how to survive university

Surviving a University Course-Preparation and Your First Class

This post is a continuation of surviving a university course series. You can find the first post here, and more posts about university here.


Congratulations! You’ve managed to register for courses, and now that you’re all moved in, it’s time for the first day of class. But before you go to your first class, here are the things you should remember to do:

  1. Find out what textbooks you’ll need for each course. However, unless you’re 100% sure they won’t get changed by the prof, wait until after the first class to buy them.
  2. Get your university ID and any paperwork you need to do before the first day.
  3. Find out where your classes are on campus. Especially if you’re in first year or new to campus, find time to explore your campus to get a sense of where things are.
  4. Buy school supplies! Find yourself some cute notebooks, binders, and lots of writing supplies. And, if you’re using a laptop, get all the tech gear you’ll need for the year.
  5. Get everything ready the night before the first day of class, and get a good nights rest to have plenty of energy for it.

Since you’ve got all the prep work done for the first day of class, here’s what you should do when it actually arrives:

  1. Get to classes a bit early, to find a good seat for your learning needs.
  2. Listen very carefully to the syllabus. Profs usually go over important deadlines, textbook information, and mark breakdown the first class.
  3. Introduce yourself to some of your seatmates or classmates. Making friends in class will save your grades later during crunch time.
  4. Ask questions if you have any! It’ll help you be clear on class expectations and might help you decide if you want to stay in the class.
  5. Go and buy your textbooks after your first classes. There are usually textbook buy and sell groups on Facebook as well, so you might be able to get your textbooks for cheaper.
  6. Put all the important dates for assignments and tests in your calendar, as well as professor contact information and office hours. I really like using the iStudiez Pro app for this, since it also allows you to track marks.

What do you guys do to prepare for the first day of class? Let me know down below!

-Mel.

Back to School-What’s in My Backpack?

Since it’s that time of year when I start wearing a backpack everywhere, I decided to make a post on what I keep in it!

So, without further ado, here’s what I keep in my backpack!

  1. A pencil case full of beautiful pens. I love having a lot of different coloured and fancy pens since I write a lot.  I’d also recommend keeping pencils, highlighters, a USB, and sticky notes in your pencil case.
  2. A water bottle, full to the brim. It never ever hurts to be hydrated! And, if you’re not so keen on plain water, grab something like MiO to mix in.
  3. My laptop or tablet! Since I’m writing for the school paper this year, having either is essential for writing and research. I recommend anyone looking for a laptop to get something compatible with the software the campus uses, and something that’s lightweight.
  4. Snacks! When the study sessions or back to back classes prevent you from running to meal hall, these will save you.  Try and take healthy items as well!
  5. Notebooks, the three subject ones from Hilroy. I carry these around for notes, as I learn things better from lectures when I write them down.
  6. A power bank, or phone chargers. Somehow either my iPod or phone always starts dying, so I carry around a power bank with small charging cables for both of my devices.  It’s also useful if your university campus is short on power outlets.
  7. A jacket or a sweater. Study spaces have a magical ability to be too warm or too cold, so it’s best to have an extra layer. Plus, with wacky weather in Canada, a jacket is always a good idea.
  8. Pins or anything to decorate your backpack. I’m a huge fan of putting far too many fandom pins on my backpack to stand out from the crowd. Why have the same backpack as everyone else when you can have the Tardis on yours?
  9. My textbooks as needed. I don’t usually carry around textbooks, just since mine are usually as heavy as bricks. I will carry around small novels for classes, like Frankenstein or the Book Thief.
  10. Some money or my wallet.  Chances are, I’ll make a food or coffee run, so it’s best to be prepared for those breaks.

What do you guys keep in your backpack that I’ve missed? Let me know down below!

-Mel.

Back To School-Advice to University Frosh

Starting university is pretty daunting, especially the first year. You have this to do list that stretches on for ages, you’ll be meeting a lot of new people, adjusting to a new place, and having to get back to studying.

If you’re a frosh, and just panicked slightly from reading that last sentence, take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay, you will survive your first week, first month, and first year at university.

Now, since you took that deep breath, here are my tips on how to survive your first year on campus!

  1. Enjoy every moment of frosh week. Do all the activities, eat all the free food, and go down a jello slide or two. You will treasure these memories for the rest of your life, and make some amazing friends. Us older students are always jealous we can’t do it over again every year.
  2. Use your meal hall or food swipes. Even though I can guarantee that by the end of the first few months you’ll be sick of campus food, use your swipes. Take the unlimited food (and chocolate milk) for granted while you can.
  3. Get a feel for the campus and the town or city you’re living in when you arrive. Knowing where things are will make you feel all the more confident.
  4. Try to not skip classes, and don’t be that person who just shows up for finals. You might not want to go to that early class, but your marks will thank you for showing up later on.
  5. Get involved on campus. There are so many clubs and activities you can join, and chances are that there’s a night where they showcase all these organizations on campus. Plus, first year is a great time to get involved since you’ll have a bit more free time.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you need to change courses, your scholarship money got messed up, or anything else, ask for help when you need it. It’ll save you headaches later on, and there are people on campus whose job is to help guide you through any problems. 
  7. Try to get along with your roommate(s), and people in your building. Unless you’re stuck in a terrible situation, you’ll make friends really fast that way. Plus, they might save you later on by letting you use their printer for a last minute essay.
  8. Get some school spirit. Even if you’re not the biggest sports fan, you can still be proud of your school. Help out with the student union, get a positive residence rivalry going on, or pop by the rink to watch your team play hockey. It’s really easy to show your support for your campus.
  9. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I know how difficult it can be to push yourself when you’re in a completely new environment, but it’ll teach you a lot of valuable life lessons. I know I’ve met some great people at university just by saying hello, and found what I’m passionate about by trying something new.
  10. Stay in touch with friends and family back home. If you live across the country from them like me, having their support is fantastic for getting through homesickness. Plus, long chats with family and friends always make you feel better.
  11. If you’re unhappy with your program, what you’re studying, or university in general, that’s okay. First year is a learning experience, and if it teaches you that you like something else or that you don’t like university, that’s great. You can always change classes or programs, no matter what the university website says.

