Three things I wish I knew as a first-year student

Tuesday, September 14, 2021
by Ryan T., AFM

As a third-year student, here are three things I wish I knew during my first year

ryan trainor
Ask for help early 

Entering my first year, I felt confident about my understanding of both the academic and the professional landscape and how I can position myself for success. However, communicating with upper-year students and faculty quickly exposed my lack of knowledge, especially about recruitment, extra-curricular activities and academics. Three important conversations I wish I had early on in my university career are about effectively building relationships with professionals, key skills of successful co-op students, and different possible career opportunities. My advice for incoming students would be to converse with upper-year students and faculty members and implement that to guide their personal, academic and professional development.  

Practice success

Extra-curricular experiences are excellent opportunities to build relationships, gain insight into industries, and develop critical skills for long-term success. To make these experiences more impactful, actively focus on developing and practicing specific skills that translate strongly to your career success. If I could go back to my first year, I would want to develop a much stronger understanding of how to proactively support peers and manage up so that I could knowingly practice these skills. I learned a lot from first-year extra-curricular experiences by asking questions and reflecting but if I had a stronger understanding of these skills at the beginning, I could have accelerated my involvement, learning and development.

Be honest about your struggles

Recognize challenges early and proactively seek support for your personal growth. In my first year, I struggled with sleeping and eating habits, finding resources, and developing effective learning strategies. I was very stubborn and refused to recognize that I had been struggling with these issues for a long time. As soon as I admitted to myself that I needed support, I read books on psychology and habits, attended resource workshops hosted by the University of Waterloo and worked with on-campus learning strategists. Taking action helped me resolve these challenges quickly and I saw an immediate improvement in my personal well-being as well as my academic performance. The lesson here is to ask for help, but a key part of asking for help is recognizing that you need it and understanding what kind of help you need. Taking action is your responsibility and yours alone so do not wait.