First Year Tips From a Fifth Year

It’s your first year at university! You’re probably already swamped with readings, assignments, and socials catered to your dorm building or faculty where there will be a ton of people you don’t know. Don’t forget the cash you have to dish out for those textbooks, coffee, and that lunch you may or not have forgotten about. The stuffy lecture halls/classrooms, crowded libraries, and coffee shops will be your home for the next four (or more) years.

Here are some tried and true tips for your first year at university garnered from someone who has been through your shoes a long, long time ago (i.e. four years ago).


Wait until the first week to buy/rent your textbooks.

Check whether or not your professor says the textbook is absolutely required for class. If it is, check if an older edition will be fine (spoiler alert: it usually is). Join university textbook exchange groups on Facebook, check the university discount bookstore, and websites (Craigslist, Amazon, other discount book dealers). Or try borrowing the books from the library.


Say ‘Hello’ to as many people as possible within the first couple weeks of a new term.

Greet your classmates in lecture, the other people living on your floor in rez, the person assigned to the lab bench next to you, and the people at booth displays. You never know what will come out of a little bit of small talk! This is the best time to meet new people because everyone’s still adjusting to their new classes and tend to be easier to engage.


Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Your professors and TAs are there to help you in your learning, so take advantage of their office hours or resource centres if your questions haven’t been answered in class. Sooner is better than later so you can avoid the hordes of stressed students crowding around your prof’s office two days before the midterm.


Budget budget budget.

Avoid credit card shock and set up a budget for yourself early. Set aside certain amounts for specific categories (i.e. food/drinks on campus, entertainment, event fees, club/gym memberships). Use apps like Mint to help you get started.


Rain-proof everything.

Buy a rainjacket, a good pair of rainboots, and a sturdy umbrella (or three) because you will need it for 70% of the year. Enjoy the sun for now because you probably won’t see it again until April.


Attend as many events as possible.

Undergraduate societies, clubs and other groups on campus organize events all year, so try to check out as many as you can. They’re a perfect opportunity to meet new people and feel more connected to the campus – an aspect a lot of commuter students struggle with. (There’s also free food!)


Find ALL the short cuts. 

The 10 minutes they give us is sufficient for some, but not all. Short cuts will be your saviour for the next four (or more) years.

  • To get from the Nest to Main Mall/Sauder, cut through the Chemistry buildings along the side of Ladha.
  • If you need to get to Swing/CIRS and you’re coming from East Mall, go in between the Michael Smith Labs, cut through the Beaty Museum, and then ESB – if you’re confused, send us a message and we will kindly show you all our routes.


University is the best time to explore your interests and make mistakes. Be yourself and take care of yourself! Best of luck to the newcomers from the HCUBC team!