students sitting together chatting
Written by Lindsay (she/her), student

University is an exciting adventure, but it can also be intimidating for first-year students.

That’s exactly how I felt when I first stepped onto campus. I was excited for all of the opportunities and events, including new classes, clubs, and orientation week...but I was also nervous for all of the unknowns - like midterms, exams, assignments, and so much more.

I was nervous and stressed about moving away from home into a new environment where I didn’t know anyone. At first, I didn’t know what resources were available or how I could access them.

Living Learning Communities

Depending on what program you are in, some residences offer Living Learning Communities where you can live with a cluster of students in the same program or faculty as you. One of the many benefits of being a part of a Living Learning Community is that you’re provided with a peer leader who is an upper-year student. Peer leaders come into residence and help support first-year students with the transition to university. Living with people in the same program allows you to make connections with your peers and find a sense of belonging within your program and faculty

Academic advisors

Every Waterloo student has an academic advisor who is there to help you choose your courses, plan your degree, and answer any other academic-related questions you may have. An academic advisor is kind of like a guidance counsellor that you may have in high school.

When I was planning on applying to a Master’s program, I met with my academic advisor to make sure that I had the necessary courses and that I was on track to graduate. She is someone I have always gone to when I have questions about courses or my degree.

Counselling Services

Feeling homesick or need someone to talk to? Counselling Services offers a variety of programs at no charge, including individual appointments, seminars, and workshops to help you live a healthy life.

Our trained professionals provide a secure and supportive environment for students to help with whatever you may be dealing with. They are located right in the heart of campus and are dedicated to helping support you throughout your university journey.

Peer mentor with group of students.

Support for entrepreneurs

Much like the Living Learning Community, Velocity and Concept offer resources for entrepreneurially-minded students, such as workshops, socials, and funding competitions.

Concept is a pre-incubator program for students looking for support to bring their ideas to life. It offers coaching and the opportunity to compete for funding for your project. Velocity is an incubator program for students interested in launching their own startup. Both of these programs are a great place to find mentors and connect with leaders and individuals who have been successful in a number of different ways, including starting their own business or helping someone else launch their business. This is a great fit for students who are specifically looking for an entrepreneurial mentor.

Employer with a student at Velocity garage.

Velocity is one of Waterloo's programs for student entrepreneurs

Peer mentoring

We have a variety of peer mentorship programs available at Waterloo such as weCONNECTu which is for first-year students in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences. The program pairs new students with upper-year mentors who provide resources and support to students to help with their transition to university. Peer mentors can also provide study tips, advice, and help teach you the ins and outs of university.

Connect with upper-year students who understand what it’s like to be in first year.

Peer mentoring at Waterloo is available to everyone, and I highly recommend it. You can connect with upper-year students who know what it’s like to be in first year and have been through a lot of the same experiences as you. Depending on what makes the most sense, you can find peer mentors to help with social, cultural, and/or academic transitions to university.

Mentorship can happen anywhere

Mentorship doesn’t always have to happen on campus. Great mentors can be found outside of school as well. For me, I was mentored by a therapeutic recreation specialist at a kids rehabilitation hospital in Toronto, where I completed a four-month internship. My supervisors provided me with guidance and support throughout my internship and were always available to answer any questions I had. They helped me identify my strengths and areas for improvement and celebrated my accomplishments with me.

At the end of the day, life can be hard at times, but having mentors to support you can be super beneficial in preparing for new experiences. When you get to university, don’t be afraid to find a mentor to help you make the transition. There are so many people willing to help you out. And maybe in a couple of years, you’ll become a mentor yourself!