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  • Justin Hand-Gregory, Laura Barnett, Marc Proulx and Chloe Emond-Lane

Tips from a first year at university... from university students

As many TAV College students begin to receive their university acceptance letters and finish off their last semester here at TAV, I thought, as this is the last issue of the TAV Times for the year, I and a few friends would offer our graduates some helpful advice for their first year in university.


The first year will inevitably seem daunting and intimidating. What will the workload be like? How do I make my schedule? How many courses do I take? You get the point… lots of questions! At least, these were just some of the many questions I had rolling through my mind as I prepared for my first semester. However, with the right advice, your first year could be a breeze!


To help out you TAV graduates with some of the questions that may be floating around in your minds, I decided to ask a few friends, who are in various programs at Concordia University, if they had any helpful advice that they would have liked to receive as a freshman. Here’s what they said:

Laura Barnett

Concordia University; Major: Communication Studies; Minor: Professional Writing


– Being aware of due dates and workload is essential for success. Establish a system that works for you.

– Agenda books: Great if you’re the type to write things down, like to-do lists for study sessions. There is something so fulfilling about physically checking off tasks!

– Study apps: Apps like MyStudyLife are a great way to transfer readings and assignments from your syllabus to your phone/laptop. You will always see what is coming up so that you can be prepared and stay ahead.

Effective Studying

– We are not all blessed with leisurely hours to engage with our school work, often times we have to put the pedal to the metal and hustle. Pomodoro technique: Set a timer for 25 minutes. Study hard with no distractions. After 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break. Get up, walk around, dance, and/or yell… Repeat.

– Budget your time: Delegate specific times in your week for studying. Stick to what you decide and go into your sessions with purpose.

– Assignment management: A final paper worth 35% will require more of your time than an assignment worth 10%. Plan accordingly: Break down what you need to do in steps, figure out how much time each step might require, and track this with your organizer of choice––don’t procrastinate!

– Keep ahead in your readings: Self-explanatory, and yet understated. There is no worse feeling than the week before a final exam and you have 15-weeks’ worth of 35-page readings per week…

– Break up long readings: Tackle those long chapters and articles by breaking them down over several days. Chip away at a little bit per day. Read them casually, over coffee, or before bed. Trust me on this one.

– Learn to speed read: If you are reading every word, you are working against yourself. Speed reading can turn 4 hours spent with a text into 45 minutes. Tips to learn how to do this can be found all over the Internet.

– Take an English course: Regardless of field, we all need to write at some point. Use your electives for good and take an English course to brush up on your language skills.

– Pack a LUNCH: If you’re heading out to the library or elsewhere to study, bring food. Your brain requires glucose to function, which we get from food, so you will be more productive if you are well-nourished. Your time will also be spent more efficiently if you don’t have to leave to go find food. Your wallet will also thank you! So many benefits.

Marc Proulx

Concordia University; Major: Aerospace Engineering

Effectively Procrastinate

The most useful tool to learn is not avoiding procrastination but rather knowing how to do it effectively and towards your best interest. Especially in engineering, you may find yourself with a lot of midterms or finals during a short period of time. It’s crucial to give yourself enough time to cram in the semester’s worth of knowledge a few days before the test, or however much time you may need.

Teach Yourself

Be prepared to teach yourself the material. Some of the professors you will have may not be natural teachers, and so it’s important that you take responsibility for your own education. Know what type of learner you are and what strategies work best for you and stick to that. Try to seek out other resources like textbooks or internet sites to help you get a different perspective on the material. Making friends in class is also useful for when you need clarification or miss a lecture.

The System

Your first semester may be the most challenging just because adjusting to university takes a little time. While your grades might take a little dive or you may not be performing as well as you used to, don’t let that discourage you. Since universities function on a letter grade system, there is no direct correlation between your marks and the letter grade you receive. On a final note, familiarizing yourself with a few drafting software and programming languages is a good idea. Good luck!

Chloe Emond-Lane

Concordia University; Major: Liberal Arts

Don’t Underestimate

Much of the homework that will be assigned to you will require a lot more preparation than you’re accustomed to. Do not underestimate the time it takes to complete an assignment and do not overestimate your cramming skills!

Learn About Yourself

If you are still unsure of what you want to do as a career, that is totally fine. However, it is important to take the time to explore the paths you potentially want to take. The only way to truly know if you want to work in a given field is to learn about it. Find a place to volunteer at, contact people that work in the field and ask the questions/ concerns you may have, sample a class at your university, talk to professors, etc.

Justin Hand-Gregory

Concordia University; Major: Communication Studies

Don’t Be Shy!

Odds are that most people in your classes are just as nervous as you are. So, strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. You never know, this person could eventually become your best friend! Here are some “conversation starter” sentences for you Gen Zers: “Hey, do you guys know how to get on to the Wi-Fi?”, “Hey, which CEGEP did you go to?”, “Hey, which electives are you taking?”.

Being Alone

Sitting alone and being alone in a public space can seem extremely nerve-wracking and sad, however, that is simply not true! Get used to gaining some independence and never worry about the judgment of being alone because everyone, at some point in their day, is alone. Whether you’re studying, reading, or listening to music in the common areas, don’t let social pressure bother you. University is the time in your life to break your own boundaries! And seriously… Everyone does it.

Use a Highlighter

Highlighters are one of those things that students sort of use without really knowing what to use them for: I am guilty of doing this, or simply not using one at all! However, because you will have so much reading to do at the university level, get into the habit of highlighting important information in the readings you will be doing. You can then go back and easily find this information if you need to use it for a paper.

Seriously… Don’t Be Serious

Last but not least: Don’t take things too seriously. In your first year, you will be stressed and nervous and anxious and exhausted, however, I think it’s extremely important to remind ourselves to not take life too seriously sometimes. Remember to enjoy the little things too… Like a cup of coffee with a friend, or making fun of a professor with your classmates. Enjoy this experience and all of its little wonders. Finally, realize that no one is out to get you; Everyone is in the same head space, so take it easy, be patient and persevere.

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