What I wish I knew about studying in university

The first day I stepped onto the sprawling university campus, it was an intoxicating blend of excitement, nerves and sheer determination, and I’m sure it's the same for many other first years.

Looking back now, with a few terms tucked under my belt, I realize there's so much I wish someone had whispered into my eager freshman ears — wisdom that goes beyond the curriculum, stretching into the realm of self-growth, time management, and relationships.

For those of you who are about to embark on this exciting journey or even for those who have already started, there's always something new to grasp in university. Let's dive into the things I wish I had known earlier. 

Navigating campus

Campus can feel like a maze at first. A university is larger than any high school. Before classes even begin, familiarize yourself with the campus. Not only will this save you from the frantic last-minute rush to find rooms, but it'll provide you with an added layer of confidence. At University of Waterloo, given Canada's chilly winters, there's the added convenience of underground tunnels and above-ground bridges allowing students to navigate the campus warmly. The interactive campus map shows all the tunnels and bridges that connect campus buildings. 

A world of opportunities 

High school may have offered a limited set of extracurriculars, but universities like Waterloo, are brimming with them. Think of 200+ clubs, faculty societies, varsity sports teams, and intramural sports. If you ever wondered about creating friendships and social circles in university, immersing yourself in these activities is a fantastic place to start. 

Dive into the professional world 

Seeking part-time roles or volunteer opportunities doesn't just help your wallet, but bolsters your resume and paves the way for your career aspirations. The University of Waterloo supports students with this goal through platforms like WaterlooWorks, WUSA Job & Opportunities, and Careers at Waterloo. WaterlooWorks isn't just the gateway for co-op students; it’s a hub that offers webinars for networking, listings for non-co-op roles, and an extensive resource page directing students to external job boards tailored to their field of interest.

Support is always around the corner 

 One of the initial shocks of university life is the sheer number of support services at your disposal. Waterloo facilitates everything from academic tutoring to wellness services, career guidance, counseling, and even mentorship programs. It's a holistic approach to ensure every student feels integrated, cared for, and can access the resources they need. 

Your learning, your responsibility 

Gone are the days when a missed class meant a call to your parents. In university, the reins of responsibility are firmly in your hands. While participation can affect your grades, the choice to attend lectures is yours. But remember: every class you miss is a piece of education you've paid for but chosen to skip. For the procrastinators among us, it might be a steep learning curve, but you’ll find your rhythm in no time.