How to Prepare for your First Year at York and Accomplish Academic Success

Written by Boris Licina

As a mature and international student, I did not know much about my first year in York; today, I do, and don’t worry, over time, you will, too. It can be a lot to take in, but now that I’m in my 3rd year, here are some strategies and tips I would share to make your student life easier. 

Check your degree requirements

Degree requirements are conditions required for you to graduate in your degree program. Be sure to check the requirements for your program and put them in a spreadsheet because it will be easier for you to track progress and plan which course to take in which year. The number of hours I spent researching the York Courses website is - a lot. It was love at first sight, as I could choose from hundreds of courses and think about all the different knowledge I could get. The course descriptions were like movie summaries, and my spreadsheet is like My List on Netflix. 

Through York Courses, you can study and pick courses available on campus, browse through e-learning courses and select course options that are available after 6 p.m. or on the weekend (if you’re studying while working). Learn about the different York course terms and what options are available. For me, I choose courses that are entirely online when they fit my requirements and are better for my schedule.  

Pro tip: Save all the courses you find and like in the same spreadsheet; you may need them in the upper years. I have already done a lot of research, which makes choosing them easier. 

Plan your classes and time

Use York’s visual schedule builder

York has a fantastic tool to help you plan your classes and time - the Visual Schedule Builder. The keyword here is "visual," it clearly presents information for me to see how my week will look. It also allows you to play with sections and terms or to click and drag Personal Times to tell when you do not want to have classes. I used it during my first year and all the others to plan my time as a mature, international student. I balance commuting about 1 hour to York’s Keele campus, my kids attend school from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., my partner works, and I have family time - all of that must be in my time management formula. Once enrolled in all your classes, you can also use the Plot My Timetable functionality on the York Courses website to see your schedule.  

While planning your schedule, it’s also important to consider where your classes are located. I used York’s 3D Map to get to know the area better and for all new students, you’ll want to learn about York’s building list acronyms. In my second year, I had a class from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Accolade East building and another at 11:30 a.m. at the Vari Hall building. They are near each other, but still - it was a bit of a run.   

Use Rate My Professor carefully

Rate My Professor is a web service where you can see how students grade some professors. They share information, like the difficulty level or whether students would retake this course, but I’d recommend using this information wisely and with a grain of salt. I’ve taken courses with some professors with "bad" grades on Rate My Professor that were actually amazing, and vice versa.  

Ask students about courses

I have a lot of freedom in my program when choosing courses, so I researched them thoroughly. Confirm information from several sources to help you know what you can expect in the course or what challenges you may face and seek out students who took it the semester before you. 

Talk to an advisor

When in doubt, schedule an appointment with an advisor. I did it several times, and I was able to get the answers I needed since I was wondering about pursuing double majors. As a York student, you can track your progress through the Degree Progress Report. In one of my appointments, I needed more detailed clarification about the general education courses I planned to take and how they fit into my degree requirements.

Pro tip: Bookmark My Online Services - a York University webpage with links to many services available virtually.