First Years

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The First Semester of University: A ‘How-To’ Manual

Week One:

  • Take charge. Success at university is up to you.
  • Start the year off right: figure out where your classes are, and go!
  • Don't wait: Buy all your textbooks and course packs.
  • You will get a syllabus for each class. Read it! Keep it somewhere you will reference often.
  • Transfer important dates and deadlines from the syllabus for each course to your term calendar.
  • Log in to Portal and Rosi/Acorn. See where your course materials will start popping up.
  • Work will start right away; complete your assignments for each course to make sure you keep up (e.g. readings, problem sets).
  • That time between your classes? That isn't time off – it's work time.
  • Estimate how much time you will need to devote to each course, and make a weekly schedule that includes time for work, extra-curricular activities, fun, and relaxation.

Week Two:

  • Make sure to check your UofT e-mail account and portal – this is how the university stays in touch with you.
  • Visit your professors' office hours to introduce yourself.
  • Introduce yourself to other students in your classes.
  • Find a study space that works for you.
  • Review your weekly schedule: Is it working? Are there things that should be changed?
  • Unsure of the academic expectations? Sign up for an individual consult with your Academic Advisor.
  • Look into ways to get involved on campus.
  • Be open to new experiences, but stay connected with family and friends back home as well.

Week Three:

  • Even though your professors may not be taking attendance, attend lectures! You will be glad you did when midterms start.
  • Form study groups with your classmates.
  • Continue to keep up with your courses.
  • If you are stuck with something, get help: approach your professor, your TA, or make an appointment with your Academic Advisor.

Week Four:

  • Midterms will be starting before you know it!
  • You may have several assignments and exams on the horizon – start planning early!
  • Writing assignments due? Make an appointment with the Writing Centre.

Week Five:

  • By mid-October, preparing for and writing midterms are usually the main priorities.
  • Create a balanced study schedule that allows you to be well-prepared for exams while still having time for sleep, fun, relaxation, and taking care of your health.
  • Want to hone your study skills? Need help making a study schedule? Visit the Academic Success Centre or their website!

Week Six:

  • Congrats on finishing your first six weeks, you’re halfway done the term!
  • Reflect on your experience so far: What is working? What isn't? Are things going the way you had hoped?
  • Are you staying motivated? It is never too early visit the Career Centre and start thinking about long-term goals.
  • Maintain your health habits. The first six weeks of university can be hectic, and you may be feeling like you are 'not yourself' if your sleeping, eating, and exercise routines are off.

Week Seven:

  • Midterm marks aren’t what you were hoping for? There is a still lot of time to improve. Talk to your Academic Advisor and make some changes!
  • It’s not too late to join some clubs! If the first 6 weeks went by in a whirlwind don’t worry. Now’s the perfect time to look into some of the cool things UofT has to offer.

Week Eight:

  • Keep your eyes open for events both at UofT and in the city. There’s always something going on.
  • Re-evaluate your study techniques and how well you know your courses. Are you on track? What’re some things you can do to improve?
  • Gather and organize all your notes. Finals are distant but fast approaching!

Week Nine:

  • Set up a study schedule and stick to it. There are lots of big projects deadlines coming up and it can be tempting to blow off studying to work on projects. While it is important to prioritize work don’t leave yourself out to dry when finals come.
  • Looking ahead in your course syllabi is a great way to stay on top of your work in the upcoming weeks.
  • Review your class notes. Do you understand the core concepts in each of your courses? This is the time to talk to your profs/TAs about anything you’re having trouble with.

Week Ten:

  • Note making and exam studying should be beginning. It is far more effective to study a little bit every day than to cram the night before your exams.
  • Set up a study group in each class for your finals’ studying. Working in groups can help keep you stay disciplined and be more effective at figuring out tricky problems. That being said, make sure you don’t just sit around chatting!

Week Eleven:

  • Keep up on your studying and make sure you submit all your cumulative projects on time. No point in losing marks for lateness!
  • Talk to your TAs or go to the Writing Centre to talk about your projects. They can help you hand in the best possible assignments!
  • Keep up your eating, sleeping and exercising habits. Lots of studying can leave you feeling a little sluggish, so make breaks for exercise and rest. Staying active can actually make your learning more effective!

Week Twelve:

  • Stay calm. Writing finals is no different than any other test. You’ve done your work and you know your stuff, it will be ok.
  • Decide on exam writing strategies. How are you going to use your time? Evaluate after each final and ask yourself what’s working.
  • Feel like you blew a final? On to the next one! Many finals are set up so that everybody gets low marks and then are bell curved up. Don’t worry you probably did better than you think you did!
  • Congrats on finishing your first term at UofT!
Taken and adapted from the Queens University Learning Center

The Worst Case Scenario - Advice For First Years
Our Advice
Next Steps
You failed a midterm or final.

Don’t panic! You are not the first and you won’t be the last person to get their butt kicked by a test.
  • Meet with your Academic Advisor(Their info can be found in the resources tab.) They can help you manage courses and workloads and recommend study strategies.
  • Take charge. It’s not too late to make changes and do great on the next one!
  • Talk to your coaches: They can help arrange tutors and other resources.
  • If First Year really doesn’t go swell, there is summer school and the T-Program to help you get caught up. First Year can be tough, which is why these things exist. You are not doomed for life!!
You’re falling behind on your work.

Catch it early and be accountable. University takes a lot of discipline and self evaluation. Look for signs that you may be struggling and make big changes!
  • Meet with your Ademic Advisor to discuss your concerns and goals.
  • Go to class and take notes! Attendance is half the battle.
  • Set aside some time everyday to do work. Remember, weekends are a great time to catch-up, (even if that means you may need to take a night or two off going out).
  • Introduce yourself to your profs, let them know about your situation, and ask for advice.
You’re finding it difficult to make new friends or are feeling lonely.

Get involved! Being on a sports team lets you meet a lot of people but getting involved in your discipline is important, too.
  • Join a club or intramural. Make sure you have time to balance this activity but many clubs require little commitment and can be lots of fun.
  • Introduce yourself to the person you’re sitting next to in each class. Everybody else is looking to make new friends as well.
You’re feeling overwhelmed.

Get some sleep. Between studying for long hours and practices/workouts being a Varsity Engineer can be gruelling. Getting consistent rest can be a life saver. It will help with athletic and academic performance too!
  • Meet with your coaches/academic advisor to discuss time management. Good organization can make quick work of what seems like impossible tasks.
  • Plan on getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Getting sick?

Take it easy. A day or two off won’t put you behind if you handle it properly. Contact your profs and TAs and ask how you can keep up, then get your rest and feel better!
  • Tell your coaches and profs/TAs ahead of time and find out what you may be missing.
  • Ask for friends or classmates to keep you updated on material.
Having serious stress or concerns?

Reach out to those around you. Your friends and family are there to help.
  • Need help now? Good2Talk is Ontario's free, confidential and anonymous post-secondary student helpline. Call 1-866-925-5454

You can always contact the Blues Engineering team with any concerns on the above or other things and we would be happy to offer advice!