September can bring many things: a new school, a new term, a new adventure or a new job. As the leaves are just starting to change, you may be too. A new school year can mean new goals, expectations, discoveries and challenges. As a student heading into my third year of studies, September represents a chance to get back on track and refocus. After a summer of working at the Writing and Communication Centre and seeing so many students achieve their own academic goals, face their own challenges and learn new things in their field, I’m excited to do the same. Fall has come to represent starting school again; the excitement is high and the energy on campus is tangible. The start of a new fall term gives us an opportunity to get into new habits, set goals for ourselves and reflect on our priorities. It’s an exciting, yet overwhelming time for most.
If you are a new undergraduate student, just starting your university, first I’d like to say, welcome. Welcome to a time full of self-discovery, learning and new experiences. It will be challenging, stressful and a little bit frustrating, but it’ll also be really fun. University is the time for you to learn what you’re really passionate about. It’s about finding the people who understand why you love cell biology so much, or why on earth you enjoy reading Shakespeare, or why you get excited about presidential debates. My first piece of advice to you, if you are an incoming student, is that almost everyone is in the same boat. Whether it’s a new place, new people or a new experience, everyone is going through similar things. If you are nervous about entering university, prepare as much as you can – but know that for a lot of it, you’ll figure out as it comes. Navigating buildings, memorizing campus and learning how to get into the best courses will all come with time. I’m in third year and I still get lost in buildings or on campus. Prepare yourself mentally. Set achievable goals for yourself and actively work towards them. It doesn’t have to be grade-oriented; goals regarding putting yourself out there, getting involved, staying fit, or getting enough rest are equally important.
If you are a returning undergraduate student, September represents a new job or a new academic opportunity. It is a chance to achieve your professional or academic goals and pursue what you love. Although you may have been at this school for more than a year, it nonetheless is a new start. If you are taking on different courses, new clubs or a new career path, there are countless ways to keep finding out what you want to do with your life. It may not be a new campus, but it can be a new adventure. Re-evaluate your priorities and your long and short-term goals. Are you getting where you want to be? What happens after you receive your undergraduate degree? Are you doing what you can to get the job you really want? If you are in co-op, the fall may mean a new job. As exciting as a new job is, it may be nerve racking to enter an entirely new work environment. However, it is still an excellent opportunity to gain an entirely new experience.
As a student, the expenses add up. Tuition, books, food, rent and entertainment can all add up much faster than you expect. Whether you are a returning student or a first-time student, budget. If you are a returning student, you probably have a good idea on how much your previous year cost you, so take a look at areas where you could save money for the upcoming school year. I didn't budget in my second year, and this was one of the biggest mistakes I made. Plan ahead and write out the expenses you know you will face. How much are you putting towards rent? If you are not longer on a meal plan, determine how much you are willing to spend on groceries every month. Set a section of your budget aside for unexpected events, nights out or last-minute trips home. You won’t regret it.
Although January is the conventional time for a “new year, new you”, September represents another time for new goals, aspirations and challenges. Learning new things and meeting new people is what September is for when you are a student. Get ready for a new term. It’s waiting for you.