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How to Thrive in Your First Semester

Students showing thumbs up at school

Most students have mixed feelings about going away to university. For one thing, it’s exciting: you’ll meet new people, discover things about yourself, and have the chance to explore your passions. On the other hand, it’s scary leaving your family and friends behind, perhaps to live in another part of the country. The first semester, when everything is still new, is the most challenging of all. Luckily, there are things you can do not just to cope but to thrive.

1. Push Yourself

It’s easy to just coast along and do only what makes you feel comfortable. However, this will likely mean you’ll struggle to make friends and you’ll miss out on some great opportunities.
A better strategy is to sign up for plenty of activities — including ones you’re not sure even you’ll enjoy — and attend some of the many events you see advertised around campus. It’s better to try something once and determine it’s not for you than to have regrets.

2. Create a Schedule

No one will provide you with an outline of how to spend your days at university: it’s up to you to make sure you’re using your time wisely. Make a note of upcoming assignments and decide when to work on them and allocate time to reviewing notes from your classes or studying in your own time. Never expect to remember an appointment or commitment — write everything down in a planner.

3. Go to All Your Classes

Similarly, it’s unlikely that anyone will be checking that you attend class. You can skip as many classes as you want — but that’s not a good idea. Unless you have an excellent reason for not attending, make sure you do go. After all, using someone else’s notes won’t be nearly as effective when preparing for exams.

4. Consider Getting a Job

Depending on your situation, working part-time while you study could be great — or it could be a terrible idea. If you’re worried about having enough money to maintain the lifestyle you want, a job may be a weight off your mind. However, if you find academics particularly difficult, it may be better to focus solely on your education.

5. Make Sure You Have Time to Relax

You can easily fill your schedule with classes, extracurriculars, and events — but there’s no need for every moment of your day to be productive. In fact, it’s important to have time to rest each week, whether that involves reading a book unrelated to your classes, watching a movie, or even taking a nap.

6. Check In with Old Friends

You’ll make some great friends at college, but it’s important not to lose touch with old friends. Checking in regularly with people from back home will help you maintain those relationships. Plus, friends who are studying at different universities are likely feeling as out of place as you are — and hearing from you regularly may be a great help.

7. Venture Beyond Campus

If you live near campus and nothing takes you farther afield, it’s easy to stay in the vicinity of your school the entire time you’re at college. Your first semester is the best time to explore your surroundings because you haven’t fallen into a routine yet. You may even discover great places you’ll end up revisiting throughout your time at university.

The right housing makes it much easier to thrive at university. Many students realize that living on campus and sharing a room with someone else will be uncomfortable and instead search for apartments for rent. Waterloo students can find the perfect home at King Street Towers. You’ll receive a bedroom in a suite with no more than five other students. Plus, you’ll have the chance to meet even more people in communal spaces like our fitness centres, games rooms, and study spaces. Book a tour to see it for yourself.

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