What I Wish I Knew in First Year: Advice from Upper-Year York U Students

Posted by Elizabeth Naccarato on October 12, 2017

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Starting university is incredibly exciting, but it can also be a little overwhelming. During the first few weeks of term, you are so busy getting oriented on campus that you might not be aware of all the resources available to you at York U. For example, first-year students may not know the cheapest places to eat on campus, where to go when you need some down time, how to plan your course timetable or how to get involved with club activities. There are many campus resources and opportunities to get involved that some students don’t know about until late in their degree: I want to help you find out about them in your first and second years at York. I’ve compiled advice from upper-year York students about the tips they wish they had known in their first year of university. Think of this as a guide created by current students to help those entering York feel at ease.

Image by York U.
Are you a first-year York U student? Take a look at our advice from upper-year students.

My advice for first year York students

I would first like to outline some things that I wish I had known when I first started at York. For example, I wish someone had told me where I could get iced coffee on-the-go. I need coffee to power through long days on campus, (doesn’t every student?) and I don’t particularly like hot caffeinated drinks. Thankfully, after some trial and error I discovered that there are places on campus that serve iced coffee, including a Starbucks, Second Cup and Aroma Espresso Bar. If you’re looking for places to eat on campus, take a look at the York Lanes dining options or review the York University Campus Dining website to see what’s available.

Another important tip that I wish I knew in first year is that the Keele campus covers a lot of ground and you should plan your courses accordingly. When you’re choosing courses for first year, you don’t generally note their location. Yet sometimes classes that are back-to-back can be on opposite sides of the campus, which means that you’ll need to rush to get from point A to point B in ten minutes. Try to avoid scheduling back-to-back classes that are across campus when possible!

To get a varied sense of what every first year York U student should know, I asked some upper-year students for their advice for first-year York Lions.

Get to know your peers

When I asked about her advice for first-year students, Mackenzie Shaw, a fourth-year English and Professional Writing major, said, “Since my program is small, I wish I had put more effort into getting to know my peers in first year. Now I’m in fourth year and I’m only now getting to know everyone, and we’re going to be graduating soon.”

This is a very helpful tip for students in smaller programs. It’s always good to make friends and get to know people in your program regardless of the size. However, in smaller programs it’s more intimate and can be even easier to meet people. Making friends who share some of the same interests as you will enhance your learning experience and make your university years more memorable. If you are looking for ways to get to know your fellow York students, join one of York’s 300+ official student clubs and organizations! Check the YU Connect website to browse different clubs and contact their leadership.

Image by York U.
Make the effort to get to know your classmates early on.

Utilize support services if you need assistance

Shannon Hui, a third-year Business Administration major, reflected on her first few years at York and said, “Looking back on first year, I wish I was more open. I faced some struggles, whether it was battling homesickness or almost failing my economics midterm. When you’re living in that moment, it’s difficult to take everything in. It’s important to be open with yourself by accepting the reality of the situation, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and asking for help. It took me some time, but once I asked for help I’ve never looked back and have been enjoying the university experience a lot more!”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it! Otherwise, you might end up missing out on a lot of great experiences that are happening around you. If you need to contact someone about stress that you may be feeling, you can contact Personal Counselling Services at York U by calling 416-736-5297 to make an appointment. Personal Counselling Services operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 4:30pm and is located on the first floor of the Bennett Centre for Student Services. Check their website for more information about their services, including workshops that cover everything from handling procrastination to managing stress. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with all of the mental health and wellness resources at York U.

If you’re looking for academic support and learning resources, visit Learning Skills Services in the Scott Library Learning Commons Hub from Monday to Friday. They can help you with time management, exam preparation, effective note-taking skills and more!

Image by York Unviersity
Looking for a quiet place to study? Try the Life Sciences building!

Learn how to take great notes

Adrian Polidano, a fourth-year Communications major, gave some advice on lecture notes, saying, “In first year I wish I knew how to take good lecture notes. It took a lot of trial and error before I got the hang of it. They are super important come exam season, and I learned that the hard way.”

Ineffective note-taking and not studying enough are two of the most common mistakes that first-year students make when entering university. The atmosphere and expectations are very different from high school and the material requires a lot more attention. Read our previous YU blog post, “Overcoming the Second-Semester Slump (Or More Tips on How to Prep for Exams)” for tips about taking good notes in lecture and studying for exams.

Image by York U.
The Scott Library is a popular campus study spot.

Find a great place to study

Another thing most first-year students don’t know? Where to find a good study spot! Most people go to Scott Library, Central Square, the Bergeron Centre or the Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts to hit the books. However, there is a hidden gem on campus where not many people go to study: the Life Science Building located near Tait McKenzie. It offers a quiet environment without any interruptions or noises.

There are definitely many more aspects of York University that we upper-year students wish we had known in first year, but hopefully this list gives you a better sense of the resources available to you. If you have questions that we didn’t answer, feel free to reach out to the YU Blog in the comments below or ask upper year students for advice! Remember, all upper-year York students were once new to campus too, and they’ll likely be happy to help you out. Think of it as a good way to make new friends and get the inside perspective on the best York U tips.

What advice do you have for first year York U students? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us on Twitter @YorkUstudents!


Elizabeth Naccarato
Elizabeth Naccarato

Elizabeth is a fourth-year Professional Writing major at York U. She enjoys reading for pleasure (no textbooks please), a nice cup of coffee (but only iced) and being surrounded by good company. She hopes her blog posts will be helpful and inspiring to current and future York U students.

See other posts by Elizabeth Naccarato

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