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4 Things I Wish I Told Myself More in First-Year

There’s no how-to guide for success in university (and if there was I’m sure it would be sold out). I received so much advice from multiple avenues before entering university, yet looking back at my lived experiences of freshman year, I’ve realized that there’s a few things I could have put into practice a little more. TO help my fellow collegiate’s I’ve compiled a short list of things that I wish I would have reminded myself more of in my first year. Whether you’re just starting uni, or are well into your degree. Here are 4 tips that (hopefully) will make your first few months of University more manageable than mine!

1.    It’s okay if you find things difficult

Spoiler alert, life will get a little tricky! For the first-years, I run into, I always reiterate one piece of advice: In fact, it’s advice handed down to me by my political science professor from my first semester. He told us that, if we feel like class is getting hard, material is getting increasingly difficult, and overall, life is becoming more overwhelming than usual then…we’re doing someone right. I remember gazing at the class as everyone exchanged doubtful looks with each other. Admittedly, I may have even let an eye-roll slip, but, It was not long before I realized — he was right. His advice encouraged me to think of the stressors I encountered (and continue to face) in the first months of uni, as growing pains.  Once you getting past them you come out stronger than before. The point is, many people go to university expecting that it should be easier than it is. Carrying a mindset that things should be easy, surely makes any level of difficulty, that presents itself will seem increasingly frustrating and challenging to endure. I

The purpose of this small segment of our lives as students is to begin challenging our beliefs, habits, and continuously strive to expand our knowledge. Why? So that we learn. If the university was guaranteed to be easy, then wouldn’t we just educate ourselves outside of the institution? If adulating was simple, then wouldn’t we all be masters of our lives by now? If the purpose of university I to give you a space push yourself, then expect that this transitional period will likely be steep, and regularly bumpy. However, being in an environment surrounded by many people who are facing the same hurdles and feelings helps. Just remember, you’re not always doing something wrong if you’re finding things difficult.


2.    You May Change your Major

It’s okay to rethink. It’s okay to re-assess. It’s okay to do a 180 of degree choice if you please! The point is, don’t worry if you start to rethink your major or choose to switch it completely. Diverting your course only reroutes your path, but it doesn’t stop you from getting to your final destination. I wish I had someone to remind me that, as it would save me a from stressful nights of worrying about changing my direction. In fact, I encourage you to go into your first-year with a broad mind. Courses may peak new interests. Personally, my first year I gained so much knowledge and information that fueled new interests which led me to switch universities completely to pursue a different degree. Coming out of high school, many students feel like even if they don’t know their direction, they’re bound to the box they checked on their application. I’m, here to tell you that notion is so far from the truth! If you’re major that you initially chose reflects something that you love, stick with it! However, if you’re questioning your initial degree selection, that’s extremely normal. Don’t be afraid to visit an advisor, get a peer mentor, or take some interesting electives. Furthermore, joint degrees are always a possibility as well. Truthfully, the options are endless, so long as  you’re willing to explore.

…with that, you may change as well

In my first year, I found that my thoughts often left me questioning my identity. What are my hobbies, passions, interests, and goals?

As we get older, our taste buds change, our we get taller, we experiment with styles, and figure out our personalities. Plainly, university is a transitional period. It may be uncomfortable, yet an eye-opening segment of your life. It’s sort of an awkward stage that’s not puberty, where we’re moving between being a teenager and young adults, and an academic institution has become the intermediary. Like I’ve mentioned It’s easy to feel a little lost or overwhelmed when beliefs are challenged; perceptions of yourselves and others will likely change, but it’s all a part of growing up. As you change, your interest may change as well, so if you’re having doubts about yourself or your program, it is perfectly normal.


3.    Quit the comparison game

Despite entering my third year of university, I am still slightly guilty of the classic game of comparison. Given the opportunity to venture back to my first year, I would certainly take the time to remind myself to stop comparing yourself to everyone. It’s exhausting, it’s unnecessary, and frankly, it’s a practice that I I wish we were all taught to get rid of in high-school. Don’t waste your time picking out the ways you think you fall short in comparison to someone else. Elevate yourself to reach your own unique heights, not those of someone else. Healthy competition is great since it can motivate us to reach new personal bests, however, constantly comparing yourself to others may cause you to minimize your own individuality. Refocus energy that would be spent, trying to reach someone else’s goal, and put it towards your own. Likely, there will always be someone who appears more organized than you, can articulate themselves better than you in tutorials, or gets a higher grade on an assignment. Oftentimes there’s little benefit in working towards someone else’s definition of achievement. Set your standards, develop reasonable goals, and work towards them at your own pace. Most importantly don’t forget to celebrate even the smallest victories!


4.    Finding Balance is key

Although this is the last tip it’s the most important. University is fun, and it’s time to put yourself out of your comfort zone, meet new friends and have a good time! It took me a little while to get comfortable with the fact that, while academics are a priority, it’s okay to go out occasionally. Taking care of your mind and body, in addition to getting out occasionally should not leave you feeling guilty. Self-care is just as important as studying, and finding time to be social is critical as well.  It’s all about the three S’s for success. This may seem cheesy at face value, however, if you learn how to juggle all three, you’re set for a great university experience. I’ll break it down:

School: academics should be a priority. It is important to attend the lecture, do your readings and keep u top of your course load as much as you can. There’s few worse feelings than having to catch up on old reading when finals come around.

SelfCare: This is a term that I wish I heard more of my first year. To flourish in other areas of your life, it’s essential to take care of yourself. Self-care participating in activities that allow you relax and unwind. Remember – grades aren’t everything! Some of the best lessons life has to offer happens outside of the classroom.

Socialize! Join clubs, student unions, and nights out are all events that should be enjoyed. First-year is filled with loads of new faces. It’s also filled with adventures! If I could go back I would take the opportunity to be more spontaneous. In combination balancing these three will help makes School life seamless

In the midst of papers, midterms, and those dreaded group projects, this is all easier said than remembered. Many of us may be aware of these things, but I wish I had someone to remind me to put them into practice more often. Let us know what you wish you had done more of in your first-year. Don’t forget to like, share and follow HC SFU on your socials!


Samantha is a fourth-year student at, Simon Fraser University, pursuing a double major in political science and communication. When not keeping up with what's new in pop culture, Samantha can often be found sipping on Starbucks drinks, or enjoying one-too-many YouTube videos. Aside from writing for Her Campus, Samantha's passion for fashion, fitness, and nutrition is what keeps her going through the week. She's self-motivated, friendly, and never turns down a cup of tea and a nice chat!
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