Five Things We Wish We’d Known in First Year: Featuring Guest Blogger, Jennifer!

Bonjour Blogosphere!

I’ve been blogging for about three months now, can you believe it? And I kind of figured that by now you may have gotten a little bit sick of my ramblings. (It’s OK, I understand. Even the greatest love affairs benefit with a little bit of space from time to time.)

So this week I’ve decided to invite a special guest-blogger to help me espouse some sage advice for incoming first-years. But before we get to all of that, let me introduce Jennifer! Hi, Jennifer!

Hello! It’s a privilege to be here. It’s especially awesome because I sit next to Emily in the Office of Student Life every week as she writes these brilliant and insightful blog posts. (NOTE FROM EMILY: It’s true, she does. For a while, I’m pretty sure she was under the impression that my job was to look up lolcat pictures until I finally showed her the blog.) And now I finally get to participate!

Jennifer is going into her fourth year, majoring in Ethics, Society and Law. Jennifer was her college’s orientation coordinator last year and she’s currently coordinating KickStart. Last week, Jennifer and I were talking with some incoming first-year students for a leadership workshop, and we realized that we had a lot to say about our experiences at U of T thus far. So without further ado:

Five Things That We Wish We’d known In First Year

1. Don’t be scared to just show up to something you’re interested in! (For the most part, people are actually nice.)

There’s no denying it: one of the hardest things to do at the University of Toronto is to actually talk to a stranger face-to-face; whether it be going to a club’s open house or actually attending your professor’s office hours…

But one of the great things about being in first year and “just showing up” is that nobody knows anyone else. You can get away with saying “I’m in first year, and I’d like to know more, so tell me!”

And here’s a secret coming from someone who has run her fair share of club events: sometimes you’re just really relieved to see that someone *anyone* actually showed up. And here’s one more secret: sometimes, professors get bored during their office hours. Seriously, I’ve had times where professors were actually relieved to see me because nobody else has showed up and they were sick of grading papers.

2. OSAP doesn’t come ASAP

Remember to file your paperwork because nobody is going to remind you. It takes awhile to actually process the papers, so make sure to get it done sooner rather than later. There have definitely been times when, had a friend not reminded me, I would have totally missed the date. Even going into fourth year, I still had to mark it down in my calendar!

And I think it might be worth mentioning the necessity of budgeting that money once you finally get it. Even if you’re not on OSAP per say, you’re likely taking out some kind of loan or getting some kind of funding that turns up in your bank account as this really nice number with a lot of zeroes in the fall. Do not be fooled. You’re making that money last for an entire year, and it doesn’t go as far as you think it does. Be smart, or you’ll pay for it later!

3.Time management: there’s not as much time in the day as you think there is. (DON’T PULL ALL-NIGHTERS.)

Especially as a humanities students, we have way fewer class hours than we used to in high school. It’s really easy to deceive yourself into thinking: “Oh, great, I have all afternoon to finish a week’s worth of readings… in one sitting…” But that never happens. Ever.

The idea is to get yourself into a routine of working independently. Don’t take your summer habits into the fall. Start early with a ritual or routine that keeps you on-task. It doesn’t have to be grueling, just setting aside a certain time of day or night to do some work goes a long way.

And of course, despite all of my noble words I have still pulled my fair share of all-nighters. And all I can say, is I currently avoid them at all costs. I know it can seem kind of noble, but you’re not going to be as productive as you would be working at any other time of day. Your essays are not going to be as coherent as you think they are at 4am, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll waste at least an hour of the night stress-crying over McDonald’s fries.

I’ve only pulled two all-nighters. It’s definitely not something to brag about. The thing about all-nighters is that things get blurry, and you just don’t remember anything. The only thing I remember from my last all-nighter is having to eat a sandwich to stay awake through my 9am class.

It’s really not the best test-taking technique or paper-writing strategy.

4. A penny saved is a penny earned. Especially when it comes to textbooks. Because they are expensive.

Chances are in first year you’re taking a lot of breadth requirement courses in subjects that you may not want to pursue ever again. So, even though you end up paying hundreds of dollars on these books, you very well may never want to see them again. That’s where TUSBE (Toronto University Student’s Book Exchange) comes in handy. TUSBE is this free website made for students that will connect you with other university students in Toronto who are buying and selling textbooks. You don’t need an account to post a book that you want to sell, all you need is an email address that people can contact you at if they want to buy your book. The great thing about TUSBE is that you don’t have to give a portion of your sales to anyone, unlike other methods of selling your textbooks. (And, you can negotiate the price, and choose a convenient location to meet up with the interested buyer!)
If I’d known about this site in first year I would have saved a lot of money!

5. Help is out there!

I know that we often we fancy ourselves stoic warriors in pursuit of a higher education who need nothing and no one. But I’ve learned from experience that you have to reach out for help when you need it. People want to help you, and if they can’t help you, they’ll know someone who can. University of Toronto has health services, registrars, a career centre, academic aid and a whole lot more in the way of student services. The problem is, it can be difficult to know that they even exist, especially on a campus as big as ours, so you have to be proactive in seeking out the help you need. It is very possible to go through all four years without using any of these services (except for your registrar, you’ll probably need to show up there at some point), but seriously, there’s no need to take on all of the challenges you’re going to face in university alone. That would make you a superhero, not a student.

And those, dear blogosphere, are our pearls of wisdom for the week. Thanks for having me, UpbeaT! It was a pleasure.

Oh, and dear other seasoned upper-year students, what advice do you have for incoming students? Jennifer and I know a few things, but we don’t know everything! Leave a comment, or tweet it to me or Jennifer!

3 thoughts on “Five Things We Wish We’d Known in First Year: Featuring Guest Blogger, Jennifer!

  1. Not so sure about the all-nighters item. Every essay I’ve handed in at UofT has been completed the night before, and I’ve done dozens of them. It’s really not as horrible as it sounds, and for some people, it’s the only motivation that works. Plus, it gives you more time to hit the bar and socialize.

    I dunno; it doesn’t work for everyone. But it seems silly to discredit them outright.

  2. Hey J,

    I’ve also turned in a few essays that I wrote the night before! But, I have to say, it’s never worked out for me, personally! Keep in mind this advice is just our opinions. You have to find the study/work/life balance that works for you.

    Emily

  3. I’m an all-nighter too! But my trick is to plan it out before, at least get the intro going and know what you’re going to say, but blaze it out the night before. When I finish my essays too early, I end up editing it way too much to the point it gets butchered. However, please note it took me 3 years of undergrad to figure out that this worked best for me…

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