What I Wish I Knew in First Year

Entering University or College for the first time is a significant life change for many people. For many, it is their first time living on their own and can be both an exciting, yet stress-inducing transition regardless of their previous experiences. With so many unfamiliar faces and environments, it can be easy to get swept up into a wave of confusion and anxiety. All kinds of questions and doubts can begin to arise as we try to figure out how to maximize our time here and discover our strengths to build our futures. As a student who is a few months away from graduation, I have been able to analyze my own anxieties and experiences from my past few years and have learned so many valuable lessons that I wish I could have been aware of at the beginning. That is why it is important to remember a few simple tenets that can help you stay on track for your own personal path to success, which can be applicable to any stage in your journey. 

1. Be willing to seek out new opportunities, even if they are not all successes.

One of the greatest privileges of attending University or College is having access to a variety of clubs and organizations to join. These do not only offer a chance to make new friends based on similar interests but can also provide networking opportunities and valuable experience that can be applied to future job opportunities and used to build your career path. Getting involved in various activities can help in realizing which paths and skills you excel in and which ones you struggle with. Even if certain experiences do not meet your initial expectations, it is possible to take something positive away from it, whether it is a new friend, a fun anecdote, or a lesson for the future that can be applied elsewhere in your life.

2. Don’t make big decisions based on what others might think.

Deciding what career path or which endeavors you want to pursue can be a challenging task. It can be made even more difficult when we have to consider our families and other loved ones and how our choices will affect those relationships. Not only do University and College present a major lifestyle change, but they are also a serious financial investment, which can add even more pressure on students from lower-income families and students whose parents provide financial support. That financial pressure, along with expectations from family members and perceived job prospects from certain programs, can influence students into pursuing a path that they may not be as skilled at or passionate about because of what others think is going to be the more practical way to go. But the entire goal of this experience is to figure out what you as an individual are passionate about and what you want out of your life and career. While it is important to take the opinions of your loved ones into account, remember it is your future you are planning for, and you should be able to choose your path on your own terms.

3. Continue to work hard for success, because it will not be given to you.

As every post-secondary student learns after their first semester, it is no easy task to get absolutely perfect grades coming right out of high school. The standards set for evaluating student work are much higher. This dramatic shift in expectations can be a shock to many, and in some cases can discourage students from continuing their education. But the best solution is to focus on where you are making mistakes and find the appropriate people that can help you to improve. Universities and colleges offer many programs to help students succeed academically, and it is important to understand that many other students will be in the same position as you are. This idea can also be applicable to clubs and organizations as well, as there are always people who are willing to help you learn and grow in whatever you are involved in. Being able to solve problems, strengthen your work ethic, and taking responsibility for your own success are what help people succeed in post-secondary education. In short, take your pathway to success into your own hands, and do not be afraid to reach out and acquire resources that will help you achieve your goal.