Things change from the start of freshman year to the beginning of your final year. Throughout the passing years at University, you’ve learned more about the campus, met some amazing people and changed in ways you can’t even begin to describe. Your perception of the campus has also changed, and you’ve slowly begun to consider it as a second home.
That being said, when you look back on your freshman year and compare it with what you know now, no doubt there are some things you wish you could have changed, or would’ve known beforehand that could have made that first year a little easier to handle. Keep reading for my top 8 tips I wish I knew back during my freshman year!
1. Your professors do care about you.
Contrary to popular belief, your professors do care about you and your well-being. Honestly, it might be hard to picture this in your first year courses—especially when you’re taking those massively sized prerequisite courses in Con Hall—but that’s where the beauty of office hours come into play. Office hours are your chance to talk about your concerns and issues with the professor one-on-on. Let me repeat it: One-on-One. This is a great chance for both you and your professor to get to know each other better. This might seem intimidating but trust me when I say it isn’t. I didn’t start visiting my professors during their office hours until well into my second year, and after my first session I wish I had done it sooner. This is the time where you can ask questions that are both relative and non-relative to the course. Take advantage of this time and go see them. Trust me, they’ll be happy you went and you’ll be happy you did too.
2. EXPLORE the campus several times.
Before your first semester starts your freshman year, go down and explore the campus. Find out where your buildings are and the best way to reach them. Don’t do this only once. Go down several times and familiarize yourself with the grounds. Heck, be sure to learn where other important buildings are too, such as the best place to get coffee and lunch on campus. When school starts, you’ll be a pro. You might even wind up giving other first years directions to some places.
3. Learn to just accept public transit for what it is.
If you’re like me and you never had to take the subway, GoBus, or even the streetcar to reach school before, then you’re going to be in for an eye-opener. Within a few months of starting your freshman year, the term “delay” will become a daily part of your commuting experience. If you ask any current or past U of T commuter student on their thoughts about traveling to campus they’ll tell you the truth: It sucks. There will be lots of people, and there will be delays and problems with the TTC. There’s no way to get around that even if you try different methods, such as taking a different route or switching subway lines. My best advice is to try to not let it bother you—try being the key word. Instead, try finding ways to work around it, such as using the time to catch up on your readings or sleep.
4. Don’t buy all your textbooks from the bookstore.
If there’s one thing I deeply regret in my freshman year, it’s the amount of money I spent on textbooks. I purchased nearly all of first year books from the bookstore, and I swear I could hear my wallet sobbing as I left the building. Seriously though, there are other (cheaper) alternatives to purchasing textbooks than simply buying them from the bookstore. For one, there’s a discount bookstore across the street that sells the same textbooks for a slightly less high cost. There’s also the option of purchasing your textbooks online from sites like Amazon and EBay. But in my opinion, the best place to find affordable textbooks is to purchase them from upper year students. A lot of students sell their textbooks at the end of the year for a fraction of the cost that they’re sold at the bookstore. This is a great alternative for saving money, and helping out a fellow student. Plus, it’s also a great way to gain another opinion on your courses because the people who you are purchasing the books from have taken the same courses in the past.
5. Try out the Writing Centre.
Each college has its own Writing Centre, and I strongly urge each person to try them out once during their freshman year. I’ve talked to so many people who are in their second year and up, and they’ve not once tried booking an appointment with the Centre. They either claim it’s not worth it or they’ve heard nothing but negativity concerning it, and decide it’s not worth the effort.
Well, I’m here to suggest otherwise. In my opinion, the Writing Centre is a great resource to utilise and take advantage of. After all, regardless of whether or not you go, you are paying for its services through your tuition. It’s super easy to book an appointment online, and it’s a great learning experience to have the opportunity to sit down with someone and discuss your paper for an hour. Even better, you don’t need to bring an entirely finished paper with you. You can bring in a rough at any stage, and the Writing Centre will still help you plan out the paper, improve your argument and your ideas overall. I’ve been frequenting there since second year, and I can see an improvement in my marks and feedback in my assignments when I compare my work from before I started visiting the Centre and after.
6. Join some clubs or organizations.
Okay, okay, okay… you’ve probably heard this from so many different people, and you will continue to hear it from others when you start University. Well, I’m here to tell you about it again. There’s a reason so many people emphasize the importance of joining clubs. Simply put, besides the fact that it’s a great way to meet new people and step out of your comfort zone, it’s a way to feel more at home on campus. When you first start University, it is scary. There’s so many new changes and so many new people. It can easily become overwhelming, so having that one particular club or group you’ve joined back in September can help lessen those nerves a tad. Trust me, this might sound scary now but once you’ve gotten settled and start having fun, you’ll be glad you joined those clubs.
7. Try a Work-Study Job.
A lot of people might not be aware of this, but the University offers a lot of great part-time jobs for students. Work-Study jobs are one of them. Work-Study jobs are tailor-made for students to gain the skills and experience they need throughout their academic year. Students can work up to a maximum of 12 hours per week, and the work starts from September and finishes in March. I completed my first Work-Study job during my third year, and it made me realize how much I wished I had tried to obtain a position in my first year. The job enabled me to learn more about the campus, and it allowed me to interact with professors from several different departments that varied from my own personal studies. The workload was manageable, and it was always nice to have that extra flow of cash added to my bank account.
8. Make sure you understand that Facebook groups are important!
The title might seem redundant, but it’s quite true. Facebook groups are an amazing way to stay connected with your fellow students and learn about what’s happening on campus. As I mentioned before, they’re a great way to purchase used textbooks, but it’s also a great way to keep in touch with people in your courses. For first years especially, they can be a way to meet and connect with your fellow students before the year even begins. For instance, each graduating class has a Facebook group made (i.e., “The Graduating Class of 20XX”, etc.) and it’s one the easiest ways to connect with people and learn more about them. It’s also one of the best and easiest places to get answers to your questions. Back when I first started classes at U of T, I would use the U of T Facebook groups as a way to get feedback on the courses I wanted to take, and gain insight on the workload of the courses before I started taking them. It really helped me in narrowing down my selection for the incoming year. Plus, it’s free, which is always an added bonus.