campus tours almost all year round, and a lot of extra tours during the months leading up to the start of a new academic session. Go on the tour with your parents, your friends, or alone. Meet people that will be attending with you. The tour leaders are usually upper-year students or employees that know a lot about the campus and can provide you with answers (or directions and references on how to find the answers) to questions you have. Ask, ask, ask! Don’t be shy. The resources are there to help you!

Hope these tips help give you a good start to the new chapter of your life. Feel free to comment or ask questions below. Happy prepping for post-secondary!

Yours Truly, AJ


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