Five things I wish I knew before starting university

Starting university is an exciting chapter to begin, I vividly remember feeling excited and nervous when applying to Ryerson. I can still recall my decision, which I do not regret, to accept my offer at 10:30 p.m. before going to sleep. It was random, and I woke up the next morning telling my family that I was officially going to Ryerson. Depending on when you read this, if you’re still a senior or about to start university soon, these are a few things I wish somebody told me before starting university.

Do your research

When I tell you to conduct research, I mean research everything. Thankfully I did this, and I went beyond looking at the Journalism program. I researched the services that I would have access to. It was important to me that I wouldn’t only be supported in my program, but would have access to networking events, global experiential learning opportunities and services that would support my mental health. It’s also critical that you figure out what you’re hoping to get out of your university experience. You don’t need to know everything, but having a general idea of your goals can help you determine what school and program would suit you. 

Stay organized and plan early

This is a big one, and coming from personal experience, I pride myself on being an organized person. I get excited to write my to-do list and update my calendar, having things structured has always been something I’ve done. Completing my second semester of first year slowly became more challenging. My advice is at the beginning of each semester make a document outlining when all of your assignments and tests are due and how much they’re worth. I recommend doing this because it gives you a quick reference to see when things need to get done and how much they’re worth. 

Planning early is also important. I’ll be honest, sometimes my schedule gets so packed I can’t work on something until a few days before it’s due. I would suggest taking a look at an assignment a week before, that way if you have any questions you can ask them earlier rather than later. Your professors and TA’s will be more than willing to help if you give them adequate time to respond. 

Don’t be discouraged if you get a bad mark

I’ve mentioned this in another post, but it is true. Sometimes you might not get the greatest mark and that is okay! I don’t think anyone’s goal is to do bad in school, but sometimes transitioning to university can take time, especially when it comes to a new learning style and academic expectations. I recently got a 66% on an assignment and while I’m bummed out, it’s only motivated me to do better on my upcoming assignments. To help maintain my goal when it comes to my grade point average (GPA), I use a tracker created by a Ryerson student. I regularly input my marks and set myself goals at each semester, and assess those goals if needed. This keeps me accountable while still motivating me to do my best.


Learn how to reference your work

This might be random, but learning how to reference your work is important! This helps to avoid plagiarism, which is a big offence. I have the problem of over-referencing my work in essays to ensure that everything is credited.  In high school, I knew how to reference work with embedded citations and reference lists, which is a common thing most of us had to do. Coming into university, I had to learn how to do footnotes, and at the time I had no clue what that looked like or how to do it. I struggled with it, and the next essay I had to write required footnotes. I reached out to the Ryerson Library and my friends to help me out, and it made all the difference.  

This is also a great example on why you should do your research! If I didn’t research the services offered at the Ryerson Library I couldn’t have taken advantage of a simple service that did me a number! If you want to get ahead, learning this simple skill will make things easier for you. If you’re still in high school, reach out to your librarians, they are great resources to check before entering university. If you don’t get a chance to brush up on your referencing skills, don’t worry, the library staff at Ryerson will be more than happy to help you! 


Take advantage of opportunities

While being a student it can be easy to solely focus on school and nothing else, but if you have some extra time, try joining a club or joining a webinar hosted by your program or faculty. In my first semester of university, I wanted to ease myself into things. I didn’t pressure myself to join any clubs because it didn’t feel right for me. That being said, in second year, I will be making that one of my priorities because I’ve heard great things about joining clubs, and it will also lead you to make more friends, which is a bonus. 

Looking back at the past months, I cannot believe that I have almost finished my first year of university. Be warned that the time goes by fast! Everyone’s experience will be different, but take my advice on these few tips I shared with you. You’ll quickly realize that these are things that all students should know and keep in mind before they start school. 



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