The Top Tips For University You Need NOW (& Probably Yesterday Too)

Posted by Megan on March 31, 2014

Journey to the Centre of York

Hi Readers!

This post is dedicated to all the incoming first years and other students that think they will benefit. I scavenged long and hard for these tips (okay, I just asked my friends) so I hope you find them helpful. There will always be lessons you will learn in first year but hopefully these tips can get you through your first year and the rest of your degree in the best way possible 🙂 Learn from what we’ve learned! Also, warning because this is probably the biggest post I’ve ever written. Feel free to bookmark this 😀

And before I forget, don’t forget to check out York’s Spring Open House where you can find out even MORE amazing tips! Click here for more information 🙂

On avoiding skipping

A meme of a university student that read 'Skips class... overwhelmed with guilt for the rest of day"

Try to have your classes consecutively, right after another. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, spread out classes are more exhausting and you will be more likely to skip them, which only adds to the stress. – Sola Shin

On doing it your own way

A GIF of Morgan Freeman saying 'I'm the Boss'

Never, ever, EVER feel pressured to do your degree in any other way than the way that feels best for you. This means that you should pursue a program that you are interested in. This means that if it’s better for you to be a part time student and get your degree over 10 years then do that. Or if you want to accelerate your degree and do full summer course loads, that’s perfectly okay too. Or if you decide to change your program 5 times to get to what you are passionate about or you are 3 years into your current program and tired of it but decide to stick with it – both options are right because they are right for you. I’m a firm believer that people know what they need best, so try your best to truly believe and embrace this. Don’t feel pressured to take a path that you don’t think you want or can work with. You are worth more than that. Your education and career are for YOU, why not do something you like? – Megan Collins (me)

On working out your schedule

A GIF of Kristen Stewart that reads '' I just can't do it anymore'

Make sure you do not have too many hours in a day… no more than 6 hours. It might not seem that bad but 6 hours of sitting in lecture trying to stay concentrated takes a lot of energy… – Marie C. Chicoine

On getting involved

A GIF of Kourtney Kardashian saying 'life is about the memories and experiences.'

My tip to first years: GET INVOLVED!!! There are 200+ clubs on campus. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that [have] a lot of benefits.

1. You meet TONS of people and make a lot of great friends.

2. You have a chance at a reference letter that can benefit you in the future, whether it be grad studies or jobs, etc.

3. Your university experience improves, where you have fun along the way from all the friends you make and your grades improve too.

4. It breaks you out of your shell

Don’t fall into the commuter trap of just going to school, going to class, then going back home. Your university experience is what YOU make of it, and getting involved on campus, with TONS of opportunities, will increase your school pride as well as develop you as a leader and well rounded individual.

– Eduardo Rodriguez

On finding balance

A GIF from Ferris Beuler's Day Off that reads 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Try and have a day off if possible. Helps keep things in perspective.. and helps with working on essays/projects or working on your social life. – Eisa Morad

On understanding your workload

A GIF that reads "I don't know what to do my whole brain is crying" as a man runs around in circles.

Try to look up previous outlines [for your course] to see how the teacher is testing [the] class… for some people who don’t test well due to stress, it’s important to consider how many tests you’re going to have… – Marie C. Chicoine

On your first friends

A GIF of a man addressing a group of people saying 'Does anyone want to be my friend?'

The people you meet in frosh week or in res will not necessarily stay close friends with you near the end of your university career. You will meet new people all the time, [try to] keep an open mind. Most of my university friends I’ve met through class, not through who I lived with in first year. – Sola Shin

On joining clubs

A GIF of a comedian saying 'You ever have so much to do you just decide to take a nap?'

Don’t be in more than 2 clubs during the school year, especially if they require meetings. – Michelle TC [To elaborate – club commitments can add up fast especially if you are trying to balance other commitments in your schedule – M]

On online accessibility

a GID of Anna Kendrick saying 'I like sweatpants and staying home.'

I wish I knew in my first year how active York University is on social media platforms, and how much help is available to future and current students online. You don’t need to come on campus every time you have a concern! – Sunera Ali 

On managing your time and staying organized

a GIF of a pocket watch which reads 'Where did the time go?'

Overall, being organized, I believe, is the key to academic success – and to being successful in all areas of life. And so, without further adieu, here are the things that I did that helped me to practice staying organized:

1. Buy a calendar

2. Use an agenda

3. Write it down

4. Get some sleep

5. Pick a ‘reset’ day

– Christopher Ford (edited excerpt used with permission from Chris’s article which can be found here – give it a read for more elaborated tips and useful information!)

 On overloading your school year

a GIF of a women lying on a sidewalk saying ''Do you ever wonder why things turned out the way they did?'

