I love school. I love it so much that after I completed a three-year advertising diploma I decided I wanted to keep learning so I continued on to a four-year BA at Ryerson. With seven years of post-secondary education behind me I have learned some handy tips and tricks that helped me have the best academic experience possible. And now I’m sharing that knowledge with you! Here we go.
1. Don’t buy your books until you go to class.
It’s 2014, which means that your syllabi are probably online well before classes start. But before you jump the gun and buy a non-returnable textbook, go to class and find out if every book listed is absolutely mandatory. Also find out if you’re allowed to buy an older edition of your textbooks. Old edition = saving money.
2. Don’t trust the internet for used books.
One year I thought it would be great to get all of my books for one class through Amazon. It seemed like a clever idea except that one of the books didn’t arrive until six weeks into the semester, far past the date that I needed it. Instead of going online, check out your school’s used bookstore. Pro-tip: flip through the book and make sure that the genius who used it before you didn’t highlight every single word of text in the book (true story, this actually happened). Also, at the end of the year you can sell your books to the used bookstore and get back some of your hard earned cash.
3. Check your school’s job listings for a part-time gig.
I don’t know why but this didn’t occur to me until I was in my third year at Ryerson but I looked into it and ended up working at the RSU Women’s Centre (now the Centre for Women and Trans People) for two fun-filled years. I made some great friends, got practical experience and had a job with flexible hours that paid slightly above minimum wage. I’d put that down as a win.
4. Get those discounts!
School costs a lot of money so there’s no need to pay full price on anything if you don’t have to. Check out your student union for discounts on everything from movie tickets to local events. Take advantage of student discount days (hello Wednesdays at Bulk Barn) and find out what businesses around you will offer a discount. I spent many a Saturday night shaking my stuff for free at Dance Cave just by flashing them my student ID.
5. Look into your school’s health resources
This is important both for your physical and mental health. If you don’t have a doctor, you can go to your school’s medical centre for everything from check-ups to birth control to the flu shot. Your school should also have a counselling centre that can support you if you’re feeling depressed, stressed or even homesick. Remember, they are there to help! Even if your school can’t meet your exact needs, they can offer refer you to a third party who can help.
6. Talk to your profs and TAs on a regular basis.
This is by far the most important piece of advice that I can impart. I talked to my profs about pretty much everything and it definitely helped my understanding of the subjects as well as my GPA. If you’re having trouble understanding a concept from your class, talk to your prof. If you aren’t entirely sure what direction you’re taking with an assignment, talk to your prof. If you’ve chosen an essay subject but inexplicably can’t find any secondary sources about it, talk to your prof. More often than not, they are happy to see someone take an interest in their course. And even if you’re not the perfect student, when a prof sees that you are making a genuine effort to do well in class, they will usually give you a few extra brownie points.
7. Shut up and listen.
That sounds harsh but here’s the thing: education is expensive. As one of my profs used to say, if you want to sit around and chat for an hour, go to Tim Hortons. It’s a lot cheaper. Also, if you talk throughout the entire class and then ask a question that the prof just went over two minutes ago I can guarantee that everyone else in the class will give you a well-deserved death glare. Yes, some classes are mind numbingly boring but once you graduate and get a job you will most likely have to sit through equally mind numbing work meetings so it’s best you get used to it now.
And this is where my tips end and your journey begins. College and university can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Good luck little ducklings, before you know it you will be taking the world by storm!