14 tips to have a successful year at university

From making the most of office hours to saving money on your laundry, here are a number of great tips on how to have a successful year at university

November 11 2019
14 tips to have a successful year at university

Starting at university as a first-year is always a bit daunting but ultimately very rewarding if you manage your time, social life, and money well; here are a few things I wish I knew before starting my first year of college.

Academics 

1. Go to office hours: professors want to see and talk to you. That is the whole point of holding office hours. Students may feel like they have nothing to say to their professors or that it is awkward to fill up the silence. But you are not limited to talking about your essay or a maths problem you have a question about. You can ask for feedback, how you are doing with participation in class, how you could improve in the class, and ask about their research interests. Initiative is key, and will be rewarding in terms of the network you build. College isn’t just about sitting in class and taking notes. 

2. Keep a calendar: I always kept a calendar of my classes and assignments open on my computer so I know exactly what is going to be due in the upcoming week. This way, I work ahead on assignments instead of doing them last minute because they are there as a reminder.

3. Don’t forget to back up your files. Using Google Drive is a safe choice, because sometimes you might forget to hit save on Microsoft Word.  Flash drives are OK but if you lose it, it might be hard to find again.

4. Start applying for internships at the beginning of your first year, or better yet, before it starts. Being proactive is key, and many summer internship deadlines are actually in September or October of the previous year, so get those in. With the job market becoming more and more competitive, starting early is the key to demonstrating your workplace readiness. Use Linkedin and Glassdoor, or ask your university’s career advice centre for more resources, such as a CV or cover letter crafting workshop. 

5. Scout out your lecture venues before school starts: don’t be like me and think that you’ll be able to find your way with the maps on your phone, because it may be unreliable. Or you might just have a terrible sense of direction. I lost my way the first day and ended up late to my statistics class because I went to “Eckhart” instead of the “Eckhardt” building on our campus.


What is the first week of university like?
Five tips to make the most of your university experience
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What do you wish you had known before you started university?


Social

1. Sign up for clubs and don’t be afraid to branch out: many of the friends you meet will be via clubs and shared interests. But many others will be made by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new activities. 

2. Talk to people in your class: don’t be the first one to get up and leave after class ends. This way, you’ll form connections and be able to organise study sessions with your new friends. 

3. Talk things out with your roommate or flatmate if you have any conflict with them: remember, you don’t have to be best buddies with them, but have respect for their space and opinion and make sure they do the same.

4. Quality over quantity: you see your classmate running for student body president, trying out for the tennis team, writing for the newspaper and starting a new club. It’s easy to compare yourself to them, but do things at your own pace and become more involved in a couple of activities rather than spreading yourself too thin.

Money

1. Spend wisely on course materials: you’ll end up spending a lot if you buy all of the textbooks and course readings across your time at university. University bookstores are the most expensive places to buy your textbooks – instead try eBay, Amazon, or borrowing books from the library. 

2. Look out for research grants or internship funding: if you really want a certain internship but it’s unpaid, search for funding opportunities at your university by connecting with career advice services.

3. Learn how to do your Fafsa or student loan forms yourself instead of relying on your parents to do it. Same goes for taxes and managing your day-to-day finances in general. This will prepare you for life after college.

4. Save money on washing and drying your clothes by bringing enough clothing to last you two weeks. You can also buy a clothing drying rack so you don’t have to rely on tumble dryers. 

Just remember that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed sometimes. You’re not supposed to have it all figured out in your first year. You’re not the only one feeling that way, so enjoy the learning process and share tips with fellow students on how to get through it. 

Read more: Nine tips for students studying abroad for the first time

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