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9 Things No One Told Me Before Going Into First Year

Written by Sophia Divita

Photo by Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash

going into first year university

No, but seriously, WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THIS?!?!?!? (Insert a hundred more exclamation marks.) There are a lot of things I wish I knew before going into first year. I learned them the hard way so you don’t have to. If you’re reading this, you’re in the right place. Welcome to the 9 Things No One Told Me Before Going Into First Year:

1. You are not too cool to get involved in extracurriculars

If you only take away one thing from this article, THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE. University is full of homework, assignments, and exams, so give yourself a break. You will not remember every word of your calculus textbook, but you will remember the relationships you made. Make the time for your social life and get involved in something that you actually enjoy, not just something that looks good on your resume. I’ve met some of my best friends/roommates by getting involved and I am beyond grateful that I did. 

2. The transition will be hard but you can do it

Remember those times in high school when you claimed you would never feel more stressed? I have some bad news for you… In high school, I had nothing but 90s and put in a fair amount of work/effort. I thought university would be the same. Oh my god, was I ever wrong. My grades went: 100…90…85…30… Okay maybe not THAT low, but you get the point.

It is not enough to just show up and be ready to learn. You need to put in the time to make sure you truly understand what is going on. Find a learning strategy that works for you, whether it’s taking better notes or visiting your profs during office hours. You can no longer wait until exam season to start learning. You need to learn throughout the semester to set yourself up for the most success. Hit the ground running and keep up—you can do it!

3. Read the damn syllabus

You can skim the lame stuff, but make sure you’re aware of key dates, times, and course weighting. Trust me, you don’t wanna realize the night before your midterm that you have a midterm. By reading the syllabus, you can prioritize your time accordingly. If you have a 1% quiz and a 15% midterm, knowing the weighting allows you to better prioritize. Treat this thing like your bible. 

4. Avoid 8:30 classes

Self-explanatory. Especially not on Mondays. I can’t stress this enough. Just take my word for this one. Please.

5. Go to office hours

While you’re frantically trying to listen and take notes during class, there isn’t much time for you to actually learn. Professors are great if you can get any significant office time with them but you might only get a few minutes and some quick answers.

Alternatively, your TA/IAs are there to help you, like a better version of a free tutor, so use them! Especially since so few students go to these hours so it’s easy to get in. Just make sure to go early. Understand that going into first year, everyone is confused, you are not alone. Your peers/TAs/professors are there to help you, so ask before it is too late. Don’t be intimidated, they’ve definitely heard stupider questions than yours before.

6. Buy your textbooks used

There is no rush to buy textbooks. Wait until the first day to find out what textbooks you need, then buy them used (just make sure you’re buying the right ones)! Many upper-year students are willing to sell them (and want the money) so save your money and don’t be afraid to ask. There are plenty of online resources to do this too.

7. There is no shame in failing an assignment/exam

It seriously is not a big deal, we all do it. What is important is that when you fail, you fail forward. This means that you need to take a breather, feel bad for yourself for a few minutes, then move on and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Find out where you went wrong, forgive yourself, and move on. In the grand scheme of things, one (or a few) failed tests/assignments really are not the end of the world.

8. Push yourself because no one else is going to 

You’ll hear how a bunch of students have mastered the ability to do the least amount of work and still get the highest grades. Students will skip class, cheat, and find ways to cut corners. Don’t fall for it, you’re better than that! Let them drop out while you continue to push forward. University students are always portrayed as burnt out, tired, and stressed. That does not have to be you. Set yourself realistic goals and get organized early in the semester. You’ll be just fine, you don’t need to give in to temptation.


You worked your ass off, now it’s time to get excited and get started. Know that you are on the right path, whatever that may be, even if it is not what you anticipated. There is nothing wrong with switching your plan. Either way, some of the best 4 years are in front of you, so enjoy them.

If all else fails, know that some of the most successful people in the world dropped out of university. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all did not graduate university. At this point, you’re already a step ahead. If you have any questions about going into first year, feel free to reach out! My Insta dms are always open.

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