First Year University Woes
With August now here and September right around the corner, those of you in your first year of University may be feeling a little nervous. I do not blame you! I was in the same position a few years ago. After taking time off to figure out what I wanted to study I was ready to hit the books again… or so I thought!
I registered with zeal and could not wait to re enter the world of notebooks, pencils, pens and knowledge! I bought all my books right away, stocked up on school supplies and RSVP’d for Orientation. Yes—I was ready!
Finally September came and I entered the classroom with dozens of other nervous first years. It was hot, very hot. Maybe it was just my nerves. For the first time I doubted myself. Maybe I was not ready for this yet! What if it was too soon? I had only just begun tasting the world and all it had to offer. Was I ready to give it up for a desk and a textbook? Was I ready to learn rather than explore?
As it turns out, I was not ready. In fact, I lasted about two weeks in University before I called it quits for the year. I felt like a failure. My friends did not understand. I did not understand! How did this go so wrong?
I do not write this to scare you. In fact, I am now in my fourth year of University and I love it! I also am not writing this to convince you to leave University- quite the opposite. I wanted to write about how to survive your first year because I had such a tough time with it, and clearly did not make it. But my second pass at “first” year went much better. I’m writing this with the hope that you will learn from my experience and be more aware of what is ahead of you.
In retrospect, here are a few things I wish I knew:
1. Do not buy all your books before you start classes! Often, you will change your mind and realize another class may be a better fit. You don’t want the book you purchased to become a paperweight. If you go to the first one or two and think you will stick with it, then go purchase that textbook. Or even better, purchase an e-book if possible! If you do end up with an unnecessary book though, do not panic. Try selling it at the used bookstore and recouping some of your money. Or if you need to feel prepared, just check your bookstore’s return policy. Often if the book is unused they will refund you within an allotted amount of time! Just be prepared to lineup!
2. You are not a failure if you have to drop a course, or two. It seemed like the end of the world when I dropped my first course. The reality is, it is not! In fact it is more important that you take on what you can handle in your first year of University. You can always make up courses in spring or summer sessions at school. Don’t sweat a few credits. The extra time you have to focus on your other classes will serve you more in the long run.
3. Be on time. I know that they do not take attendance in several university classes, but out of respect to your professor and classmates, arrive on time. It is quite distracting when you arrive late, especially in the winter months when you have a large coat, and a backpack. That coat seems even puffier and the zipper seems more obnoxious when you are late. However, we all run a bit late sometimes, just try not to make it a habit.
4. If you are one of the first few people on the waitlist, go to the first class! I did not do this my first year, and because of that am a year behind in my major. I was on the waitlist but thought that meant I was out. What I learned is that the first class they usually ask who is on the waitlist and they will talk to you after class. If they have enough spots for people in the classroom, sometimes they will expand their class list to let you in. I say sometimes because they do not have to. One of my classes this past year, the waitlist students took attendance every class and after about two weeks, those who had come every class were admitted in. It never hurts to try.
5. If you decide that University is not for you this year that is ok too. I’ve already admitted to leaving University my first attempt at it. You may feel the same way- all the excitement may fizzle and you might realize that this is not what you thought it would be. Do not quit right away though. Look at the rest of your life. Are you working towards your career aspirations and it is harder than you thought? Do you just dislike homework? Are you missing your friends? Then I would suggest that you persevere. It does get easier as you get used to it. The homework becomes more manageable as you acquire time management skills and you will make friends as time passes.
However, if you really feel lost, or your friends and family notice a change in you (and not for the better) consider if University is the correct next step. Talk to the guidance counselors they have at school or to your family and friends. In my circumstance all it took was a second year off to focus my career path. I needed to know what I was trying to achieve so that I was motivated to work hard. Once I figured that out, school has been so much easier. Sometimes working can really highlight what we love and which careers we may be best suited to. Or it can show us that perhaps we don’t want to work in that area. But that is another article…
Whichever path you choose, I hope that this coming year is full of adventure, excitement and new memories. These first few years out of high school are amazing. Enjoy them!