Balancing School and Family, Student Life

My First Semester – The first 3 weeks – Part one

As I’m entering my 4th year as an undergrad student, I’ve been reflecting a lot about the first year I started attending U of T. There was stability when I first entered that I would be in school for the next four years. I’m truly not convinced that my last semester will be less stressful than my first semester, but for entirely different reasons. The following is a recollection of experiences that I went through my first semester as a Student-Parent and I’ve broken it up into weeks to sort out the chaos that occurs when you first start school. Hopefully my experiences will help you make more informed decisions, unlike my own.

Freshman week (Pre-1st Week)

We moved into student residence before frosh week, so while I was busy unpacking I watched the campus fill up. With three children of our own, my partner and I were busy unloading a U-Haul that we had trucked up from the States. It was exciting for us and the entire family. Whether or not you are moving into a new residence or just enrolling into classes locally, attending university is a new transition for the family. New schedules have to be made up. After school care may have to be arranged. It is just as intense as having your parents drop you off at a dorm with your belongings in a box. Adjustments have to be made, both time management and emotionally. You might feel more “adult” than other first-year students but you feel the stress the same, it just may be that you have better coping methods than younger adults. You might not, but for your first week try to enjoy the excitement. Enroll into a 1st year student program. If you have the opportunity to attend the orientation events, attend them. At first year orientation the electricity in the air was tangible. It was such a great feeling that I was a part of something bigger than just furthering my career.

198_9858, Courtesy of Daniel_DiMarco on Flickr

198_9858, Courtesy of Daniel_DiMarco on Flickr

Attending university was an opportunity and it helps to join in with the other excited new students. You’ll need all that energy to last you for the next four years. If you have time, map out where your classes are now before the first week. Check on ROSI/Acorn to see what room your classes are and familiarize yourself with the buildings. Use to help your way around. The map will also help you locate bathrooms, food, student services; it’s a handy tool that you’ll use a lot. Keep the map they give you at orientation with you in your backpack.

First week

You probably bought a new outfit and your books and think that you’re ready for school. My tip here is DON’T buy used books until you attend the class or have read the syllabus. There might be a reason for a certain edition for the book. There could be a bundle of text and work books that you HAVE to buy at the bookstore that the professor likes. Sometimes an upper year student will sell you the “same” book for the “same” class and you arrive finding out that it’s all PDF readings posted on Blackboard with a new professor. What I learned the 1st week is that OSAP does not drop until it’s good and ready. I thought it magically appeared the first day and it arrived much later. So I had no money for books, we had enough for rent and barely enough money to eat. What you can do though is do your readings at the library. All textbooks in courses are held on-reserve at the library. Which means you can go and read them there and no one can check them out. Some people even photocopy pages if they don’t have time to sit and read. It is a hassle but textbooks can be expensive and the readings are necessary.

There are a ton of other resources that the library provides. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the library and make friends with the staff.


St. George:


Second week

No OSAP yet. By now you may have noticed everyone bringing their laptops to class. This isn’t necessary and is often a distraction. Most professors speak out against it and there is even a study that note-taking by hand is more conducive to learning the material.   Read more on this with this article.

You will find this very distracting when you’re trying to listen to the professor but someone is shopping for shoes directly in front of you. You’ll also be probably be getting annoyed by now by the amount of conversations you hear in a class room. You just have to make like Hermione Granger and sit up front. The closer you are to the professor the less likely you will see people Facebooking or talking about how hot that person at that party was. If you’re like me you’ve figured out exactly where your classes are but might have mixed up the days. Yes I did that, I made it to class on time, at the right room, and then loudly exclaimed “Chemistry? Oh sorry!” and scurried out of class. Of course I was sitting up front. So sit up front but make sure you’re in the right class.

Third week

Still no OSAP. My cupboards are getting bare and I’m pretty stressed out. With three kids all needing lunches and snacks for their lunches, it’s not like the pre-kid days where my partner and I could survive on Ramen noodles with lunch meat. Luckily a neighbour was kind enough to inform me of the UTM Food Centre on campus. What a relief to go and get a couple bags of groceries. KD may not be a glamorous dinner for the adults but the kids loved it and our tummies went to bed full. Make sure you check out the food banks that are available on campus or locally. If you find that you need immediate help please check out the Resources For Families in Need on our Family Care Office page.

Resources for Families in Need

U of T Food & Clothing Bank

UTM Food Centre

To be continued…