5 MISTAKES TO AVOID IN YOUR FIRST YEAR OF UNIVERSITY
1. NOT ADDING ANYTHING TO YOUR RESUME
First Year is usually seen as the year to just get your feet wet in university or college life. You take time to get used to classes, make new friends, sneak into bars, hit up a few Darty’s and generally speaking, have the time of your life.
While all that might be true, it shouldn’t come at the expense of building your resume.
That’s not to say resume building needs to be your top priority (it shouldn’t be) but there are some simple steps you can take to help improve your chances of getting some work, volunteer, and committee experiences that will boost your applications to campus opportunities, internships, jobs and graduate programs down the road.
If you’re chasing some of the big titles, like being a club president or executive VP, you have to start in your first year. Look for opportunities to get involved in clubs, committees, charities or the organizations you’re targeting on campus and in town. These are great doorways to bigger opportunities in the future and also can help you with your personal and professional development. Think about how much better your time management and prioritization skills will be when you have a few more things on go which will help you as courses typically get harder in second and third year of university.
"In first year my first club position my entire job was to look over slides and occasionally email professors about course material, it was not much of a time commitment and its also wasn't very hard. From this first small club role I was a better applicant for larger positions in the club and in my third and fourth year I became club presidents of one Laurier's biggest clubs and received awards on a university and national level. This one experience grew into something where I learned professional skills, networked, and it has even landed me jobs because I stick out among other candidates."
- Carly Wong, SOS President & LUG Intern and Commissioner, Wilfrid Laurier Communications '22
2. NOT GETTING TO KNOW YOUR PROFESSORS AND TAS
There’s no doubt about it, having a personal relationship with your professors and TA’s is a difference maker. And the secret is…hardly anyone does it.
Professor and TA office hours are notoriously empty (you would be surprised how few people go to office hours) and almost all of them welcome students to come in, discuss classes or campus life, and to get to know their students. Generally speaking, professors LOVE their students. Use that to your advantage…
In our experiences, meeting and just talking to professors and TAs can lead to academic references, research opportunities, jobs, exam insights, extensions, directed studies opportunities, and more. It also shows you care about your schooling and their work as professors and TAs.
"I have never applied for any of my TA or SI positions, it has always been professors reaching out to me asking me to do it because they know me and my work ethic. I now have a long list of professional and academic references I can use for medical school, in addition to the research I have done with them."
-Samantha Glionna, Laurier Distinction of Excellence, Wilfrid Laurier Health Sciences '22
3. MAKING IT WEIRD
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of weird things that can go down in First Year. But it doesn’t have to be that way…
We know its’ your first year without the supervision of your parents so it’s easy to get into some interesting situations. One of the most common things is having relations with someone in your friend group, or on your res floor, or within your Greek Life Community that ultimately go sour. After that, it can become painfully awkward. On top of that, friends sometimes come and go. You may have a falling out with someone who you were close with early on but things changed…hey…that’s life!
The most important thing to remember is it’s only weird if you make it weird! University is a weird place in the universe where you constantly run into the person you want to avoid, and the only way to avoid that is to stop avoiding them and treat them like they are any other friend or person.
Roll with the punches, don’t take things too seriously and just remember, you’re all going through a huge learning and personal development period, which is hard!
"The first piece of advice my RA ever gave us was it’s only weird if you make it weird so don't make it weird. This applied to friendships, peers, roommates, co-workers, and relationships. This advice helped me throughout my first year because when things don't work out it can become a source of anxiety, knowing that I did my part in keeping thing neutral meant less overthinking. I then gave this piece of advice to my students when I became an RA."
- Cassandra Cowan, SportCentre correspondent and former-RA, Laurentian '21
4. NOT KNOWING YOUR CAMPUS
It can be pretty easy to fall into your own little bubble in your first year. Between residence, your classes, and your favourite hangouts in town, sometimes you forget just how many amazing things are going on at your school and how many different buildings, places, and experiences exist for you.
Take the time to explore your campus and the city you live in, you’ll be better off for it!
Whether it’s checking out the 3rd Engineering library, finding the cafeteria that’s hidden with the best breakfast sandwiches, signing up for a sports league (check us out if you do!), or thrift shopping those random stores in that out of the way strip mall in town…you’re only going to live there once so don’t forget to take advantage of the amazing opportunities around you.
Not only will this give you a more full school experience, you’ll make new friends and memories along the way. Plus, you might just find out how much you like having a little peace and quiet in those hidden libraries when exam times come…
"I am in Rec and Leisure, but I do most of my studying in the engineering buildings because I know my classmates won't be there. I can get so much more done in less time so I can go out more and do stuff I actually want to do."
-Madison Crowe, University of Waterloo '26
5. NOT BEING ACTIVE
The Freshman 15. We’ve all heard about it and yes, it can really happen. But with a little bit of planning, there are some easy ways to avoid a common First Year mistake.
Find ways to stay active!
In high school, many people play organized sports or dedicated themselves to the gym. And in College, there is no shortage of these opportunities. Between campus gyms, intramural programs, LUG Sports leagues (specific to your campus) and classes, gyms, and activities in town, there are a ton of ways to stay fit and active.
We strongly recommend team sports because of how great they are for finding friends, learning valuable life lessons, and the benefits they provide to your physical and mental health.
So, join sports leagues, go to the gym, join a work out class, or even just go on a daily walk, anything helps. For most universities access to the gym and other physical activity programs are a part of the tuition so check out your university’s athletics and recreation website for more information.
“I have done dance my entire life and it was a big part of my life as I went to an arts high school. In my first year I found out Lauirer had dance classes for all different genres and levels of dance so I joined them. My weekly dance classes became a source of enjoyment through the stress of first year and I continue them to this day! I later learned about LUG and played COED Softball which was an amazing way to stay active and social with some of my roommates and best friends”
-Daniela Tenaglia, Laurier Recreation Dance Instructor, Wilfrid Laurier ‘23