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6 tips to help you thrive in your first year at Concordia

'Prioritize your academics, but have fun as well,' says former student success mentor Christine McKeating
September 22, 2016
By Christine McKeating

Christine McKeating

Christine McKeating was a Concordia student success mentor in 2015.

Start of term is the perfect time to be proactive about your university success. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your student experience.

1. Ask questions

In my first year, I found university to be an intimidating place. Many of my questions went unanswered because I was too nervous to ask them, for fear of seeming silly. However, there’s really no need to worry. Professors, peers, mentors, tutors and counsellors are here to help you with everything from finding a classroom to constructing an essay. So if you’re uncertain or curious about anything, make sure to ask about it! 

Inquiring about your concerns as soon as they pop up will also help you to explore the university, and make connections within the Concordia community. If you aren’t sure where to start asking, Student Success Mentors can help steer you in the right direction. I wish I had known about the mentors in my first year!

2. Attend the First-year Experience Seminars

Regardless of whether you’re new to Concordia or a returning student, the First-year Experience Seminars cover different topics that will help you build a solid foundation for success and navigate the challenges of university life.

These sessions, facilitated by the Services for New Students staff and Student Success Mentors, provide a proactive approach to university success as well as insights from a student perspective on topics that are relevant to your daily university life.

3. Emphasize academics

Academics are one of the most important reasons we go to university! Make academics a priority — especially if you intend to pursue graduate studies, or enter other competitive fields after graduation. Having relatively high grades allowed me flexibility in pursuing various post-graduate opportunities.

If you are uncertain about a detail in your course outline, given to you on the first day of each class, ask your professor for clarification. Not sure how to succeed in your assignments? Visit the writing and math tutors provided by the university. Taking responsibility for your own learning is the first step to great grades. First-year grades build a strong foundation for your GPA, so focus on learning as much as you can and enjoy your studies!

4. Make fun happen

Whether you like to go out with friends, hike, cook, play video games, make art or read for leisure, make sure to fit in some time for activities you genuinely enjoy. Taking part in pastimes that are fulfilling and invigorating is a great way to de-stress and feel productive.

I have found that filling my schedule with meaningful things I enjoy decreases meaningless procrastination (like scrolling Twitter or Facebook for hours). Concordia offers an array of activities, clubs and groups to join, so get involved and participate in what you love!

Check out the Dean of Students Office for a list of student clubs and associations. Or visit the Concordia LIVE Centre and find out how you can get involved as a volunteer in the Concordia and Montreal community. If you already have lots of hobbies and interests, but aren’t sure how to fit them into your schedule, visit a learning specialist to discuss time management strategies. 

5. Have a plan (but be flexible)

While it’s great to start out with a clear plan to keep you motivated in your studies, it’s also okay to change course.

When I began studying in the Department of Studio Arts at Concordia, my initial goal was to become a visual artist. As time went on, I realized my interest in studying law was growing. It was a big, scary decision to change my original plan and move from one field of study to another. However, a plan is a work in progress. Through reflecting on my feelings toward my studies, I realized that my happiness warranted a shift in my approach to university.

If you are finding that your studies are not as great a fit as you thought they would be, do not be afraid to switch majors, gain a hobby or drop a class to make your education a better fit for you.

Reflect on your plans and goals regularly to make sure you’re enjoying the process and its outcomes.

The university offers multiple services to help you create and modify your plan. Start by contacting your academic advisor and visit the Career Resource Centre to research the job opportunities available with your major. A career counsellor can also help you create and re-evaluate your plan. You can attend one of the many workshops provided by Career and Planning Services to learn more about the job search and graduate school. 

6. Document

You are bound to change and grow throughout your time at university, and it is an extremely valuable tool to be able to look back at how far you have come, and to reflect on your feelings and experiences.

Each year I find it fulfilling to peruse my sketchbooks and handwritten journals from past years. Time at university flies by quickly, and documenting the journey can help us to remember where we started, and realize how far we’ve come.

Whether you post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or take a more analog approach through a handwritten journal or sketchbook, take time to document your experiences during your time at university. 

Check out the workshops and events scheduled for this fall.

Learn more about the services available through the Student Success Centre to help you achieve your goals at Concordia.



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