Hello fellow readers, here is the follow-up to our first post on transitioning from High School to University. I hope these tips will be of use to you; keep striving for whatever your goals are!
5. Start Connecting – Peers, Mentors and Professors
When you feel lost, or you need guidance in the areas of academics, extracurricular activities or whatever it may be, I can assure you that there are many supportive people around you to help you throughout your transition. I recently came across one of Bobby Umar’s TED talks about the power of connection. We all have the need to feel loved, appreciated and simply connected to those around us to share the good and bad experiences of our lives. We all crave that genuine connection with others that helps to inspire us and bring about positivity in our daily lives. My advice is this – if you need help, if you need to chat, get out of your comfort zone and approach those around you. Create study groups with classmates you haven’t met for courses you’re struggling with by simply reaching out – you’ll be making meaningful friendships this way! Also, don’t be afraid of your professors. Some can come off as intimidating but I assure you that they are the most valuable resources. Office hours are there for a reason – go with a friend, go alone, talk about ways to improve your study habits and discuss your career aspirations. Your professors have gone through it all and understand the position you are in. More often than not they are more than willing to help you. I know my university also offers a mentorship program which pairs first year students with knowledgeable upper year students. Sign-up for one of these mentorship programs if possible – upper year students have been in the same place as you and provide a multitude of guidance and help!
6. Explore, Explore, Explore
Your undergraduate experience is the time to explore your future career options. Start early – this is the best way to plan for your future and make less hiccups as you go along. If you have room for electives, take courses that you want to explore and are interested in. I personally took Anthropology and Microeconomics as electives in my first year. Anthropology is still to this date one of my favourite electives which helped me to learn about cultural concepts around the world, in addition to being a good break from my other science courses. Microeconomics was also very interesting and led me to pursue my minor in business. Your elective space is a great option for obtaining a minor and exploring other subject areas! You’ll soon come to your third and fourth years where you will have to start deciding which career path to take. Take the time from first year to reflect on the courses you liked, reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes and the potential careers you’d want to pursue. Are you thinking of graduate school, professional school or working after graduation? What courses are required for these paths and what types of extracurricular involvement will help you gain a better sense of what these career paths entail? What do you see yourself doing on a daily basis as work – do you prefer lab work, non-clinical research, working with numbers, or hands-on applications? Talk to your professors, career counsellors and those around you to explore what choices you have. Don’t limit yourself to pursuing one single career path – there are plenty of options for science graduates! You just have to do the work to find out who you are and what you would like to take from your undergraduate experience – and the earlier this is done, the better!
7. Jump in Wholeheartedly – you only have four years!
Trust me when I say this – time will fly by in university. You’ll be graduating in no time, you’ll say your goodbyes and soon be embarking on the next leg of your journey. If you find that you’re not liking or struggling too much within the program you are in – change programs or take some time off to figure out what you want to do. If you’d like to challenge yourself by exploring other courses or taking on extracurricular activities you’d never thought you’d be a part of before – simply go for it! These four years are all about working hard, challenging yourself and immersing yourself in the university experience. When I look back at the past two years of my own experience, I find that my main regret was missing out on opportunities that were before me. I was focused mainly on my grades but missed chances to be a part of great extracurricular clubs or university events that many of my friends attended. This is the time where you truly learn about yourself, your capabilities and get to cherish the moments with good friends. Make the most of your time as it is limited. Get involved in an intramural sport that you’ve always wanted to try, make new friends by joining study groups or explore some aspect of your campus city each month! The opportunities present at university are endless, and in the end what counts is what you make out of your experience. Don’t let silly excuses hold you back and get out of your comfort zone to make things happen. You’ll surely look back one day to see all the great accomplishments and memories you have made!