Tips I wish I Knew In 1st Year

As a fourth-year student at UVic, I’ve now amassed tips and tricks for making your way through student life. Of course, not all of these may work, but they were all things that I wish I knew in 1st year. Hopefully, they can help some of you!

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions but google the answers first!

I was really worried about asking questions to my teachers in 1st year large lecture rooms. What if I sound stupid? What I’ve learned to do is to ask the question but google the answer first. 

If the answer is easy to find, you don’t have to worry about asking, and it allows you to show your initiative as you take responsibility for your own learning.

However, if you can’t find the answer or the answer is confusing, nobody will think you are stupid for asking if you say you looked it up first.

2. Be relentless in scheduling all your deadlines.

This is a key organizational skill that is necessary to succeed in university.

Often, deadlines will be on the same day, and midterms/papers/tests/projects will all be clumped together at the end of October.

As you inevitably get busy and stressed, it is so much better to know you will not forget assignments. That can cost you time, sleep, grades and even potentially courses. Save yourself that hassle and schedule, even if you don’t think you have to.

3. Buy a mobile charger for school!

It is so helpful in preventing the stress of being caught without enough battery while on the bus or during class. There are often charging ports around school, but sometimes it can be a hassle to find them, so it is easier to be self-reliant.

4. A waterproof backpack cover will save you a lot of stress!

At UVic we often get heavy or constant rain where even a waterproof backpack can leak.

Wet laptops/wet textbooks are miserable, stress-inducing and possibly very expensive, so getting a good backpack cover is worth the investment (especially if you can find it second-hand for a good price!)

You may think an umbrella will be sufficient, but in Victoria rain can fly horizontally and the horrible wind and rain combination will defeat even the best umbrella.

Colorful umbrella outdoors on rainy day

5. If it starts snowing and you are worried about getting home, go home early if possible.

If you take public transit especially, don’t wait until the school closes if you are worried. Bus cancellations can leave students stranded and you do not want to be in that position during bad weather.

Some students who are experienced with snow may not realize that this is an issue, but since Victoria gets very little snow, we are not well-prepared when it happens.

Take care of yourself and always make sure that you are safe! If going home is something you need to do, teachers will almost always understand.

6. Change your major if you need to, but do it with the help of Academic Advising. 

I didn’t realize in first year, but most people end up changing their major or shifting their focus during university. Personally, I switched from sciences to social sciences, and that can be stressful.

Ultimately, it was rewarding because now I am able to study what I truly enjoy, which makes it easier to be motivated during the grunt work of university.

In general, I wish that I had gotten help from Academic Advising earlier, because I know it would have saved me a lot of stress. Ask them for help with understanding your courses, knowing what you need for graduation, and changing your major! They don’t bite 🙂

7. You can get free hot water on campus!

Cups cost 50 cents, but if you bring your own mug and your own tea bags, you can have hot drinks all day long at no cost!  It makes the dark, long, rainy days during the midterm season so much better.

Autumn red tea. Cup of tea with autumn leaves on wooden board.

8. Read all emails carefully and respond professionally.

Emails are the main way that the university, your teachers, your employers and many other important people/institutions will contact you.

In high school, not checking your email every day works. In university, it seems irresponsible. Most opportunities are advertised through email as well, so if you want to have a successful university experience, checking and responding to emails is important.

9. Always carry extra food 

In my first year, I realized that eating between classes doesn’t always happen for me and getting extremely hungry in class or on my way home is never fun.  Now, I always carry about 6 granola bars with me (overkill, I know) which really helps.

10. Apply for every scholarship or bursary you are eligible for.

Many people think that you must be a straight-A student or a pro athlete to receive scholarships or bursaries, which is not true!

There are a wide range of scholarships and bursaries which you may be eligible for, and which can help reduce your student loans or your financial stress through university.

If you’re not sure how to do this, check with the Student Awards and Financial Aid website for many opportunities and contact them with questions.

11. Listening to music while studying does not help everyone!

It honestly can distract me way more often than it helps me, since I really love music. 

I have even found myself trying to write a paper and as I listen to music I start typing out the lyrics of the song 😛

You might ask, but what about classical music? Or jazz? For me, it’s worse because I like those even more. What I mean to say is, do what makes you most productive and adjust as you learn more about yourself and your study habits.


Anyways I hope this helps someone at least a little, and remember, take care of yourselves!

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