10 Tips for A Successful Freshman Year

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Around this time 3 years ago, I made one of the biggest and best decisions I’ve ever been faced with and accepted an offer to Wilfrid Laurier University, about 3 hours from home. Though 3 hours doesn’t seem like much, it was all I needed to take a major step and explore my freedom for the first time in my life. I went from having my mom as a personal alarm clock (shoutout Linda — the real MVP) to staying up all night just to make sure I didn’t sleep in and miss a major due date. Yeah, this seems a bit extreme but I learned a huge lesson in responsibility and accountability. Some of these things I learned the hard way, however, the following is a list of 10 tips to help with adjusting to your freshman year.

1. Get a planner (and use it!) – I cannot emphasize enough how helpful this has been throughout the past 4 years. Start by buying a fresh new planner and marking down all important dates such as due dates and important events. Refer back to your planner at least once a week to make sure you’re on top of all tasks accordingly.

2. Socialize – Whether it’s through getting involved in campus events/organizations or partying. The people you meet in university are likely to be the best connections in the future. As everyone knows — it’s not only about what you now, but also about who you know.

3. Make use of campus resources – from the gym to the library (not so much the overpriced cafeteria) these are the things you pay for in your tuition so you might as well make good use of them. Freshman 15 is real, and it strikes when you least expect it (even in your third year), so I highly recommend using the fitness facilities whenever possible.

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4. Don’t hesitate to email your professors for clarification on upcoming assignments. Often they can recognize and appreciate your effort when reaching out, and that will reflect on your final grade, or when you’re looking for a letter of reference for grad school in your final year.

5. Don’t waste money on textbooks – Depending on the professor, course and program you might be able to get away with saving $200+ on the course text. Go to the first 3 classes, and determine whether or not the material being discussed refers to the textbook. In my 4 years of university, I wasted close to $1500 on textbooks that I might have opened once or twice. A lot of times profs will base their tests off of what was presented in class. If you find that the textbook is absolutely necessary check out used book stores, amazon, and the campus library prior to paying full price for an extra large paper weight.

6. Set goals – The first year of university/college is intimidating. It’s a huge shift from high school, and it’s your first big step towards the real world. The older you get the more you’ll be able to differentiate between the people who set goals and the people who don’t. The most important part about setting goals is making a plan of how you’re going to achieve them. Whether it’s limiting the amount of hours spent partying every week, or designating a specific time of the day to reviewing your notes.

7. Avoid neglecting your email – The primary source of communication between your profs/teaching assistants and yourself in post-secondary is email. A lot of the time if there is a mistake on the syllabus or an extension on an assignment you’ll be notified via email. A signifier of adulthood is the necessity to check your email multiple times a day — something you’ll eventually come to realize.

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8. Learn how to budget – Everyone has a different financial arrangement when entering university/college but a commonality between most 17-19 year olds is lack of knowledge when it comes to budgeting. The best way to get a good sense of budgeting is to write down monthly expenses (ie. rent, parking, gas, tuition, etc.)  and reserve funds accordingly.

9. Dress for success – This is so accurate when it comes to attending classes or exams. I personally make it a point to dress well for things like this because when you feel good, you do good.

10. Keep a clean and organized living space – Studies show that academic performance is at its height in clean environments. Personally, I find it essential for studying without distractions!

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