After hearing all kinds of things about college and university, you’re probably wondering what you can expect as you prepare to enter your first year. The best way to get the most out of the experience is to both maintain your academics and be involved on your campus. Considering all the money you and/or your family is putting in to your education, why not take full advantage of this time? Academics are important, but being involved on your campus will make this time unforgettable, teach you valuable skills, and provide great networking opportunities.
Focusing on my grades kept me from getting involved earlier on, and getting more out of my time at UTSC (UofT Scarborough Campus). My advice to you: Don’t get caught up in one aspect of university life and have everything set in stone. I changed my major three times, from Neuroscience, to Health Studies, and finally to Environmental Science, with a minor in Religion. And that’s actually normal. Very few people know what they want to do when they leave high school. It’s important to try out as much as you can to help you figure that out.
Aside from your grades, there’s probably a lot of other things you’re nervous about. One way to get a feel for your new school, and get past those fears, is orientation (popularly known as frosh). This is an important event since it gives you a chance to get to know your school before you hit the books. It usually lasts a few days or even a week, involves a lot of fun activities, and chances to make new friends. After your first year it also offers a great volunteer opportunity. As an orientation leader for new students you would experience school spirit at its best, and share what your school has to offer.
During your first few weeks of school, campus clubs and organizations will host orientation events or info sessions for new students. Be sure to keep an eye out for these and find out what each is about. And if none of the organizations interest you, why not start up your own? Be sure to get your friends involved too. On a small campus like UTSC , organizations are close-knit and get collectively involved in events and fundraisers that make a big impact. Thousands of dollars can be raised through collaborations between campus groups, for local and global endeavors.
There are so many experiences and memories I’ve received from being involved at UTSC. Joining the TSA dance team, the UTSC Assassins, has allowed me to grow as a dancer, taught me a lot about team work, and allowed me to meet plenty of great people. It has also made me identify with my school even more through school spirit!
Another great experience I had was volunteering at the International Student Centre. Through the Centre I found out about programs that allowed students to go abroad while earning credit towards their degree in Canada. These types of programs exists at most universities and colleges! This led me to take an environmental science field course in Ecuador last year. I learned so much more than I could have in a lecture room. Not to mention, this opportunity was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and has helped with get research and work-study jobs with professors.
First year will be the start of a new experience in your life, and all you’ve got to do is be open to the possibilities offered to you to take charge of your future. There’s a lot of pressure on you right now to do well in school, and that’s only possible if you balance your life. Chances are you probably won’t fall in love with cramming for exams. But you will feel motivated if you go after experiences that allow you to learn outside of the classroom too. Your campus will become your home away from home so be sure to get comfortable, starting in your first year! Good luck everyone, and enjoy!
- Shajini Jeganmohan