What do you guys wish you’d done differently first year, or what do you wish you’d known? Leave them down in the comments below!

-Mel.

Back To School-What to Pack

As much as I hide away a lot of my stuff in campus storage every year, I still have to lug most of my things for university across the country. So, for those headed off to university that need to pack all their life belongings into a few suitcases, I’ve got you covered.

Here are my tips for what to pack, and what to leave behind.

What to Pack:

  1. Portable electronics you’ll need. This means your cell phone, iPod, laptop, and all those goodies. Make sure you pack all the necessary chargers and cases as well.
  2. Any prescription medication, glasses, and prescriptions. Do not forget any medications you are taking or will need to take. Having all of these will save you many hours at the doctor or pharmacist, and keep you healthy.
  3. A few school supplies. You don’t need to bring every notebook and pen in your room, but if you want to pack some essentials in a pencil case, that’s perfect. You can always buy more when you get to campus.
  4. Clothes, of course! Try and pack items that can easily be layered or worn through multiple seasons. Make sure you do have clothes for nights out, interviews or other formal events, and for comfort. Don’t forget underwear, bras, socks, or pajamas too!
  5. Some special things from home. This could be anything from family photos to a special scarf. It’s really nice to have at least a small part of home at university.
  6. A backpack and a small everyday bag. You’ll need a backpack for university, and often I use mine as my carry on bag for flying. I also usually pack a small purse for nights I want to go out, or if I’m up to something off campus.
  7. A small first aid kit. Trust me, nothing’s worse than getting a small injury or a headache, so it’s best to have some supplies on hand. I usually keep a variety of band-aids, some Polysporin, medical tape, gauze, and Advil in my first aid kit.
  8. Various forms of ID. When you’re off at university, you’ll probably need ID at some point for anything from going out to getting a job. I would recommend you have your passport or provincial ID, driver’s license, student ID (if you have it already), health insurance, and health care cards.
  9. Your wallet and debit/credit cards. Even if your bank account is a little low from tuition and textbooks, how else are you going to buy anything you need?

What Not to Pack:

  1. Bedding and Pillows. Unless you’re driving up to school or have a very special blanket you need, it’s best to buy these when you get to campus. They’re very bulky, and chances are there’s a store nearby that sells them.
  2. Lots of shoes, because they’re bulky. I recommend that when you’re packing to choose shoes that look good with everything, and that you can wear in any season. You can also pack more shoes if they can be packed flat.
  3. A ton of makeup, or toiletries. You can always buy shampoo, soap, and most makeup at stores around campus when you get there.
  4. Textbooks. Unless it’s as thin as a book you’re reading for pleasure, it’s best to get these when you’re on campus. Plus, these make your bag more liable to be overweight if you’re traveling by plane.
  5. Food. Unless it’s plane snacks that you really need, don’t pack food. You’ll probably do a massive grocery trip once you’re back on campus, or you won’t really need any if you’re eating in meal hall.
  6. Lots of cooking or cleaning things. You can purchase these later on along with food, and usually in first year, you won’t need these as much. If you do purchase these items over the year, find somewhere to store them for summer.
  7. Heavy jackets, winter boots, or other seasonal attire. Since winter is over the school year, it can be tempting to pack all of your winter gear at once. My advice is to either get all those shipped to you right before the season changes, swap out seasonal clothes during trips home, or leave it in storage on campus.
  8. Lots of room decorations. As much as having a cute dorm room is great, I don’t recommend you pack a lot of decorations. Instead, buy them during the school year, and keep them in storage.

What do you guys usually pack or not pack, or what have I missed? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

-Mel.

Surviving a University Course-Registration

Since I’ve got two years of university under my belt, I figured it was time I started a series on how to survive university courses.

I hope you guys enjoy this series, and if you have any requests for future posts or advice on anything university related, let me know!


Registering for courses is one of the most important steps after you get into university. After all, you’ll be choosing which courses you’re interested in, or ones that will be useful for your future career. Here are my tips to make the process easier!

  1. Figure out what your program requires so that you know what mandatory courses you have to take. Usually, this isn’t such a big issue for first year, but keeping them in mind will help you make sure you graduate!
  2. If you’re not sure about requirements, ask for help from the academic advising office. They can usually point you in the right direction, and come up with a course pattern that fits your needs.
  3. Find out when registration is. Some universities do it at the end of the winter semester, and some in the summer. Make sure you take time zones into account for your registration time!
  4. If the university releases the course list and schedule before registration, try and plan out a schedule that works. Don’t forget to factor in labs or tutorials into your schedule as well.
  5. Come up with some backup courses in case the ones you want cause time conflicts or fill up.  That way, you won’t panic during registration when your first choice is unavailable.
  6. Register on the specified date and time and hopefully you get into everything you want. If you have any problems, don’t be afraid to email to get help. Remember, there is always time to swap courses before the semester starts!

Do any of the university students out there have any suggestions for registration? Leave them down in the comments if you do!

-Mel.