To My Former Self: 10 Things I Wish I Knew As a First Year Student

Contributor: Nina Amelie Lazaro


As a second year student who has experienced the unique transition from high school to university in the age of online school and social distancing, I resonate with the various hardships incoming students are struggling with this year. From navigating university course loads to balancing your school and social life, I am here to share my thoughts and tokens of wisdom I wish I knew when I was a first year student.


If you don’t know, ask!

Universities are massive networks of people with a vast amount of knowledge for you to collect. Take advantage of Facebook groups, course group chats, Discord groups, etc. Whether your question is about school, clubs, or just university life in general, there will always be someone willing to help. Even if you are scared to be the first to initiate a thread or ask a daring question, there will certainly be others with similar questions so stick around for the answers.


Keep In Touch

Whether you have moved half-way across the country for university or are attending your local university, you are bound to make new friends and relationships.While new friendships are an integral part of the university experience, don’t forget about your family and friends at home. Try to maintain some form of communication with the important people in your life as you transition to this new chapter and grow as an individual.


The Reigns of FOMO

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) really starts to kick in once you start developing new friends and relationships. Unlike high school, you probably aren’t living under your parent’s roof anymore so you have a lot more freedom with where and when you go out. This inherently comes with more frequent outings with friends, even if it may not be in your best interest to go. Whether it’s a test the next day or a club meeting, being the only friend not able to go out can instill anxiety and copious amounts of FOMO. While it is unfortunate, remember that there will always be another time. And I mean always. Keep your priorities in mind and don’t let FOMO control your life.


Grades are NOT Everything

You’ve definitely heard this one before but that’s only because it’s an essential part of having a healthy university career . While grades are important, what’s more important is that you don’t sacrifice other aspects of your life for your coveted GPA. Take some time to focus on your mental health and overall well-being because maintaining a good school-life balance is the key to your success and happiness in university.


Choose your classes carefully

Be aware of the key dates for course enrollment and the required courses needed for your program. Oftentimes, you will have multiple choices for what classes you can take, the schedule of your classes, and your professor. Make sure to do your research before your enrollment date so you don’t get overwhelmed and are able to fully maximize your educational experience. Additionally, consult Reddit or upper year students on their opinions of courses and professors. While doing this research beforehand may seem unnecessary and a waste of time, I assure you that this is one of the most important things you can do to make the most out of your university life.


Flying through courses

I’m sure that many of you have heard of “Bird Courses” by now but if you haven’t, Bird Courses are courses that are known to be notoriously easy and light. Bird Courses are often used by students who have particularly heavy schedules and want an easy GPA booster that won’t take away from the studying time of their other classes. As a first year student, try to familiarize yourself with some of the popular Bird Courses just so you have options if you are struggling with your current course load. However, I would advise that if you actually go through with taking a Bird Course, try and choose something that actually interests you. While taking a Bird Course may be easy, it can quickly become your least favourite course if you absolutely hate the content.


Fraud or Not?

When surrounded by thousands of students all in the same program and classes, it’s very easy to begin to compare yourself with others. This environment can often lead to the cultivation of Imposter Syndrome and self-doubt. Although it is easy to think things like “I’m not doing enough” and “I’m not studying hard enough,” it is important to keep in mind that everyone works and learns in different ways and at different paces. To some, this comparison may be self-motivating; however, for most people, Imposter Syndrome only achieves the opposite. Instead of focusing on what you have not or are not doing, try focusing more on what you are doing. Remember: you are here for yourself and only yourself.


When I Grow Up

For some odd reason everyone in university seems to think they have to have their life figured out by the time they enter first year but this could not be farther from the truth. Although it’s nice to feel like you have everything figured out and your whole future will go according to plan, this is not always the case. I have seen and heard about many students who have come into first year hoping to pursue a certain degree then suddenly changing majors because they realize they hate what they are learning. This is ok. Not knowing what you want to do with your life is ok. University is for growing and changing and discovering yourself so instead of wallowing in your sadness and worrying about what others will think, use this opportunity to do what you want to do, explore new interests, and ultimately find your passion.


Clubs are for everyone

No matter which university you attend, I can guarantee that there will be plethora of clubs and organizations for you to join. No matter your interests, you are bound to find at least one club that is right for you. As in high school, joining clubs are a great way to develop various life skills and meet new people with shared interests. I recommend researching clubs beforehand and keeping an eye out for any executive or first-year specific positions during the first month of school. Being part of an executive team rather than being a general member will help you to form closer relationships with the club and fully immerse yourself in a leadership role.


The Bad and the Ugly

Just like in life bad days are normal. In university you will have a lot of bad days, but there will be a lot of good days too. Whether it’s a bad grade or a fight with a friend I can assure you that it will always get better. In university, you are in charge of your own path and you can choose what you want to do to be happy. Hate one of your courses? Drop it for a more interesting one. Stressed about an upcoming test? Study with friends or contact a tutor. Try not to dwell on the bad days and learn to cherish the good days. University is filled with opportunities and solutions so it’s important not to get too bummed out over one bad thing. Enjoy yourself, have fun, and don’t let one bad day ruin your whole university experience.


First year is the start of a new chapter in your life. Use this time to grow, learn, and appreciate all the opportunities you have. Get out there and make some memories Mustangs!


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