How to approach getting ready for university

There are a few quick ways to help you get ready for the big step you’re about to take.

Use social media to your advantage

A great way to get started on your search for the right school is to follow the social media accounts of universities you are interested in attending. It’s also a chance to connect with other students who are trying to make the same choices as you are.

Get familiar with your new home

Your school will become a home away from home, whether or not you actually move away. Becoming familiar with it and getting to know your way around will be a big help and take at least one worry off your mind.

Don’t stress out

Prepare by reminding yourself you don’t have to make all your life-changing decisions right away. A lot of students end up changing their minds — and even their degree programs — after they’ve already started at university. Your world is about to open up in a big way, so explore everything it has to offer.

Before finishing high school

  • It might seem early for you to decide about the rest of your life, but it’s never a bad idea to sit down with your school’s guidance counsellor and have a chat.
  • Figure out what you’re passionate about, both in and out of school. Those are the things that can bring you to a university program that you’ll enjoy.
  • Consider the courses you will have to take in order to get into university programs you might apply to — but try to leave your options open. That could mean taking fewer open courses and more academic courses.
  • Consider the specific types of courses your preferred program requires. If you want to apply to a science or professional program — or even certain arts programs — it’s important to note that an academic math course will probably be required. Sometimes you will need a science course too. The earlier you look into this, the easier it is to pick up any missing courses you need for admission into your preferred program.
  • Go to university sessions and career fairs that are happening at your high school.
  • Go to open house events at universities you’re interested in attending.
  • Take advantage of early admission deadlines if you can (universities will look at your Grade 11 marks to make a decision).
  • During the holiday break, sit down with your family to discuss what you’ve learned about university, any offers you have received, and work on creating a shortlist of just a few universities you’re seriously considering.
  • Contact your preferred institution’s recruitment teams to discuss matters like admissions, scholarships, and housing options.
  • Apply for any scholarships and/or bursaries before the deadlines set by the universities on your shortlist (usually this is early in March).
  • Apply for residence if you’re planning to live on campus.
  • When you hear back about scholarships and bursaries, weigh those offers against your preference of school.

Summer before starting university

  • Register for your courses as early as possible. Most universities will host an advising and registration event in the spring. This is a great place to learn how course registration and sequencing works in your degree. If you ever have questions on what courses to take or how the university timetable works, you should contact an academic advisor or the registrar’s office (the contact information will be on the university’s website) and they can help you start the process.
  • Go to a summer open house (if there is one) or book a final campus tour at the university you’ll be attending. This will help you get comfortable with your surroundings, let you see your residence room (if you’re living on campus), meet some of your professors, and give you  a chance to buy some university-branded swag.
  • Double-check your degree requirements and course registrations to make sure you’ve got everything in place. You can get this information off the university’s website or make an appointment with one of the school’s academic advisors who can answer your questions.
  • If you’ll be living on campus, get a list of what’s already included in your residence room. Make sure you know what’s allowed and what isn’t, and make sure you don’t forget the small-but-important things like: clothes hangers and a shower caddy
  • Check with your school’s students’ union for details on frosh/orientation week. Some schools need you to pay in advance to attend events.
  • If you haven’t visited the campus yet, try to book a tour to get familiar with your new home.

Your first semester of university

September

Before the first day of classes, you’ll have some time to get familiar with the campus and other parts of university life. Here are some things worth checking out:

  • Your campus health clinic offers a number of useful services. Take a few minutes to register so you have access to those services in case you need them during the school year.
  • Counselling and accessibility services are usually free for students. Knowing what’s available to you and registering early makes it easier to find support in the future.
  • Academic supports, such as writing centres and tutors, can help you stay on top of your work. Check with your department or the university library to see what’s available.
  • If you want to start building your résumé early, see if there are any employment or volunteer opportunities that won’t take too much time away from your school work. Your school’s students’ union might have career fairs or information sessions that can help you get involved.
  • You can also see if there are any clubs, societies or sports teams that you want to join. If your school has an athletics department, it might offer free exercise classes or gym memberships for students.

October

  • The mid-semester grind is here — papers, mid-terms, projects and more will begin to take up your time. Your campus may have work and study spaces that are open late, so it’s a great time to find a study spot.
  • If you are struggling with course material, check in with your professors during their office hours.
  • Applications for in-course bursaries will become available. Like entrance bursaries, these are based purely on financial need. Make sure to contact your institutions financial aid department for the application deadline.

November

  • Your school might have a fall reading week — take advantage of the time off to get some much-needed rest and catch up on your class work.

December

  • This is the end of the the fall term when you’ll write your first set of final exams. Make sure you budget time to study, sleep and eat right, and don’t forget to double-check the exam schedule and guidelines on the university website if you have any questions.
  • Academic support on campus might still be available if you need extra help as you prepare for exams.
  • Your holiday break usually runs from the date of your final exam to some time during the first week of the new year. If you’re not sure of the exact dates, check the university website.