Off to School

Off to School (Becca Vandekemp, @beccavdk)

Starting post-secondary school can make for crazy times. The taste of freedom, the stress of school, and all of the new people can throw you into a frenzy of trying to quickly figure life out on the spur of a moment. Here is some of my best advice for anyone starting off this awesome stage of post-adolescent existence.

  1. Think for yourself. The ideal is that post-secondary school helps you to open your mind to a world of possibilities and perspectives, but be guarded to how narrow popular views can be.
  2. Respect your roommates. Try to empathize with their pet peeves, and communicate your own with them. Your relationships with them may or may not end up in lifelong friendships, but a healthy dorm environment is always a good thing.
  3. Develop your basic home-making skills. You are going to have to figure out how to cook, clean, and do your own laundry in almost every living situation. For the embarrassing questions, Google is your friend. Also, a hefty supply of underwear limits how often you have to do laundry.
  4. Take care of your computer. It’s your lifeline, entertainment, cookbook, and friend. Especially in first year, you don’t want to have to deal with an overheated laptop or a fried processor.
  5. Don’t stress over the freshman fifteen. A little bit of weight gain isn’t the end of the world, and it is easily avoidable if you do what you can in keeping up a healthy lifestyle. Moderation with junk food is key. Exercise is key #2.
  6. Take care of yourself during crunch time. When the stress hits, it’s easy to let sleep, healthy eating, and exercise get squished out of your planner. Multitasking (e.g. doing readings on an elliptical or snacking on fruits high in Vitamin C while studying) is a great way to avoid getting sick. Who wants the flu during exams?
  7. Invest in the high school friends who you value the most. In transition periods, friends come and go, but don’t underestimate the value of a few good long-term friends.
  8. Call home fairly often. Don’t assume your family thinks you are just fine. It’s a tricky time for them in sending you out into the big scary world. They’ll appreciate the updates since they are probably trying to respect your transition into independence by giving you space.
  9. Be legit. It’s normal and healthy to question your ideals, so do so actively. Be honest with yourself and be realistic about the consequences of your decisions. People who make clear-headed decisions tend to demand more respect from peers than people who just go along with the crowd.
  10. Stay sane! Make sure you have some kind of outlet or safe place. When you are doing work, actually do work. When you are taking a break, take your mind off of school. This helps your time management skills immensely.
  11. Get to know your financial options. OSAP, student lines of credit, scholarships, bursaries, and grants can be overwhelming at first, so ask senior or past students for advice.
  12. Enjoy yourself. University or college can be the most amazing time of your life, but it’s largely up to you if you want to take advantage of the experiences available. Get to know your community—exploring, volunteering, and finding your own special study places brings your postsecondary city or town much closer to your heart.
  13. Get to know your professors. Beyond the obvious reference opportunities, professors can offer great advice on school and careers, they can help you navigate and succeed in their courses, and they can even be mentors in the professional world once you are finished your studies. Most of them love the attention, too.
  14. Compromise well.  Sometimes you simply can’t do everything, at least on time. A late assignment or a missed event isn’t the end of the world. Just know how to prioritize and how to recognize the best compromises (e.g. late penalties of 2%/day as opposed to a grade of 0 between two assignments).
  15. Get involved. This may be the most stereotypical recommendation, but campus and/or community involvement has the power to enhance your post-secondary experience more than you could imagine. Plus, it’s a great way to give your scholarship applications an edge.

It doesn’t matter how long your program is supposed to be. School is a chapter in your actual life. Cherish it, because it goes by all too quickly.

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