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5 Things I Wish I Knew in First Year

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

Back-to-school season is here, and if you’re reading this, chances are you’re starting university for the first time. As I enter my fourth year at Carleton, I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges I faced when I began my university journey. There is still so much for me to learn, but over the years I have gathered information that would have comforted me a lot back in first year. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or worried, here are five things I wish somebody told me at the very beginning.

1. Everybody is trying to make friends

Leaving your hometown friends and starting fresh is terrifying. It’s so easy to step away from trying to meet new people, but trust me, the friends you make in university are worth the slight anxiety. Plus, every single person there is also trying to meet new people and is just as nervous about it as you are. Everyone is waiting for someone to spark up a conversation, and sometimes that person may have to be you.

Something that helped me was having my outgoing best friend as a roommate. She really broke me out of my shell and motivated me to hang out with people on our residence floor. Thanks to that, I have made some of the most amazing friendships that will last a lifetime. There are so many people in university, you are bound to find “friendship soulmates” if you put yourself out there.

2. It is not a race to get your degree

This is one that took me a long time to accept. University seems so linear at first: five classes per semester, and then graduate in four years. In reality, everybody has such a different experience, and that is one hundred percent okay. When I finally got used to the differences between high school and university, I faced another challenge: classes were now online and would be for the next two years. As somebody who had never taken an online class before in my life, this was a major challenge. I ended up needing to drop a class in both semesters. This initially felt like the end of the world (spoiler — it was not). I felt guilty and I was embarrassed to tell my friends. Little did I know, many of my friends were doing the same thing, and those who stuck with the full course load were supportive.

Doing this, I realized it actually benefits me more to only take four classes especially while working on the side. I was able to take a summer course to ease my anxiety, and I became okay with the idea of taking an extra semester/year to complete my degree. Doing what is best for your well being is way more important than trying to live up to societal expectations.

3. Get Involved on campus

Nobody is lying to you when they say it’s important to get involved on campus. I never took “get involved” seriously until I found myself craving more excitement from university life. I didn’t get involved with anything until my third year, but I am so grateful that I did. Being on a team is such a great experience because you get to meet like minded people, gain some great professional and interpersonal skills, and it can give you a little something extra to throw on a resume. I encourage you to take a look at the giant list of clubs and find something that sparks your interest. It can be scary joining something new, but it is one of the best things to do if you’re looking to enhance your university experience.

4. Don’t forget to have fun

Staying on top of your homework is definitely a top priority, but do not make it your only priority. A huge part of university is also the memories you make with your friends. It’s okay to spend a night enjoying yourself. Without that time you will completely burn yourself out. Especially if you combine school with extracurriculars and a part-time job, you need that wind-down time. Whether that looks like watching Netflix with a face mask, pizza and ice cream or if it’s spending a night downtown with a group of friends, we all need to do things that make us happy. 

5. Learn how to manage your time

This one is so important, yet I feel like I’m forever trying to master it. I mentioned before that university is typically combined with school, work, extracurriculars and a social life. It is a lot easier than you think to fall behind in literally everything. Let me tell you from experience, trying to play catch up is not fun. Due dates always seem so far away until it slips your mind for a day or two and you get a notification telling you to submit an entire essay within 24 hours. Get a calendar and map out your due dates, class times, meetings, and anything else so you have a visual guide for what needs to be done. I also find creating a list of due dates and posting it on my wall extremely helpful, as it is satisfying to cross things off and watch the list shrink throughout the semester. It takes time, but through trial and error, an effective time management system will find its way to you.

Emma is a fourth year communication and media studies student at Carleton University. She is often found talking about pop-culture, or trying the newest Starbucks drink. She also loves musical theatre, collecting vinyl records and is a huge Ariana Grande fan. Social media director for the 2022/23 Her Campus Carleton team!