Things I wish I knew in my first year

Hunter the Ridgeback


There are so many things in life you have to learn by trial and error. However, there is nothing wrong with getting a little help by learning from other people's experiences. The transition to university and how it differs from high school can be overwhelming, but I'm here to help it go by a little easier!

These things would have saved me time and made my first year less stressful. Hopefully, these tips will make your university life go more smoothly. Keep reading to learn from the lessons I have gained along the way.

Get involved

I wish I had gotten more involved or joined at least one club in my first year. Although I didn’t join any clubs right away, most of my friends were a part of clubs and have all shared that their experiences have been positive. 

Getting involved can enhance your university experience, and it’s a great way to support your community! Clubs can help you make new friends or teach you new things. Depending on how extensive your involvement is, they also look great on your resumé. 

I've been trying to get more involved this year and am currently training to become an Ambassador for Ontario Tech. I'm glad I decided to get more involved because I've already learned so much about leadership, communication, interpersonal skills and more. 

three students with Hunter

Learn how to get involved at Ontario Tech as much as you can—you won’t regret it!

Use the services

There are so many services at the university that could have made my life as a first-year a little easier, from academic support options to events and programs. I remember spending a lot of my time as a first-year engineering student struggling with calculus and physics. There are many workshops and people to help with these challenging subjects. 

I started using the academic supports in my second year, and it has been immensely helpful. There are workshops for challenging courses like math and sciences as well as Peer Assisted Study Sessions. I wish I had known about this support earlier so I could have saved myself time and stress!

Peer Assisted Study Sessions logoCheck out Student Life and our student services for more info; there are services for accessibility accommodations, mental and physical health, career readiness and so much more! Remember, you’re paying for these services through your tuition, so make sure you utilize them when you can.

Take breaks

Although studying and getting good grades are important, studying all day every day is not healthy. I felt like I studied too much during my first year and because of this I experienced burnout. Burning yourself out is not the way to achieve your academic goals—trust me.


During my second year, I decided to relax a bit by taking more breaks during my study sessions. I now use a 50-5 rule, where I take a five-minute break every 50 minutes I continuously study. If you're studying on campus, try spending some time walking. The atmosphere is very calming and often helps to reduce stress.

Your physical and mental health are the most important things, so ensure you’re taking time for yourself.

Ask for help

There may be times when you’re stuck on a topic or you can’t find your classes. It’s okay to be in these situations because most first-year students, including myself, have been there. If you find yourself in need of help, be sure to ask! 

Don’t be afraid to ask your professors or teaching assistants questions—they are more than willing to help you and have office hours for that reason.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your peers for help with things like directions or understanding a new concept. They likely have been in a similar position as you and won’t mind helping you find your way around.

Question mark on a chalkboard

Overall, these things would have helped me immensely in my first year and I hope you have found this helpful. Everyone has their own unique transition to university. No two students will have an identical first-year experience, and that’s okay! Enjoy your journey, future Ridgeback!

Blog written by: Taimour Arshad

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