Nine tips for surviving your first year of university

Sarah Rae


I remember my first day at university like it was yesterday. I was very anxious about the change and worried about how I would fit in and find my way. While university can be quite the change from our past high school experiences, it can also be an exciting time in our lives.

The start of university is when we can begin to branch off on our own and explore our authentic selves. Looking back at my first year at Ontario Tech University, these are a few tips that I would consider as an incoming and prospective student:

1. Attend all of the orientations/info sessions

I know—Do you really need to attend all the orientations even though you feel somewhat comfortable already?


Students at orientation

Orientation is a great way to meet new friends and upper-year students who can benefit you throughout the school year. Orientation is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the campus—to lessen your chance of getting lost on the first day of class—and get a feel of how school life will be.

Plus sometimes you can get free school swag!

2. Become organized

If being organized is already one of your specialties, great! If not, don't worry; it is a skill you can grow. Just be ready to buy a planner or a calendar because organization will be half the battle during your university career.

Post-secondary is different from high school because your professors expect you to be prepared. It is your responsibility to stay on top of your due dates and manage your class schedule.

Person creating a calendar in a journal

A planner or organizational system will help minimize extra stress throughout the year. So take a peek at the various styles (there are plenty) and find one that works for you. 

3. Join clubs and societies on campus

In other words, GET INVOLVED! This tip is one of the most important tips from my point of view, and I wish this were something I knew in my first year.

Not only does getting involved on campus allow you to meet new friends and build new relationships, but it also allows you to discover more about yourself and your interests.

giphy (15)-1

Not to mention, there have been studies that indicate students involved on campus have higher grades than those who aren't (crazy, right?).

4. Attend your classes

Speaking of grades…make sure to attend all of your classes. Yes, all of them!

I know this is a pretty obvious point, but I can’t stress it enough.

Not only does the professor go over in detail the class material for that week, but they will also relay crucial information about midterms, assignments, finals, etc., which might not always be listed in a PowerPoint somewhere.

Gif of bored student dropping head to desk

Anyway, just go to class, promise?

5. Don’t procrastinate

This is for all the students who, like me, enjoy leaving things to the last minute in hopes that everything will work out in the end. While this method may have worked in high school, it’s important to remember that this is now university; the same approach will not work so well.


When given an assignment, I highly recommend getting it done as soon as possible, so it’s one less thing to worry about. When you first get the assignment, open it up, take a look at what it entails and make a game plan.

6. Seek help when you need it

Finding the help you need, when you need it, is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Ontario Tech has many resources to offer, whether it's help with school or your mental health.

Gif of someone taking a hand reached out

Everyone is here to support and stand with you through the good times and more challenging times. So don't be afraid to reach out when you need to. You pay for these resources, so why not use them?

7. Prioritize your health

Though it may seem like getting a full eight hours of sleep is the last thing on your to-do list, please make it the first. Keeping your health intact is crucial for excelling at university because your mind and body work together to lead you to success.

Remember that physical exercise can not only be used to maintain physical health but is also a great way to support your mental health.

two dogs running on a treadmill

Self-care as a university student is incredibly important, so block off time in your calendar to engage in it daily!

8. Find balance

While your primary purpose of being at university is to study and earn your degree, it is also essential that you make connections with new people, create memories and relax when you need to. As the saying goes: Work hard, play hard. Running yourself into the ground is not the answer.

Sponge Bob frantically doing six different things at the same timeIt would be best if you can find a way to balance your responsibilities while also incorporating time for your health and self-care. 

9. Be yourself 

If you’re going to remember anything from this post, please remember this. Stay true to yourself throughout your time at university. You will be happier and more successful if you feel good about your choices and the people you surround yourself with.

It’s hard, especially as a first-year student, not to get caught up in what everyone else around you is doing. Remain focused on who you are as a person, and let that shine through!

Gif of someone saying "You're awesome, enjoy being who you are."

University is an enriching experience that opens many doors for your future. The course load can be stressful, but I hope these tips will help you navigate your university career and make it a little easier. 

Are you interested in learning about our programs to find your fit at Ontario Tech? 

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