1. A planner is a must.
When your high school teachers tell you that “no one is going to be chasing you down, reminding you about your assignments in university,” they mean it. In university, it really is up to the student to stay organized and disciplined. That’s why using a planner is so important for me. I write down ALL my due dates at the beginning of each semester, and at the start of each week, I assign specific readings/lectures to certain days. Having everything written down as opposed to it being a mumble-jumble in my head, prevents me from forgetting about assignments and prepares me for the week that I have ahead. Additionally, the satisfaction I get from crossing out a task motivates me to actually do the work in the first place.
2. I had to teach myself how to study.
In high school, I was that annoying student that got good grades without really studying much. I would come back from school, watch TV for three hours while eating chips, and maybe review a chapter within half an hour before proceeding to watch YouTube. Overall, homework didn’t take me much time to complete, and I had the “wing it” mentality when it came to tests. As someone who values her education and is always aiming for an A, I soon realized that things were going to be different in university if I wanted to achieve my academic goals. This involved setting dedicated study times each day, learning about different techniques such as the Pomodoro method and Cornell notes, and keeping my phone in a different room to avoid distractions. The concept of self-discipline is present here as well. I personally cannot rely on motivation alone to study, but by disciplining myself, I am able to get the work done even on days where I lack motivation (for the most part at least – we all have our bad days).
3. Apparently, I now enjoy exercising?
Possibly the biggest struggle of my life has been exercising/working out and that’s because I used to do it for all the wrong reasons. Not long after coming to SFU, I realized that staying physically active is important for me because of how it makes me feel. After my morning sessions, I feel energized, ready to conquer the day, less stressed, and more focused. So, while exercising does keep me physically fit, it also keeps me mentally healthy. As university students, it is extremely important that we do not sacrifice our mental health in the process of trying to achieve academic excellence. In my experience, I do best academically when I am mentally and physically healthy. If you are looking to incorporate more exercise into your lifestyle, I would suggest starting small such as setting a goal of two to three days a week and then working your way up as you like. The best way to stay committed to exercising is doing things that YOU enjoy, whether that is weightlifting, HIIT, yoga, or running!
4. The value of friendships.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t value my friendships before becoming a university student. However, since I had to make a massive change in my study habits, as mentioned above, I barely saw my friends during my first semester, especially since they went to different universities. I quickly realized that my friends are essential for my functioning and well-being, and that I would have to make an active effort to spend time with them. Now, I include “socializing time” when doing my weekly planning to ensure that I am maintaining my relationships with friends and family.
5. They’re not wrong when they tell you to make your bed every morning.
Not sure if this was just my high school, but the number one advice graduating students were given was to make their bed every morning. I never really understood it at first but now I swear by it! I’ve gotten into a routine of making my bed as soon as I wake up and it’s become a great way for me to set the intention for the rest of the day. It prevents me from getting back in bed to sleep in or nap throughout the day when I really don’t need to in the first place. I also do not find myself doing my schoolwork in bed because I don’t want to mess up how nice and clean it looks. In this way, I am able to separate rest and work, stay awake while studying, and feel excited at the end of the workday when I can jump into bed and reward myself with Netflix and sleep.
To summarize, the experience of my first year in university taught me the importance of balance. While I improved my study habits to ensure academic success, at the same time, I also realized that my life should not revolve around only academia. Taking care of my health, spending time with friends and family, and maintaining a work-life balance are key to not only living a meaningful life but also excelling in school.