8 Things Every Student Should Do When Starting Their First Year

Summer vacation is coming to an end, and in just a few days you’ll be starting a new chapter of your life. Whether you’re soaking up the sun with the free time you have left, or you’re busy preparing for the start of school, it can be hard to know what to expect when you begin your first year of university or college. To help make this transition easier, here’s a checklist of eight things that you should do in your first year:

1. Get settled in early

Whether you’re living at home or moving into a residence or off-campus housing, you need to get settled in before school starts. The earlier you’re able to unpack and get your school items together for your first day of classes, the calmer and more prepared you’ll feel.

If you’re moving into a residence on-campus, you’ll likely be assigned a day that you’ll be able to move in. Get there early! It likely won’t be as crowded or hectic as students like yourself move their stuff in. You’ll also be able to meet more people as they move in throughout the day, giving you ample opportunity to make friends. Plus, if you’re sharing a room, getting there early might mean you get your choice between beds!

The less time you leave for yourself to get settled in, the more rushed you’ll feel. Start your year on a strong note by getting settled in early.

2. Find your classes beforehand

Depending on the size of your campus, you may need some extra time locating exactly where your classes will be and planning the best routes to take so you don’t have to rush. Even if your campus is small, knowing where your classes are beforehand will give you some extra confidence on your first day, which will help put some of your nerves at ease.

3. Textbook tips

Battling the bookstore lines to get your textbooks can be a hassle — especially in the first week of classes. Sometimes they can even run out of the textbook you need. So, what can you do to avoid the headache of the bookstore?

Some schools will release your textbook lists before classes begin, which means you have time to find your best options. If your school has an online shop for their bookstore, then see if you can purchase your textbooks online before the first day of school. They may even have options for used or rented textbooks at a discounted price.

You’re not just limited to your school’s bookstore to purchase your textbooks either. You could try to find your textbook on Amazon, Kijiji, or in bookstores if it’s available. Many students will also sell their textbooks from their previous classes at a cheaper price on Facebook and school message boards. Just make sure that the textbook you’re buying matches the edition that your professor is using.

4. If your courses don’t feel right — change them

If you’ve attended your first class or two and it doesn’t feel right — either the timing of the class, the amount of work you’ll need to put in along with your other courses, or the professor’s teaching style doesn’t work for you — then you have the option to change it! Don’t feel like you need to stick it out with a class that’s not working for you. If you’re not a morning person and you have an 8:30am class when the same class is also offered at 3pm, change it. As long as you meet your program course requirements, you have the freedom to choose your course schedule.

Most schools have a date in the first couple of weeks of classes where you can drop or add classes without any issues. After these dates, your dropped courses may appear on your transcript, you may need to pay a fee, or if you want to add a course you may need to ask the professor’s permission to join their class.

5. Get involved outside of the classroom

Think back about your time in high school. Your best memories likely aren’t in the classroom. They’re probably the time you spent in clubs, going to events, and hanging out with your friends. University and college are the same. The more you get involved, the more memories you’ll make.

Your options for getting involved are endless. You could join a varsity sport, an intramural sport team, a campus club, the student union, and attend orientation week, residence activities, and events on campus. Even if you don’t find a club that interests you, make your own! You’ll make friends with people who aren’t in your classes, program, or even the same year as you.

6. Use your school’s resources

The transition from high school to university and college can be challenging. You may feel overwhelmed, unsure of your program’s required courses, you have trouble finding books in the library, or your professors expect your essays in a different citation style (MLA, APA, Chicago) than you’re used to.

Take advantage of the free resources that the school offers!

  • Make an appointment with an on-campus counsellor to discuss strategies managing stress
  • Meet with an academic advisor to create a plan for your courses
  • Connect with your school librarians to learn more about their tools and resources
  • Make an appointment with the writing centre to get help writing essays and understanding citation styles

Everyone wants to see you succeed, so get to know the resources that are available to you.

7. Explore the world outside your campus

It can be easy to stay in your campus bubble, but don’t forget that your school is part of a city or town. Exploring the area outside your campus can be a good for you! Study spaces on campus tend to get overcrowded during exam season, so why not go off campus to find a small coffee shop that has great pastries and a space for you to study? You may even discover some new hobbies like pottery, board game cafés, and hiking spots.

You’ll also get to know the neighbourhoods around your school when you leave campus. After your first year of living in residence, you’ll most likely need to find an apartment off-campus. This will be easier when you already have an idea of what areas you like around the school.

8. Take time for self-care

Your first week of school will be hectic. Orientation events will be happening day and night, you’ll be out making new friends, and probably not getting as much sleep as you’d like. You most likely won’t be able to start developing a good routine until your second week of classes. So, remember that you can say no to events if you’re feeling exhausted.

This applies for the whole year, not just your first week. You’ll need to create a balance between your school and social life so that you don’t burn out. Make sure to take some time to yourself to recharge. This could be a movie night, treating yourself to dinner, doing yoga in the morning, or reading a book.

Your first year is about to begin! It’s an exciting, momentous occasion, and with these tips, you’re sure to start your year off on the best note possible. Enjoy the rest of your summer vacation, and good luck in your first year!

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