If you’re a first year student at university, or about to start university, this post is for you! I’m sharing all my best tips for university success!
If you’re wondering, “How can I be successful at university?” keep reading!
I have been a student for many years, as well as spending 13+ years as an Academic Advisor for undergrads, and below I’m sharing my best strategies for success at uni. I’ve worked with many successful students as well as supporting numerous students who were struggling to figure it all out, and I also pull from my own experience as an undergrad and grad student.
The tips below are not specifically about studying. For more on study skills for university, check out this post:
Tips for Success
I bet you’re wondering what kind of student advice this is. Attend classes? Of course!
But once you get to university, many of your classes will be recorded and your professors often won’t take attendance, so it can be really tempting not to go! But when you push attending lectures lower on your priority list, how will you make watching the recording or catching up a priority?
Having set class times and following them gives you an increased accountability: you have to do the readings before class, finish your assignments at the correct time, etc. Yes, some people can do this on their own but for most students it’s difficult to maintain this kind of self-discipline on their own.
Plus, as a uni student, you have so many competing priorities that you will always have an excuse to skip a class, and you will always have other work to do instead, so these are not valid reasons not to attend.
Most of your professors and TA’s (teaching assistants) want to help you! If they can see that you are putting in the effort, they will usually reciprocate by supporting you.
Of course, you should always try to find the answers to your questions first. But if you can’t figure something out, just don’t understand some of your class content, or want to make sure you’ve understood properly, go ask!
If you’re nervous about going to office hours, you can also ask another student. This is why it’s so important for you to get to know at least one other student in each class – you and this person can support each other.
There are other benfits to attending office hours: This is a great way for your professors to get to know you. Next time you need a reference letter or academic support, you’ll have someone you can turn to!
Join a club! Participate in your student government! Find a job on campus!
There are so many ways you can get involved on campus. But what are the benefits?
- make friends
- build your network
- have fun
- gain practical work experience
- feel connected on campus
Understand the Expectations
A lot of the expectations at university are unspoken, and you’ll probably spend some time figuring this out in the beginning.
For example, there are loads of rules around writing a paper. How should it be formatted? What the heck are APA and MLA styles and how should you use them?
What about office hours? How often should you attend? What is it okay to ask, and what should you avoid asking?
And research? What is the difference between academic research and using Google? How can you know what research is okay to use and what is not?
Attending your university’s orientation, talking to other students and your professors, reading your course syllabus, and just observing how other students do things will all help you with these. I share a lot on these topics on my blog, social media, and weekly email newsletter:
Learn How to Navigate the University Environment
Navigating the university is not just about finding your classes at the right times – although you want to be able to do that, too! It’s embarassing to have to walk down to the front row when you’re late and there are no other seats. Trust me, I’ve done it! 😳
Navigation is also about figuring out who to ask for different types of help, and how to access all the resources that your university has to offer. Did you know that Canadian universities offer supports like these:
- counselling and medical centre
- accessibility office
- orientation and supports to get to know your campus and program
- tutoring and academic support
- writing and research support
- career services that help with job searches, resumes, cover letters, and interviews
- student life offices that work with clubs and other campus opportunities
- mentorship programs
- student government opportunities
- academic advising
But when should you go to each of these services? It can be hard to figure it out! When do you go to office hours and when do you go to your academic resource centre? Should you go to both? What about the academic advisor? What do they do?
Attending any and all university orientations that you are invited to is the best and easiest way to find out what services are available on your campus and when you should access each one.
You can also check out this post on the top 5 people to know on your campus:
Advice for First-Year University Students
The top piece of advice for students starting university is to attend ANY and ALL orientation programming you are invited to. This is where you’ll meet your first classmates, and you’ll also learn all about your university specifically.
I skipped my university orientation because I thought it was just a campus tour and some ice-breakers. Yes, you might have to do some ice-breakers, and there may be a campus tour, but they will also acquaint you with the campus services.
I had no idea that there was an academic support office in the library! They could have helped me make outlines and plan my first papers, as well as showing me some tips and tricks for better writing and proofreading! I did eventually figure it out, but I could have been much further ahead if I had just known to go and get some help!
I also didn’t know there was a career support office that could have helped me do some career exploration and planning. If you read my origin story post, you know I felt so lost career-wise when I graduated, and it took me a number of years to find my path. Could I have avoided all of that by going to the career office? I’m not sure – I think I needed to do more exploring before I figured it out, but I could have been even a step or two ahead and that would have been useful!
What do you need to feel ready for success?
Whether you’re about to start uni, or already a couple of years in, I’d love to know what helps you succeed, or what you think will help you succeed! Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below!