Vamp's declassified university survival guide
Going to university is a whole different world of possibilities, and unfortunately, responsibilities. University is more than just the degree you’re in. It’s also the people you meet, the professional connections you make, the vast number of clubs and organizations you can join, living on your own (or at home), and learning a whole new set of skills.
It might seem scary now, but university is a fresh start from high school, and it’s here that you’ll really decide who you want to be. Having been at university for a few years now, I have some tips for you to begin your journey.
Learn to prioritize.
In high school, you could easily count on your teachers to hound you for assignments. Even if you ended up getting marks deducted, you were always scolded until you turned it in. Unfortunately, professors won’t be quite as motivational. No assignment handed in, no mark. Failing a class comes with a lot more weight, now that you’re paying for it. Try to create a schedule for yourself, especially if you’re busy with other things like myself. Even though I inevitably leave some things until the last minute, I always make sure to at least hand something in. Pass your classes, people!
The most valuable asset is the connections you make.
I’m sure you’ve heard that sentence a couple times before, but I’d like to expand on that thought. To me, connections are more than just professionally made ones. If I had never made the friends I have now, we would have never started this website! My friends are vital to my success, and are people that I can count on to always be there for me. My mental health is sometimes supported by those friends. Besides that, try and join clubs you’re interested in. You meet some amazing people, do the things you like, and probably network with people who could help you throughout university. Some of the friends I’ve made have led to some of the best professional opportunities that I could hope for.
Take time for yourself.
Any degree can be hectic, especially if, like many people, you’re juggling work and other commitments on top. Make sure you schedule time to yourself, not just for your mental health, but for the sake of productivity. Being able to relax with a book, go shopping, catch up on a favourite show, or just take a nap is important. I can honestly say that I have been burnt out before, and it doesn’t do any good to try and write an essay when you’re not focused on your work. This ties into prioritizing- schedule time for yourself if you have to, even if it’s only an hour a day.
Learn how to budget.
Whether you’re living at home or on campus, money is something that can easily be used up quickly. Try to save your money and not spend it on food and coffee on campus, it adds up! Instead, learn how to plan out your meals and save money. Never purchase textbooks before classes begin, because you might not even need them. My first year of university, I bought every $100+ textbook and only ended up using one. Even if you definitely do need a textbook, you can always buy it for much cheaper off of Kijiji, textbook exchanges at your school, or a number of other resources. New books are a waste of money, especially since you will only be using a textbook for a couple months. I had a professor who required a 300 dollar book but provided us with an exponentially cheaper PDF link on the first day of class.
Do other things that interest you.
Part of being in university is diversifying your interests and in turn, yourself. Do things you like to do outside of school and try new things. You’ll learn lots about yourself, and you will have other things you can start doing that aren’t school. Whether you join a beer league, join a club, pick up painting, or any number of hobbies, you will be thankful you did down the road. Learn how to balance various interests and school is a skill that you will pick up.
Should you go to class?
The answer is not as simple as you think. It’s your money, so in reality, you can do as you please. But attending class is important because school is important, but maybe not why you think. You’re preparing for a career, and the skills you learn in school are valuable. However, I recently had a good friend tell me she likes to prioritize her life based on what will help advance her career. Sometimes, attending events or missing class for a meeting is justified, in my personal opinion. Again, make sure you understand the days you are required to be in class and when assignments are due. I like to make friends in my classes so I can always have someone to update me on what I missed.
The most valuable piece of advice is that you will learn with experience. Spend your first year figuring out your situation. Are you happy in your program? What do you want to pursue? Join clubs, make friends, and get your bearings. You have so much room to grow in university that you might even surprise yourself.
What advice would you give to new university students? Let us know in the comments!