Don’t take more than 5 classes [per semester or 6/9 credits for the full year]. Ever. – Sola Shin [Just to elaborate – it can sometimes be done but it’s very difficult and often not worth the stress and impact it has on your other courses – M]

On taking classes with your friends

A GIF from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs where the camera zooms through the class to a little boy excitedly raising his hand.

Don’t take courses only because your friends are in it. It’s your degree, and in the end, it’s your life. What do YOU want out of your degree? – Michelle TC

On starting out strong

A GIF from Up that says 'Welcome Aboard!'

The best way to start your university experience is to attend orientation week so you can meet new friends and your classmates, [and] get yourself involved. Try to volunteer whenever you find the chance to and STUDY!!! Like study hard cause grades matter!! Especially if you’re planning on going to grad school – Maria Brofkas

 On residence, meal plans, and scheduling your day

A meme of willy wonka which reads ' oh, you have morning classes? getting up befire 9:00 must be so tiring'

If you live on [residence], and have a meal plan, get to know all the places to eat [hint, there’s a lot of them -M]. Also avoid 9 credit courses if you can and try to make your your classes in the morning so you have the whole day to do homework or see friends. –Tori Brownhill

On readings, deadlines, and getting help

a GID of a university student, sunglasses on in the library, saying 'whats up wit all deez books'

Try to do readings BEFORE going to class, the lecture will make more sense and you won’t have extra readings waiting at home. Keep up with deadlines, and try to keep yourself informed as to what’s going on with your university whether it’s online or by talking to peers. Don’t wait last minute to get help!! If you’re having problems in class go to your prof or TA as soon as you can. Also, don’t wait last minute to finish assignments [or] essays! It will cause you a lot of stress and often times that rushed work will be reflected in your mark. – Humaira Inam

On knowing what resources are available

a GIF of Russell Brand saying 'Your mouth is smiling, but your eyes look all sad. Why?'

Learn all of the on campus resources such as counselling. It can help in the long run instead of building it all up and not talking to someone. Also know of the financial aid office and go once in a while if you’re on OSAP and feel like you’re having financial struggles! – Julia Marsh

On online courses

Meme that reads 'Online class... please turn off your phone' the second half shows the 'poisoned' king from Lord of the Rings saying 'You have no power here!'

Online classes only look easier, but the deadlines creep up on you out of nowhere. If deciding to take a online course, be very disciplined and keep up on a weekly basis. Falling behind is so much easier when you don’t have to go to class! – Sola Shin

On scheduling breaks

a GIF that reads 'Oh my god I need help'

DO NOT have more than one hour breaks in between classes (especially if you’re a commuter – there’s only so much you can do on campus) and also… be careful when creating your schedule: try not to cram too many or too little classes in one day! – Rose-Ines Umadac

On the frosh experience

A GIF of Matt Smith as Doctor Who at a party waving his hands. The GIF reads 'I regret nothing'

GO TO FROSH WEEK!!! My number one mistake in my university experience was not attending, no question about it. Frosh week is an AMAZING networking experience, where you can participate in fun activities all week long. It’s also a dry week, so there should be no pressure in thinking you have to drink. [Also], if you’re a commuter, you can always stay in one of the commuter rooms over-night, which are like big sleepovers 🙂 I made a post on what I wish I was told in my first year, maybe you can get some more insight through that! – Sheila Shahrokhi

On a mixed bag of things you should know

A GIF that reads 'But more importantly, it's about what you have to offer the world and who you are inside.'

1. Form study groups. Talking through the concepts helps you remember them much better.

2. Make sure you start studying for an exam at least 2 weeks prior. Cramming does NOT work.

3. Take good lecture notes. If the professor is repeating themselves, it is most likely important for the exam.

4. Make use of services available to you. Take advantage of the learning skills workshops as well as those hosted by the writing department.

5. Try to buy used textbooks when you can. There are usually good notes in them that can help you.

6. Don’t over stress yourself. Take breaks when needed.

7. If you live off campus ,make sure you get involved. Make the most of your university experience.

8. Make use of TA office hours. They can be great resources when you need someone to look over/edit your paper. They get paid regardless if anyone shows up, so take advantage. – Katarina Puljak

On your intelligence and grades

A GIF of J.K. Rowling that reads 'It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not lived at all.'

Intelligence can’t be quantified. A numerical grade is not an accurate indicator of the quality of your thought processes. –Sola Shin

Thank you again to everyone who shared their tips, I couldn’t have compiled this post without you! If anyone has any comments, please sound off below. Which tips do you think are most useful? And for current students, which tips do you wish you had heard in first year?



Megan is a third-year Psychology student. Follow her on her journey of self-development as she explores and ventures through campus.

See other posts by Megan

  • Megan

    Thank you Chris! And thanks for helping 🙂

  • Avatar

    Great article! Thanks for quoting me 🙂