A First-Year Student’s Guide to University/College


Your first year of post-secondary education will be one of the most exhilarating, stressful, and memorable experiences of your life.

You’ll meet hundreds of new people, have a newfound sense of independence and responsibility, and there will be an abundance of new opportunities and resources available to you. This brief guide will teach you 4 things you should know before entering university.

Get involved

Whether it’s clubs, conferences, or sports teams, a huge part of your university experience will come from what you do outside of the classroom. Schools have a number of extracurricular activities you can get involved with depending on your hobbies, interests, or major. The best thing you can do is research all your options, ask other students what they’ve enjoyed, and without stretching yourself too thin, join as many groups as you can. Extracurriculars are an amazing way to get to know more people inside and outside of your faculty and expand your skillset beyond the classroom – not to mention running a committee is an excellent addition to your resume.

Study space

When it comes to studying, everyone has different preferences. Some people prefer to study in groups by talking amongst several friends, while others enjoy complete silence at their favourite desk in the library. With hours of readings, team reports, and individual essays to complete, finding the perfect study space will help you successfully complete your work. First, start by figuring out what your learning style is to help determine what kind of environment to study in to be most productive. Then, test out a few places and see what works best for you. Be sure to ask older students about the best secret study spots on campus as well!

Career counsellors

There are numerous resources available for students on campus that you should be aware of before beginning your first year. Career counsellors are one of the most valuable resources you’ll have access to. These experienced individuals know everything from what courses you should be taking to what your career options are. In many cases, they can also help connect you with successful people or guide you towards summer internships in your field to help you build your skillset and resume before entering the workforce.

Reach out

The academic structure in university is vastly different from the slow, even-pace you’re used to in high school. Professors move much more quickly, you are expected to spend more time learning the material on your own, and the courseload is exceptionally heavier. Along with preparing a strong organizational plan of your own, another excellent resource you can reach out to is your professor. Many professors have office hours where they’re willing to schedule one-on-one meetings with their students to go over any course material or assignment requirements in further detail. Don’t be intimidated by your profs! They want you to succeed and are eager to help students who reach out to them.

What else should first-year students know before starting university? Share your experiences in the comments!