12 Things all first-years must do

2017-01-29 06:09
TOTALLY DOPE Your student years should be both formative and enjoyable

TOTALLY DOPE Your student years should be both formative and enjoyable

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University! Finally, you are free to set your own schedule. Or perhaps you’re anxious about a career.

Or maybe you’re looking forward to all those parties you see in movies.

Regardless, every student entering higher education has a first-year experience, and every student needs ways of approaching and dealing with the year, to set the best possible stage for their university experience.

Here are 12 suggestions of what you should aim to do during your first year:

1. ATTEND ORIENTATION

Orientation is offered to introduce the university, and to showcase the many services and resources available to you.

While many activities focus on fun, there are also activities to help you navigate your studies.

Plan ahead of time what activities and sessions you want to attend.

Ensure that you choose ones that help you make informed decisions about your courses, access needed services, and learn about extracurricular activities that may interest you.

2. SIGN UP FOR A FEW CLUBS AND SOCIETIES

University is absolutely a time to try something new. But signing up for everything means there is a much lower chance that you will actually follow through.

If, however, you pick a few options that you know you will be committed to participating in, there is a much better chance you will remain committed and enjoy a tremendously rewarding experience.

3.TAKE ONE COURSE YOU THINK YOU WILL LOVE

You will probably be incredibly focused on the courses you must take in order to be in good academic standing for your intended degree.

But as you continue to discover what truly interests and excites you, it really is worthwhile taking a course – often outside of the faculty you intend to major in – that you truly think you will love.

Exposing yourself to different viewpoints and ways of thinking and knowing is a fantastic way to broaden your own knowledge and understanding of how the world works.

4. ATTEND ALL OF YOUR CLASSES (AND DO THE READINGS!)

Someone is paying for your education. If you do not pursue what is being paid for, you are wasting time and money.

Go to class – there is no substitute for hearing what your lecturer and fellow students have to say about particular content.

Also, setting up the routine of attending all of your classes from day one means you have a better chance of continuing this practice throughout your undergraduate career.

If there is assigned homework or reading before a class, it is always worth your while to do it.

You will have a much more enjoyable and engaging time in class, and chances are the lecturer will help you understand the reading in a whole new way.

5. MEET YOUR LECTURERS IN PERSON

Getting to know students is often the most enjoyable part of being a lecturer.

It is so important to make personal connections with your lecturers by visiting them during their office hours or by asking questions after class.

It is not enough to connect with lecturers via email.

Not only can your lecturers help you with your learning, but they can also provide career advice, write letters of recommendation, and they will probably be more willing to supervise your postgraduate thesis if you choose to continue on to graduate school.

6. BE PROACTIVE ABOUT STRESS YOU MIGHT EXPERIENCE

There are so many different things that you are getting used to – living in a new place, structuring your day, attending many classes on any given day, managing your own finances/life in general, to name just a few – and all of these can cause stress.

You can help alleviate some of this by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, seeking out counselling services on campus, connecting regularly with your mentor (if a mentoring programme exists on your campus), and developing a good schedule to effectively manage your time.

7. MEET WITH A LIBRARIAN EARLY IN YOUR FIRST YEAR

Librarians are advocates for knowledge and information, and they are there to help you.

If you rely solely on the resources you find via Google for your papers, you are in trouble.

If you are struggling with finding resources, or if you are unsure of which keywords to use in searches, or you have never used an online database of journal articles, then a librarian is just the person you need to see.

They can help you develop your research skills, including sifting through different resources to decide which ones will be useful and helping you with your citations and referencing.

Cultivate a working relationship with the library and its librarians. You will need it more than you might realise.

8. VISIT THE WRITING CENTRE

Many students perceive the writing centre to be the place to go to when your writing skills are poor.

But tutors in the writing centre can help almost any student improve their writing.

Very often, spending even just 30 minutes at the writing centre is a much more efficient use of time than sitting alone for two hours and making no progress on your writing assignment.

Having someone help you organise your thoughts can be extremely helpful and what you learn in one session for a particular assignment can often apply to other writing assignments.

9. FIND A JOB CONNECTED TO WHAT YOU ARE STUDYING … EVEN IF THE PAY ISN’T GREAT

Find a job (even as a volunteer) that is related to your studies.

This is one of the best ways to help you develop critical skills such as communication, time management and navigation of the work world.

Finding the right kind of job early in your undergraduate career can also give you useful insights into your chosen field, to help you decide whether this is definitely what you want to be doing, or not.

10. EXPLORE YOUR (NEW) NEIGHBOURHOOD

In addition to all of the key places on campus to know about, there are going to be plenty of important places to locate off campus – for instance, your bank branch, doctor, grocery stores, interesting restaurants and movie theatres.

Take the time before your first year starts to get acquainted with the neighbourhood.

11. ASK FOR HELP

Everybody needs help sometimes. In fact, it should be one of your goals as a first-year student to ask for help when you need it.

It is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. It shows maturity and confidence.

12. BE REFLECTIVE…

A key to success as a student is to check in with yourself periodically.

Ask yourself how you are doing as a student (and be critical – the more honest you are, the better you can identify ways to improve and become a better student).

Aim to do this at least once a term.

Fontaine is the director of the First-Year Experience Project at the University of Cape Town

TALK TO US

Are you a first-year student? What are your expectations of your tertiary education?

SMS us on 35697 using the keyword STUDENT and tell us what you think. Please include your name and province. SMSes cost R1.50


Read more on:    matric  |  university

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