Everyone knows that your first year of university is a really big deal. Chances are you're feeling mixed emotions about everything that's about to come at you. You're excited for all the opportunities you'll be offered, meeting new people, and making memories, but you're nervous about moving away from home, the workload, and having to be a real adult.
Don't stress, just breathe. While this is a crazy time in your life, at the end of the day, it's going to be what you make it. These can be the best years of your life, but only if you take advantage of them, and seize every opportunity. We've compiled a list of pieces of advice we wish we were given before our first year, so hopefully, they come in handy for some of you:
1. Get involved
Seriously. Join a club, watch a sporting event, hang out with new friends, go to a party, volunteer, etc. Not only does a lot of this stuff look really great on a resume, it's how you're going to build those lasting friendships and make all the unforgettable memories.
2. Find a balance between stress and indifference
Ultimately, you're at university to get your degree. That doesn't mean you need to spend every second of every day studying or worrying, though. This also isn't to say you should completely give up and not care about your grades whatsoever. Always make time to study, but also never say no to a night out.
3. DON'T PROCRASTINATE
This was probably the biggest one for me. You could give me an assignment a month in advance, and I would still leave it for 10 p.m. the night before it was due. This is a very bad habit to pick up, so I suggest you kick it before you get yourself in too deep, or you're in for a lot of all nighters.
4. Use a planner/organizer
I'm super Type A, so I swear by these things. If you're not much of a planner, or don't want to carry around an extra book, store all your deadlines in your iCalendar, or your phone. It's a great way to always be ahead of the game, make sure you don't miss any assignments, and to plan in advance.
5. Keep your room clean
As mom-ish as this sounds, it's a necessity. A messy room equals a messy head. Even if you dedicate 15 minutes every day to picking up the stuff on your floor, dusting off your desk, and making your bed, you will feel substantially better than if you didn't.
6. Explore your city
If you're lucky enough to get to go to school away from home, take advantage of those new opportunities. Find your favourite sushi spot, explore downtown, take lots of pictures and get comfortable in your new home.
7. Maintain your appearance
It's way too easy to fall into the trap of wearing sweatpants every day. Honestly, there's nothing wrong with that, and if you want to do it, go ahead! I'm just saying that I always feel better if I'm dressed nicely, or have a bit of makeup on.
8. Be wise with your money
There is absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself; trust me, I am the queen of it. Always remember to be financially responsible though. If it gets to the point where you're dipping into your student loan funds to buy booze, you might want to admit you have a problem.
9. Learn to study effectively
This is crucial. There's no set way to study because everyone is different. Whether you're an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner, find what works for you. I personally take notes on my MacBook in class, then go home, and rewrite them out in colour coded format, based on types of information. Pinterest is always a great place to look for study tips.
10. Get to know your roommate(s)
You're going to be sharing a small space with them, so you may as well get to know them. On another note, the better you know someone, the more comfortable you will be being honest with them. I've had pretty bad luck with roommates in the past because there was a lack of communication. Always let your roommate know if they're doing something to bug you, it prevents a hostile living environment.
11. Do one nice thing for yourself every week
It can be something as simple as taking a nap, but you can even go as far as a spa day. Doing this will help keep your mind in a healthy space, and remind you to always love yourself.
12. Find the perfect study spot
You may find that your school's library is the spot for you, but more often than not, it won't be. I get distracted too easily, so the library and I don't mix. Whenever I try studying in my bedroom, I always end up napping, so I can't do that either. Sometimes the best solution is heading to the nearest Starbucks, or another local cafe, throwing in your headphones, and putting in work.
13. Explore your options
I got lucky because I've known for a long time that Journalism is the perfect career path for me. That doesn't mean I'm not exploring other topics throughout my degree though. Take advantage of the cool elective classes that your school has to offer. Maybe you've always wanted to learn another language or pursue some sort of art. Now is the time.
14. Treat your body right
If you down a bottle of vodka and eat pizza every day, it's gonna start to show. The Freshman 15 is only real if you let it be. Cook for yourself every now and then. Eat a vegetable, drink a smoothie. Take a weekend off from drinking, your body will thank you.
15. If your school offers free gym memberships, take advantage
The only time I ever went to the gym during my first year was for a project, so I'm being a bit hypocritical in saying this hahaha. Gym memberships are not cheap, so if you have access to all these amazing facilities and machines, use them now while you can.
16. Talk to your parents regularly
I'll never understand how some people can go off to uni and talk to their parents once a month, if that. I talk to my mom on the phone every day, and she's the first person I spill all my juicy gossip and life updates to. Your parents are your biggest fans, and they're always gonna be the ones to pick you up when you fall on your ass. Remind them you love them, keep in touch.
17. Visit a counsellor if you're feeling stressed
A lot of people forget that university is full of incredible resources. There are doctors, counsellors, and professionals here simply to ensure that you're doing okay. You cannot succeed if your well-being is not one of your top priorities. You don't have to go through anything alone.
18. Don't worry too much about dating/relationships
While there's absolutely nothing wrong with dating in uni, especially if you're in a positive, supportive, uplifting relationship, there's also nothing wrong with not dating in uni. It can sometimes be a distraction, and if the relationship is toxic, get out now. This is your time to thrive and succeed, not be held back because of others.
19. Re-evaluate your friendships
University is not like high school. You don't have to be friends with people simply because you see them every day. You can choose who you want to be friends with, and there is no shame in cutting out toxic people from your life.
20. Get to know your profs
If your prof offers office hours, take advantage of it. If you're struggling in a class, always ask for help. If your prof is someone you admire, or aspire to be like, grab a coffee with them and ask them how they got to be where they are. Respect them, pick their brain, use their knowledge.
21. Always back up your files
It's better to spend some money on a hard drive, than to have to rush to re-write an assignment hours before it's due because your computer crashed. Trust me, been there.
22. Do laundry regularly
If it gets to the point where you're waiting until you've run out of underwear, please reevaluate. There was a girl who lived on my floor during first year who didn't do laundry ONCE. I don't want to know what kind of bugs she had crawling around her room tbh.
23. Don't become reliant on caffeine
Coffee is incredible, especially during exams. Just don't let yourself get to the point where you physically can't function without it.
24. Get a part-time job, if you can
Some degrees may have an incredibly heavy workload, and not allow for this, and that's okay. If you can, though, pick up a few shifts at a clothing store or a restaurant. The extra cash is nice, and gives you the financial freedom to treat yourself more often. Bonus points if you can find a job in your field of study.
25. Don't regret anything
You're young. You're going to do foolish things. You might date the wrong person, drink too much, fail an exam, forget to call your parents, etc. You're human, it's okay. The main thing is to always learn from your mistakes, and to keep growing. Make these years the best of your life so that one day you can look back and smile knowing that you've not only got a degree, but you've lived.