How freshmen can make the most of their time in university

Photo Credit: Alfred Zhang

In hindsight it’s all so clear, but looking forward, it’s as cloudy as a November morning in Vancouver. University is somewhat of a big deal, and as you go through it you become better at it. But for the newcomers who are scared or hesitant, I have some advice on how you can conquer it.

First things first: majors. Deciding on a major is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to eat away at you during your first year. While all of your credits ‘count’ in university, you can spend a little time figuring it out at the start. Since you’ll have to complete 120 credits regardless of your major, and since most majors only consume roughly 80–90 credits, you have some leg room for other courses.

This isn’t to say you should just write your first year off by taking every random course there is. But you shouldn’t sweat those first two semesters. For your first year, take some courses towards what you think you might major in, and take a few outside that particular field. Also, remember that no one ever said you could only have one major.

Secondly, how do you snag all the As? Before I flat out say “work your butt off,” I want to address this: there is more to getting great grades than endless studying. I’ve found through my own studies that what is most important is studying strategically.

In regards to this, there’s a hard and fast pointer here: go to every single lecture and tutorial. No if, ands, or buts. Not only do you learn the material, but you’ll always gain subtle hints about the test through lectures and tutorials. Professors, TAs, and sessionals usually drop hints about certain aspects of the tests, assignments, or papers that aren’t specified on the syllabus or handout. Do otherwise and you’ll end up studying the heck out of some minute details which, in lecture, the prof had excluded.

Thirdly, get to know your professors and TAs. You’d think that university tests would be highly standardized and would not reflect the interests of the profs or TAs. Wrong. And some of you science majors may think, ‘well, science professors don’t insert their own interests into their tests.’ Wrong.

While there are always going to be reoccurring questions based on the course fundamentals, profs and TAs can put more or less emphasis on certain aspects. So, ask a lot of questions, probe your TAs, and basically know as much as you can about your instructor’s interests and what they find important about the material.

Lastly, become involved. As much as course work can drag you down, it’s in your best interest to be engaged in extracurricular activities. Join clubs, get involved with a laboratory or with Build SFU, or write for the student newspaper. The more you throw yourself at university, the more you’ll get out of it.