5 Things I Would Tell My First-Year Self

Starting university is a huge milestone in many people’s lives. Whether you’re going away or staying at home, it can be a very exciting but also stressful experience. You may have different ideas and expectations of what university is supposed to be like, but it’s important to remember that your university experience is what you​ make of it. And even if your first year doesn’t go exactly as you hoped or planned, don't worry, you'll have plenty of time in your next few years to make up for it.



  1. 1. Your grades might not be as good as they used to be. 

    I feel like this fact is often skipped over, but university is hard. To some, this might seem like a no-brainer, but getting your first exams and assignments back can be quite a shock if you’re used to getting high grades. This doesn’t mean you’ve gotten dumber—it just means you’re in a different learning environment. It may take some time to modify your study habits and get a feel of each class, but you’ll eventually get the hang of it. Reach out to your professors, TAs, and advisors—believe it or not, they’re actually there to help you, and you definitely won't the first one to ask them.

  2. 2. Procrastination is never the move.

    Now that you’re in university, no one’s going to be checking up on you to see if you’ve done your work or have been coming to class. That’s on you. You can make it a lot easier for yourself by staying on top of your work. Keep in mind that it’s a lot harder to catch up on university-level classes, so avoid putting yourself through that extra stress. Bonus tip: if you skip a class because it’s recorded, you still need to keep up with the recordings! The same goes for assigned readings: it’s easy to put them off, but you definitely don’t want to be stuck with 250+ pages and five hours’ worth of recordings when the exam rolls around.

  3. 3. Beware of the Freshman 15.

    Many people have heard of the dreaded “Freshman 15,” and yes, it’s a real thing. I was shocked that, even though I had the safety of living at home, not even I was immune from the clutches of the “Freshman 15”. When you combine the stress of starting university, balancing a heavy course load, a different diet, and university drinking culture as a whole, it’s not that surprising that people gain weight in their first year. This may seem like the end of the world, but the focus should just be on finding a healthy balance and a lifestyle that works for you. 

  4. 4. Get involved.

    Join a club, sports team, committee, research lab, ANYTHING! Most schools have an “activity fair” early in the semester where you can see all the clubs and teams being offered. If you miss it (or choose to not go because there’s a long line), you can definitely find all the information online. Not only is this a chance to try something fun and new (and, let’s be real, have something to add to your resume), but it’s a guaranteed way to meet new people! Joining activities and a sorority were huge de-stressors for me, because I was able to take a break from studying and got to know a bunch of new people. 

  5. 5. Take care of yourself (mentally and physically).

    The first year of university is extremely stressful, but it’s even harder if you don’t take care of yourself. Whether it’s taking a reduced course load or an extra semester, skipping a few classes so you can rest and get over your cold, or just asking for an extension, I assure you that your undergraduate career will not go up in flames if you step off your path for a moment and do what’s best for you. Your health and well-being are important. University is a demanding period of time, but it’s also supposed to be fun. If your mental and/or physical health are suffering, you won’t be at your best anywhere.