How to Ace your First Year of University | Tips + Advice

Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Tips and advice for university students

Summer is coming to an end and so that means that for those of us still continuing our education, the school year will be starting anew.

As a child, this time of year was full of trepidation and excitement. By mid-august, I was bored of doing nothing useful and so going back to school would mean new challenges, while at the same time going back meant that I would probably not be in the same class as my friends or having a not-so-great teacher. It'd be great to say that my mentality has changed but in reality, I still feel those same emotions I felt as a child, especially in my first week of university.

Like I've mentioned before, in April I finished my first year of post-secondary school. When my last class was over and my last essay handed in, I could not believe how fast the year had gone by. To be honest, and somewhat cheesy, I felt like I was not the same person that I was back when I started in September, and I feel that I took advantage of what my school had to offer that first year.
So now that I'm starting my second year I wanted to share some tips on how to ace (or at least do extremely well) in your first year of uni.

Although the year went by fairly well it was by no means easy. There were weeks that were full of stress and times where I wanted to cry because I had no idea what I was doing but there were also many upsides in this year. There are a couple of things that I wanted to share with you all that made my life so much easier and my first year of university school much more memorable and a total success.

My Advice for First-Year University Students

1. Ask, Ask, Ask

It is a simple word that is drilled in our heads in elementary school but the truth is that asking really does make a difference. As I quiet, shy person this has always been a hard issue but I have since realized that a small question can clear up so much. The thought of raising my hand in a class of 200 students makes me extremely uncomfortable and so the perfect solution for all introverts is to speak with the teacher either right before or after class, and if those are not possible then going to the professor's office.

By going to my professor's office hours and asking some vital questions the confusion based around the material cleared up. The teachers I had this past year were nice and really helpful since most classes are introductory courses and vital to the program.

Asking really helps in the end.

Have questions about the school, program, clubs or anything else? Don't hesitate to contact the corresponding people and just ask. Most people are eager to help since it can lead to people to join or recommend x to others.

2. Talk to your classmates (or the guy next to you)

Most of the students in that first year/introductory class are on the same boat as you. They don't know anyone, they might be new to the province, or even the country, and therefore are lost, lonely and confused. By talking to the person sitting next to you, you are not only making a new acquaintance (maybe even a friend) but also a study buddy or note sharer if you happen to miss a class.

This really helped me throughout the year because there were things that the teacher would say that were vital but I wasn't fast enough to write it down and so I'd turn to my classmate and they'd repeat the phrase or help me out and vice versa.

Sometimes it's a small question or something that can be easily cleared up at the moment because it can easily be forgotten by the time class is over and you go to the professor. Having an acquaintance in class is also great for exam time because you can bounce off questions to each other, understand things from a different perspective and overall help each other get exam ready.

You won't be friends forever but at least for the semester, you will have a study buddy, a person to bounce of concepts/ideas and someone to rely on in class.

related post: Free resources I use (including some for school)

3. Go to the free events hosted by your school (expos, fairs, etc)

If there is one thing I love is free events. Doesn't matter what it is or what it involves but if it is free and something that won't compromise my values I'll sure to be there!!
Thankfully my university had many, and I mean many, free events throughout the year and I took advantage of them for many reasons. One of them being is that the event was funded by students tuition, meaning that in a way you have paid for it so just as well go check it out.

At the beginning of the year, there is a fair where all the clubs, school organizations, etc would have a table and you just come to them ask questions and overall get to know what clubs your school has to offer. Interested in x? There is a club for that. Love y? then this is for you. The best part is that many of the tables offer free items like pencils, notebooks, candy and more! 

One event that I thought was really cool was the Mental Health Expo. It was about all the organizations, offices where one could get help and emergency numbers to call among other things. It was really helpful and it gave me an idea of where I could go if I needed help. Maybe your school has something similar and could be of a great benefit for you.

By going to a fair or event, you'll meet others who share the same love for a hobby (or something else) as you do which would make integrating into university life much easier and better because there is a group of people who have the same interest as you.

