Dear First Year Me...
Dear first year me,
As a fourth year I'm approaching that final hurdle, that very last stretch of university and thought it would be a good time to reflect on the rollercoaster of experiences that was university.
Asking For Help
Coming from a more personable system in high school, seeking and getting help in university may be harder to discover, but is definitely wholly available. There are a wealth of resources I wish I knew more about (and was more willing to go to) in first year such as office hours and workshops run by TAs, professors, and RAs, whose job it literally is to help you. I would say office hours are one of the most important things as it's usually run by the same TAs who are marking your midterms and assignments. It took friends dragging me out to office hours for me to realize its worth so I encourage students to be that friend.
Choosing a Specialization
One of the toughest things in 1st year is the pace at which you have to decide on your specialization, while balancing school work, which undoubtedly affects your university experience and possible careers. It can be hard to narrow down a specialization given the limited number of elective courses that one takes in 1st year outside the general science courses which most students have already experienced in high school. Preparation is especially important in this department such as reaching out to upper years and scouring the academic calendar (which can be quite difficult to navigate). The vast number of societies for each specialization are a great place to start your research as well!
This is a favorite past time of mine and acts as great stress relief in between classes. In particular, those pesky 8:30 Organic Chemistry classes had me looking for places to relax and you'd be surprised at the amount of secret study spots McMaster has hiding in its many hallways. You will be spending an enormous amount of time searching for tutorial rooms (sadly most are full) to study for during midterm season so these hidden study and relaxation spots definitely come in handy.
Learning Your Study Style
This phrase has probably been drilled into your brain countless times by now but understanding your own study habits and style is a major key to success in university. In 1st year, I preferred to study by myself in my dorm room (which worked for me) but in later years I found myself preferring to revise with friends. It's important to know that your preferred learning style can change, and you shouldn't always be pressured to do what your peers are doing.
Having a mentor was an experience I unfortunately missed out on but looking back as a 4th year I can see how much it would have helped with my journey. You will eventually learn the do's and don'ts of university, sometimes at your expense, so having a mentor who has already experienced this can make the jump to university easier.
Interact With Profs
I would highly encourage students to reach out to professors from the earliest opportunity. Even if you have a simple question or require further clarification, taking that first leap to talk to a professor (even by email) sets the precedent for future interactions. Professors love when students show an interest in their material and this small step is vital to reach that interpersonal level if you need references or positions in the future.
By Calvin Gomes LSS Co-President 2020 - 2021