I just completed my 4 years (and a few summer months) of my undergraduate career from Western University. I would like to share some advice and tips that I learned from my experience. I am not claiming that this information will get you the grades but it sure would help!
1. Go visit your councillor.
I will be the first to admit this but I barely ever visited my councillor throughout my four years in university. Looking back, I wish I did. I could have finished my undergrad and graduated with my friends in June, had I just met with my councillor at least once a year to make sure I had what I needed to stay on path to graduate. For those of you wondering, I was short half a breadth requirement. Although I still feel like it was not completely my fault, I should have known being in a massive university they don’t care about you unless they know you.
2. Sit in the front
Sounds cliche, but it really does work. By sitting in the front it will be less tempting to dozZzZe off, Facebook, or text. Being in university isn’t anything like high school. There is no hierarchy of the cools and nerds when it comes down to where you sit in class.
3. Write in your notes/textbook.
I know many of you will want to keep your $100-$300 textbook as crisp and new as possible, barely breaking the the bind, but DO IT! (Cheaper alternative: purchase a used textbook in your used bookstore on campus or check Amazon, actually ALWAYS check Amazon!) Maybe it’s just me, but if I am going to spend that much money on a textbook, use it. I tried treating my textbooks like they were some rare antique find but it didn’t get me anywhere in my classes or marks. If you’re really organized then sure, you can make notes on separate pieces of paper, but I have also tried that and my notes just end up crumpled at the bottom of my backpack. One other alternative I can think of is photocopying your textbook then making notes on the copies (but copies = $$$).
I just find writing exactly where you’re reading will be easier and more productive and efficient. You won’t have to flip through two separate books to figure out how you interpreted the text. Just my opinion 🙂
4. Type/write out exactly what you don’t understand.
Whenever there is any thing you can’t interpret in your readings, write it down… even if you think or feel like it’s something you should understand. Don’t ever be ashamed of what you do or do not know. Everyone is different. I have encountered many instances where people have reacted like this: “HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT?” I just shrug it off because seriously not everyone can know everything. These questions that you write down will be great to ask your professor in class or in their office hours. It will show your professor that you are really trying and want to learn. (Participation marks! WOO)
5. Find out your technique when organizing and keep it consistent.
With my personality (ENFP) I always got bored of how I organized things and was more distracted with how others were organizing. Whenever I thought I found my technique, I would see someone else’s pretty notes with coloured pen and matching post-its in class and I would end up buying all of those supplies to attempt the same thing! (which never lasted). Do whatever works for you whether it be highlighted notes and post-its, coloured pen and paperclips, or just an organized mess. Do what you know will work and what you’re comfortable with.
6. Don’t stress about getting 90s.You may have been the top student in your high school but don’t have the same expectations in university. Your grades will slip here and there and don’t freak out! It happens. The second you start accepting and stop stressing, the more you relax and absorb the information you’re learning in class.
7. Break up the big stuff.
Some classes will give you a bunch of small assignments throughout the semester and others will give you nothing but readings and a large project that will be worth 45% of your final mark. With large projects that are due at the end of the semester, do not and I repeat DO NOT procrastinate and leave it until a week before it’s due. I’ve done it, it’s the week in hell that you do not want to experience (you’ll end up with more greys and eye bags then desired). BREAK UP THE BIG STUFF. Assign an hour or two out of your day here and there through out the semester to work on the project. Look up a number of sources one day. Read a couple of the sources the next day. Sift through the sources for valuable information the following, then rough draft etc. etc.
8. Go to class.
I cannot stress enough how important this is. You do have the freedom to just sleep-in, lounge around or go shopping, however you will not learn anything. Even if you just show up to class with no paper or pen to just listen, that will be much better than not going at all! Just go! it’s only a couple hours out of your day and sometimes professors like to add in bonus information that you will need in your final. “This next slide MAY or MAY NOT be on your final ;)”
9. Join campus clubs.
Joining campus clubs are a great opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, and get involved with campus activities. Nothing but good can come out of signing up with a club. You can join and just go to meetings and event gatherings every so often, or you can run for an executive position that can be used in your resume for future job prospects. Either way, it is something I recommend to take your mind off of school a little bit every week. I have made amazing life-long friends from joining clubs, and it has also made me more outgoing. (You may discover more people in your faculty/program and gain AWESOME study buddies! WIN WIN!)
Well my brain is pretty much mush from looking back at all of the things I did wrong to make this list. I am sure there is much more than this, but this list is a pretty good starting point for anyone just starting university. ENJOY your years in undergrad, it’s not just about what you learn but your experiences there as well. Take it in, and stop stressing.