Going to the free events not only can it help you get free stuff, but also get to know your school more and see the university as something other than only learning. The events are also a great way to meet other students and since your paying for it with your tuition might as well enjoy it.

related post: Mid-year blog update

4. Always attend class (and arrive on time)

This one might seem quite obvious, school is not cheap so why not attend each class to get your money's worth but there is more to class than just showing up.

The program I'm in is book heavy, meaning that each week I have to read up to 30 (boring, stale) pages for the next class. Sure, reading the material will help, but being in class while the teacher explains some concepts or ideas that were found it the text will be much more beneficial.

There might be something in that text that was confusing or not clear and in the class, the professor will try to explain it because it's vital to the course. Other times the teacher will talk about an upcoming exam or essay and would go into to detail about it and answer some important questions. Although the teacher sometimes would be kind enough to write it down, only the basic outline would be written and uploaded, which would be missing so much of what the teacher had explained.

I recommend arriving to class about 5-10 minutes before it begins, if possible. This will give you the opportunity to find that perfect seat and have a couple of minutes to relax before class.

If desired it is also a great time for looking at that week's notes, and know what the class is about, what questions about the text/homework you want to ask, etc. Sometimes you will get lucky and the teacher will also arrive early to class which is great for asking all those questions and get help (see number 1).

5. Plan Everything (and schedule in some free time)

University, or college, is nothing like high school where there is a set schedule of 8.30am-3pm, and then from there, you're free to be. Some classes will be in the morning while others are in the afternoon or evening. They can vary from an hour to three hours long and so your schedule might be all over the place, therefore, it can lead to stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed (I experienced this). 

The way to combat this is pretty simple. Schedule everything. Since classes are all over the place a great way to succeed in the first year is to plan your life out. A weekly hourly schedule helps tremendously in that regard. You can plan what time you'll be in class, how long you'll commute will take, when it'll be lunchtime and be able to set a time to study for each class and add some free time for hobbies, events, etc.

If I have a class in the afternoon I will study for about an hour in the morning and if the class is in the morning I'll study for an hour in the afternoon, and then some depending on the course and work. Since most teachers recommend studying an hour (or two) per each hour in class (ex two hours in class, two-fours hours of study per week), organizing your schedule makes it much more efficient, especially during exam time.

Organizing your time will lead to less anxiety and make you feel more in control of your studies and life. Usually, by 7pm, my schedule will stop and from then it will be my free time. This gives me time to distress by doing my favorite hobbies or go out or just have some free time.

By one of the most important things about having a schedule is keeping it.

Mount Royal Park- Tips on how to do well in university


Those are some of the tips I found that made my first year of university so much easier. Although these things made my year much more efficient, it may vary for you. Each person has a different experience and what worked for me may not work for you.

There are so many tips to share but I thought that these five were vital to college/university life. I hope this was a great help to you and I wish you luck on your first year of university and hope you ace it!  Should anyone else be interested I could do a (shorter) part two or a followup post.

What do you think? Do you have any questions or where there tips/advice that I forgot to write about?

Til next time
Loren Camila


  1. Wow, these are really great tips! :) I'm going to the university in 3 years and that seems quite a lot of time yet, but I'm already a bit scared. Helpful post! That's cool there are many events organied at your university. All of them sounds so good! :D Have a lovely day!

    1. Thank you, Ann! I hope that by the time university starts in three years you will be less scared and more confident to tackle the task!

  2. These are wonderful tips! Thank you for sharing - i'm sure you have helped out so many college students with this post! :)

    1. Thank you, Grace for the kind words. I really hope this post is beneficial for first year college students.

  3. Que artigo excelente, seu site é muito bom mesmo, estou toda semana visitando e lendo seus artigos.


    Meu Blog: Loteria Paraíba de Prêmios

    1. Thank you, Taynara for reading my blog! Hope you enjoyed it!

  4. Amazing tips! As someone who is going to college for the first time this year, this post is super helpful, thank you!!

    1. Thank you, Gray Marie. Glad to be of help!

  5. I can imagine it's quite a nervous time for a lot of people starting university next month! I never went to university but really wish I did. These are all great tips!


  6. I love these tips. I always say to make friends with someone who seems smarter than you so you're covered but to always trust yourself too! Loved reading this.

    1. Ooh, thats a great tip! Thanks for sharing it Vanessa!

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