10 secrets to university success

Advice from an upper-year student

Photo courtesy of Symic on Flickr

10. Pick your major carefully. If your university doesn’t make you declare a major off the bat, don’t. Explore new things. Even if you must declare immediately, remember that you can always change your mind. Quiz people in programs you’re considering. Any regrets?

9. If you need help, ask for it. If you don’t understand something, ask your professor. Many will help you. Another place to find help is the library, where employees can show you how to format your citations or find articles in academic journals. If you’re ever accused of cheating, your student union can help explain your rights.

8. If you’re going to need an extension, ask early. If you ask early enough, many professors will grant extensions. But don’t annoy your prof by emailing and asking the night before it’s due.

7. Develop a rapport with your professors. Ask questions, contribute to the discussion, stay after class for a minute to clarify something that you don’t understand. In university, you’ll need to make some effort to get noticed. Professors who know and like you may help you find jobs, provide references for grad school and will say yes if you ask them to supervise your independent study.

6. Take care of your mental health. University is stressful, especially if you’re moving away from home for the first time. If you feel anxious or sad, don’t be ashamed to ask your friends for support. There’s also formal counselling from the school. Eating well and exercising can also help greatly.

5. Pick your roommates for second year carefully. Think about how you want to live. Your best friend won’t make the best roommate if he or she has different standards of cleanliness, a weird sleep schedule or a higher tolerance for noise. Talk about things like cleaning and splitting bills before you look for housing together. Read up on the laws before you sign a lease.

4. Get involved. If you’re in journalism, write for the school paper. If you’re in fine arts, get your work in student-run shows.  If you’re in business, enter case competitions. Participating in degree-related extracurriculars is a great way to network with future colleagues and learn new things.

3. Don’t bring your laptop to class. Sure, you can type faster than you can write by hand. But Facebook is pretty tempting when it’s in front of you. Plus, when you type your notes, you’re trying to take down every word, which means you’re not really thinking. The secret to success isn’t to take the most notes, but to take the most thoughtful notes. This is easier achieved on paper.

2. Know how to manage your money. Drinking every night doesn’t only lead to failing grades, it also leads to debt. Eating out, buying prepared food and getting takeout coffee can also impoverish you, so learn to cook. Keep track of your spending for a month, to see where you’re overspending.

1. Learn to manage your time. This is the most important skill for university. Most of your assignments probably won’t be that difficult, but they’ll take longer than anything you’ve done before. Assignments for different classes will often be due at the same time. If you have several essays due in the last week of the semester, you won’t get them all done unless you start early.

For more advice on how to ace your first year of university, click here.