7 tips to help you get the most out of first-year university

By YP cadet Millie Dang

YP cadet Millie Dang grilled her sister, who's studying in the US, for the most useful things to know before you start your new life at university

By YP cadet Millie Dang |

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The transition from secondary school to university may be one of the toughest things you'll ever have to go through. A new life in a new place with new people … and no parents to buy groceries and cook meals for you. These tips may sound self-explanatory or obvious at first glance, but they'll definitely come in handy as you set off on your post-secondary adventure!

Get to know your professors, and make sure they know you (in a good way)

Professors are humans, too - if they like you, they'll grade you better, give you more guidance, and maybe even provide recommendation letters. Don't be that kid who walks in late every class, or opens a bag of crisps super loudly in the middle of a lecture. Especially don't be that kid who only shows up for the final and unwraps his textbook for the first time then and there. (True story.)

Use your summers wisely

I know we all dream of summers filled with holidays, movie marathons, and sleep. But you only have a few summers to make yourself stand out from the thousands of other students trying for the same job or post-university programmes as you. Attend summer school, study abroad, get an internship, volunteer - honestly, anything works.

Join everything, but only stick with the ones you love

In your first year, be sure to join as many organisations and activities as you possibly can - don't be lazy! This is a great way to make connections and get to know more people. After a while, carefully select three or four activities that you really love and think will have leadership or growth opportunities along the way. These are the ones that you'll be proud to write about on your résumé!

Learn to pick the right classes

In most universities, class applications are first-come, first-serve … which means you actually have to wake up early to apply for them. Willingly get out of bed early just to sign up for an entire year of suffering? Yes. Getting up early once can help you actually get the classes you want, and at a time suitable for you. This way you can avoid having to wake up for an 8.30am class you don't even care about. If you're smart about it, you'll be able to have three-day weekends, every week! You can also use sites like Rate My Professors or Rate Your Lecturer to see if the professors for the classes you want to take are right for you.

Explore the opportunities and resources available to you

Universities are a treasure trove of resources; there are plenty of programmes where you will be fully funded … as long as you apply and are accepted! If you're interested in research, you'll probably find that the school will gladly provide you with grants. If you're part of a student organisation, the school will usually fund any activities you'd like to host. Also, though it's not publicly promoted, many shops and restaurants actually do offer discounts for students as long as you have your student card, so don't be afraid to ask. Sites like studentrate can also keep you updated on the deals.

Socialise and keep in contact

It's inevitable that you're going to meet a lot more people in university than you did back in secondary school; that's just how it is. But make a point of staying connected with those you want to keep in touch with, because if you don't, chances are you'll never really talk to them again. After all, everyone else is meeting just as many people as you are. Additionally, try to make friends with more senior students. All those lessons about respecting your elders will pay off here. They'll have notes you can use, past mid-terms/finals papers, know who the good and bad professors are for different classes, give career advice, and well, it never hurts to have a few experienced mentors in your contact list.

Find out how you'll do your best studying, and where

When you get to university, you'll realise that your room is no longer the quietest place to study. In fact, it'll probably be the greatest distraction, what with all the other students around you. Luckily, university campuses are usually huge, so there's got to be a study spot that's right for you. Communal study spaces, computer rooms or libraries (obviously) are generally good places to study. If you really get your game on, you might even find a great study spot that no one knows about. Organising your time is even more important than it was in secondary school, so don't ... don't ... don't procrastinate! If you have a Mac, try downloading the app Self-Control, for when you start to lose, well, self-control. And don't be afraid to seek out your professors, a peer tutor, or one of the teaching assistants; they're there for a reason!