Essential Tips and Resources for First Year Science Students

Welcome to the University of Waterloo! You’ve made it! University is a new start for many students and can be an exciting yet stressful time, as it is for many students. Many students face fears when transitioning from high school to university in terms of being overwhelmed with the numerous assignments, labs, and assessments. However, you can develop a wide range of new skills to help you be successful. Below are a list of helpful tips and resources that students have found useful, and hopefully you can implement them into your first year experience, too!

1. Time Management

Don’t let time pass you by! With the clock ticking, the chemistry lab due tomorrow, and the club meeting in an hour, university life can be overwhelming. Be sure to plan your schedule ahead of time with daily/weekly/monthly to do lists, and make use of calendars/agendas to ensure you are on top of your game!

2. Studying 

How much time should I spend studying? First year science students may have around 20-25 hours of classes and should spend another 20-25 hours studying weekly. Please note that these hours are rough estimates that vary between classes and differs from student to student, so practice the schedule that works best for you! As well, reviewing course material frequently rather than studying the night before the big test is beneficial as proven by the “Curve of Forgetting”.

3. Note Taking Cornell Note Taking Method

Establish a note taking method that is most effective for your learning. There are many different styles of note taking, with the most recommended one for science students being the “Cornell Note Taking Method”. This method allows for the student to easily identify key words, main ideas, and summarize what they have learned. Helpful note taking apps include Evernote and OneNote.

4. UWaterloo Resources

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. University of Waterloo has many resources on campus that is aimed to help students succeed. Don’t overlook these as they provide great assistance in your university career. Resources include the Writing and Communications Center, Centre for Career Action, and Peer Success Coaching. In addition, reach out to the Science Undergraduate Office if you have any questions regarding your courses.

5. Courses

Courses, courses, courses. With so many fabulous science courses available at UWaterloo, it can be overwhelming during course selection to select the courses you are required and/or want to take. Whether it is biology, chemistry, physics, or an elective, browse through the available courses ahead of time on the Undergraduate Studies Academic Calendar to get a better sense of what each course has to offer with the. Make sure to take all your required courses for your program and don’t be afraid to email your academic advisor regarding any questions.

6. Online System

Familiarize yourself with UWaterloo’s online system. As a UWaterloo student, the main online systems you will be using are WATIAM, LEARN, Quest, Portal, and your UWaterloo email. Each serve their own crucial purpose; click here to learn more about each!

7. ClubsScience Departmental Clubs

Get involved! Transitioning from high school to university is one big leap and meeting new people can be hard, but don’t worry, you are not alone! Clubs and councils are a great way to get to know other first years as well as upper year students. With over 250 clubs offered at the University of Waterloo, and 7 Science Departmental clubs run by SciSoc, there is surely a club for you!

8. Navigating Around Campus

As a first year, you may feel lost, no like, literally… Getting to know the campus and planning your route ahead of time will help make your transition to university smooth. Locate buildings on campus such as teaching complexes, libraries, food services and much more with the campus map. In addition, download the UWaterloo Portal app, which includes the campus map as well as many other useful features.

9. Stress Relief

Deep breath in, deep breath out. UW’s Campus Wellness is available to all students and provides health and counselling services. In addition, practicing mindfulness helps relax the body and reduce stress. Apps such as Headspace, Insight Timer and Smiling Mind provide guided meditations and mindfulness exercises.

10. Staying Healthy 

Take care of your health. Although it is important to study hard, finding a balance between school and taking care of yourself is just as crucial. One fun and fabulous way to stay in shape is through joining a sports team or drop-in class of your desire at UWaterloo Athletic and Recreation. Alternatively, enjoy some fresh air by going on a walk. In addition, cook a tasty and healthy meals with some easy recipes!

11. Balance 

Find a balance between school and leisure time. Set aside time to connect with friends, family and for your hobbies. Being a first year in university is a once in a lifetime experience, so enjoy and make the most out of it!