The transition into University life can be a daunting. I was a short 40 minute drive from home and I still found the change fairly overwhelming. New people, new city, new home, new classes, new everything. Part of the reason was that I had absolutely no idea what to expect. A lot of stress could have been avoided if I could go back in time and tell Wee Little First Year Josh a few important things, but I don’t think that can happen. Instead of hiring someone to build a time machine, I’ve taken it upon myself to talk a bit about my troubles and my experiences in hopes that I can reduce the stress of the unexpected and unknown for future Dalhousians (and students of other schools for that matter)! I asked for input of others, which I’ll include at the end.
- You don’t have to have your whole life planned out just yet.
When I recieved my acceptance letter during the Summer after high school, it seemed to me that it was set in stone that I was going to be getting a Bachelor of Arts in 4 years. What most people don’t realize about going into university is that there is flexibility to go down a different path in your studies if you should decide to do so. After my first year in the Arts program, I realized that I didn’t like the road that I was headed down so I looked into other programs. I couldn’t explain why, but for some reason the Management program caught my eye and had me very interested. I made an appointment with Academic Advising, they sent me on my way to switching my program. Not only was it a smooth transition into another program, but I’m also able to graduate on time which I didn’t expect! The bottom line is that your first year can be used as a year for exploring different areas of study, and you shouldn’t worry about not knowing exactly what you want to do with your life. Calm down and enjoy it.
- There are many other programs besides BA and BSc.
Before starting classes, I was under the impression that Dal offered two things: BA and BSc. Little did I know that I had a huge array of programs to choose from (see Dalhousie Undergrad Programs). The biggest regret of my academic career is not fully looking into these programs when I was fresh out of high school. It would have opened so many new opportunities for me! Don’t make my mistake and think that you only have a simple choice between Arts and Sciences. Radiological Technology, anyone?
- Get involved
Dal offers an obsene amount of opportunities to get involved on campus. Activities ranging from free Zumba and Yoga classes (see Dalplex) to Quidditch games (Harry Potter fans are accepted here at Dalhousie ;)). A huge regret of mine is not getting involved sooner. The best days of my time at Dal so far have been directly related to putting myself out there and making an effort to get involved, which I didn’t start doing until half way through my second year. There are always opportunities to get involved in your Residence councils (talk to your Hall presidents), and tons of societies and organizations that are always looking for new members.
For people who are living in residence, please take this piece of advice: participate in every single O-Week (frosh week) event that you can! This is the best opportunity to make friends, since everyone else is going to be scared shitless just like you. I was a typical Frosh during my O-Week, and I ended up being too hungover to attend any events. This resulted in a tough time trying to make friends in my Rez since everyone had started to form their cliques.
- Don’t even think about skipping class ‘just this once’.
Just don’t skip class. Just don’t. It’s so easy promise yourself that you’ll go to EVERY other class for the rest of the year, but guess what? You won’t. Skipping one class makes you feel like it’s okay to skip a second class, and pretty soon you’ve realized that you haven’t been to a class all week…and then all month…and then OOPS, you’re at the final exam and you’ve only been to 3 lectures all year. Danger danger danger, just don’t do it. Believe me. Just don’t.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
At a family gathering a few months before my first year, someone had said ‘Good luck at school! Just make sure you pass!’. At the time I found this insulting. I mean, of course I’m going to pass, right? Well let me tell you, a lot of you are going to have a rude awakening after your first set of midterms. But guess what? So are the rest of the students in your class. University is hard, plain and simple. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and expect to maintain your A+ average from high school. That is unreasonable to ask of yourself during your first year and you’re only going to wear yourself out. The famous saying ‘D’s get Degrees’ has some genius behind it. 😉 Relax and take advantage of this exciting time in your life instead of beating yourself up for getting a A- instead of an A (believe me, you’ll learn to get excited when you get an A-).
If I would have known these 5 things going into my freshman year, I would have been golden…except for that whole part where I got diagnosed with diabetes 2 months in, but that’s besides the point. I asked some of my Twitter followers and Facebook friends to tell me what they wish they knew going into this, and here are a few of the responses that I got:
@XtinaBoom91): Don’t study all the time, you need to make time for down time or you’ll lose your mind.
@smelanieosborne): There are more options than a bach of science and a bach of arts.
@EmmaTompkins1): It’s good to work hard but don’t put too much pressure on yourself, it may become too much to handle and get help when you need it
@BeeMWalsh): When living in Halifax, invest in a pair of rubber boots and don’t bother with an umbrella. People will just laugh at you.
@Meagancam): You don’t have to decide your life/career/degree right away! Go into 1st year with an open mind & test things out
@emmaneynens: participate in as many frosh week and res activities as possible
Livia A: Wish I knew that when you’re a girl, there’s no way you need the unlimited meal plan, you’re just asking for the Freshman 15.
Sarah M.: Studying actually works
Sarah S.: Making new friends is easier than one might think!!
P.S. If you enjoyed this article, I suggest you check out my post about Dal Rez Life!