Mistakes we made in first year (so you can avoid them)

Written by Monica Xiao

Having gone through six years of post-secondary education, I wish I knew in first year what I know now. Today, fellow upper-year students are joining me to share what we learned from our mistakes, so you can kickstart your first year like a pro,


Keep up with important dates and financial deadlines

Part of being a university student means being responsible for your own education and finances. Here are a few tips to get you started:  

  • Bookmark the Important Dates page. 
  • Apply for OSAP as early as possible to avoid delays. I usually do this as soon as the application window opens in June. You can apply before you enrol in courses (which I didn’t know!) 
  • Paying your tuition on time to avoid interest fees.  
  • Understand the refund table, in case you’re dropping any courses.  
Any questions? Student Support & Advising is here to support you.

Engage with the course material

“Make sure the professor knows your name. That means you're asking questions and you are meeting with the professor during their office hours. Make sure other classmates know who you are.”  

Clifton Grant
A third-year mature student in law and society

Sitting in a lecture hall with hundreds of students can feel intimidating, especially if you’re shy like me. In my first year, I was so nervous to talk to my professors or even to my classmates. I needed to remember that I’m in university to learn and if I have no one to talk to or ask questions, that’s not making it any easier.  

In the middle of my second year, I felt that I wasn’t growing academically or professionally. I decided to make a point to engage with my classmates, keep up with course readings, reach out to course instructors and ask questions in class. I made new friends, my grades got better and most importantly, I became so much happier and so much more enthusiastic about university life.  

Get involved with the community

Nathaniel Goldstein, a fourth-year student, recommends taking advantage of all that York has to offer. “You could really find your community, discover your passion and make a difference,” says Goldstein, who is studying science and psychology.  

“If you haven't found something that suits your interest, go ahead and create something. Create that new club, create that new committee and meet with other students.” 

York has more than 400 student organizations. If you don’t know where to start, try scrolling through YUConnect. If you still can’t find anything that interests you, build your own community by creating your own club!

Manage your time wisely

While we want you to take advantage of the amazing opportunities at York, we also learned that time management is an ongoing struggle for all university students. 

“In first year, everything seems super cool and worth your time,” says Juilianna Totoni, a fourth-year business student. “It’s easy to say yes to everything, but remember to prioritize what’s important to you.” 

“Make sure to create a class schedule that not only works for you, but includes study and travel time, as well as any extracurriculars. Don’t forget a bit of rest too!”  

Start using a calendar and get into the habit of marking everything in it, including your commute, fun time and extracurriculars. This way, you can be proactive in making sure you have enough time to balance school, work and life.  

You can also look back to your calendar if you ever wonder where all your time went.