10 Tips for University Success

Ten tips for Succeeding in First Year

Written by First year students

1. Go to class!

This has nothing and everything to do with “how smart you are.” Anyone can learn from a textbook, no one can learn a whole textbook in one semester. You need class to help narrow down what the teacher wants you to focus on and learn. It also forces you to keep up with the course.

2. Introduce yourself to your professors at the beginning of the semester.

That way you know where to find them when you get stuck. Also if professors have met you and see you in lecture every week, they are more likely to remember you and be willing to help when you get stuck.

3. Treat university like a full time job.

If you do this, you make a study schedule, map out time constraints for each assignment, make study goals to make you make the most of my time, and still have time to schedule work.

4. Take time away for yourself.

Success at university is not solely based on the academics and books. Part of being successful is being happy and healthy. It’s sometimes hard to keep up with healthy eating and sleep patterns, there are times it will be impossible. Make sure you take time away for yourself – for personal well being.

5. Prepare questions before the lecture – Review notes after the lecture.

This does not need to take a long time but by the end of the term this will help. This includes, showing up early or on time, having proper materials (notebook, writing utensils, pre‐lecture notes, etc.) It is important to understand what the professor is discussing in his or her class.

6. Try all sorts of strategies & pay attention to the ones that work for you.

Do not despair if you do not do very well on your first few assignments or exams – it is really an adjustment period. It is an opportunity to adjust your strategies and try something new.

7. Use SMART strategies

When engaging in your studies, you should Select and focus on what is important, Monitor your understanding by ways such as explaining what you learned to a peer, Assemble and group ideas for you to remember, Rehearse and review, and Translate what you have learned into your own representations and frameworks.

8. Understand the material, know the jargon, and avoid memorizing.

Look at how and why a concept works rather than finding ways to solve it so if you need to apply a concept or change it around a little under various conditions, you are able to. As for jargon, the best way to understand it is to apply it regularly: use jargon often when you write about or talk about things related to that course.

9. For every hour in class/tutorial/lab spend 3 hours studying that material.

Now, this may seem like quite a lot, especially if you are taking several courses in one semester, but with this much commitment, one is nearly guaranteed above-average results.

10. Take everything one step at a time and don’t sweat the small stuff.

I had to get groceries and cook every meal for myself. I was in a new city, with no friends or relatives. I couldn’t find my way to my classes without a map, yet I was already behind in every one of them. I was overwhelmed, and ready to quit. After shedding a few tears and taking a few deep breaths, I realized everyone was in the same boat. I learned to just take it one step at a time and it all came together.



  1. Dear author, this is a wonderful list of ten-tips for first year students that you have compiled. As someone who as survived ( and succeeded !) in a chemistry undergrad at U of T, a B.Ed through OISE, and now a Masters Degree at Queens, I can say that this is a wonderful compilation of tips. Your first step is very crucial- going to class! By attending class, you can get hints at what parts of the course are emphasized, what sorts of information you don’t need to memorize and of course important details regarding assessments. Often in class there is also the opportunity to ask questions, and learn about different learning resources available. Another point that really resonated with me is SMART strategies. I have never explicitly been taught this technique, but looking back now they are all excellent tips. Selecting material is important, because university can blow you over the top with the vast amount of information presented. Monitoring understanding is crucial because learning goes by at a very fast paced, so you must be able to determine which concepts you still struggle with, and how you can go about mastering them. The idea of assembling and group ideas an be used through making study sheets- which is what I did to summarize my learning after each different unit/concept. Rehearsing and reviewing is critical (coming from a science background), and translating is important. Regardless of the course that you are enrolled in, regurgitation is not effective nor does it demonstrate understanding. Translating int your own words is the way to go! If there was anything on your list that I would elaborate on, it would be to take on and make sure you indulge in a hobby or personal interest. I don’t think I did this enough i my first year, and it wasn’t until the later parts of my undergrad that I learned to make time for activities, hobbies, exercise and leisure ways to spend my time. Not only did this teach me better time management and goal-setting, but also helped me to de-stress and find my study-days more enjoyable. I found that I was better able to appreciate what I was learning, as opposed to being upset that it was taking up my entire life! Since it is not possible to focus on all of these tips all of the time, I would say that #2 would have been of least significance to me. As a U of T student I didn’t rally find like introducing myself to the professors was that important ( or even possible) in first year, as all of my classes were very big. Some had over 500 students, and they were very non-personal interactions. Nevertheless, in later years of my program, this was a great tool and led to many opportunities for collaboration! If I had to add any tips it would be to form study groups with other students, use an agenda and create daily/weekly to do lists, take 1 day a week where you don’t focus on school at all
    (trust me- it helps), and prioritize your assignments!

    I noticed that #6 is an excellent point- experimenting with learning strategies, but no strategies are provided. Here is a list of some learning strategies provided! http://www.nclrc.org/sailing/chapter2.html

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