About two months ago (yeah I know, this blog post is really late) I wrote my last final exam for first year and moved back home from Waterloo. First year was definitely an interesting experience, to say the least. If I could sum it up in one word, it would be fast.

Time flies when you’re in university. Course content speeds by and events come and go. Before you know it, you’re getting ready to write your finals when it feels like midterms were just yesterday. So much happens in such a short span of time that sometimes it gets very difficult to keep up with everything that is going on.

To give you some perspective, our first year linear algebra course (MATH 115 at the University of Waterloo) covered all of the vectors content in the Ontario grade twelve calculus and vectors course (MCV 4U1) in one (one and a half hour) lecture. To be fair though, the content was review.

Each term consists of twelve weeks of classes. Three hours of lectures per week are scheduled for each course—meaning each course consists of only thirty-six hours of instruction. That’s a very short amount of time to consume a ton of content. In the end though, it’s pretty rewarding to look back and reflect on everything that you’ve learned.

There are also many, many different clubs and events you can take part in. I, unfortunately, didn’t join any clubs this year but I did end up participating in quite a few hackathons. These hackathons were all great experiences, but very tiring as well—a topic I’ll leave for a future blog post.

I’ll end off this post with a few tips I thought I should share.

1. Develop good study habits

Like I mentioned previously, university goes by quickly. If you don’t have them already, develop good study habits—they will help you in the long run. It’s very easy to fall behind and procrastinate, especially with the newfound freedom you’ll experience as a university student. Start on your work early and you’ll avoid the panic of having to rush an assignment or having to cram for an exam. Trust me, it’s not a good feeling.

2. Get enough sleep

Staying up really late or pulling an all-nighter to work on something might seem like a brilliant idea at first, but the lack of sleep will get to you. Make sure you get enough rest every night!

3. Figure out how you learn best

Everyone learns differently and everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Use first year as an opportunity to figure out what your learning style is and apply it to your studies. If you find that skipping class and studying by yourself at home works best for you, then by all means—go for it! But if you learn best in class from the professor, then make the effort to go to class.

4. Focus on learning, not marks

Coming from high school, this will be a lot easier said than done. Focus on grasping the big picture and learning as much as you can—both academically and non-academically. Confused about simple harmonic motion? Seek help to make sure you understand the fundamentals behind the concept. Want to learn how to use node.js for a cool new side project idea you have? Make time to learn that too!

5. Have some fun

Lastly, have some fun! University is tough, but you also get to experience great moments with all of your friends both new and old. Don’t overwork yourself. Set aside some time to take in the moment, since you’re only in first year once!

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