How to Succeed in Your First Semester

Although there is no secret recipe to succeed in university, successful students tend to have something in common: they do not wait for others to tell them what to do, and they have a proactive attitude to keep on top of their obligations. Here are four tips to take action, stay engaged and succeed in your first semester of university.

1) Don’t Miss Your First Day of Classes

Students in Class

Don’t believe anyone who says nothing happens in your first day of class! The first class sets the tone for the rest of the term, allows you to meet your professors and peers and gauge expectations for the course, method of evaluation, your professor’s style, and how much time you will need to invest in studying and preparing assignments.

2) Study Your Course Outlines

Much like the first day of class, the course outline (also known as the syllabus) is often underestimated. Students tend to skim their course outlines without realizing they represent a contract between the student and the professor. Course outlines are also your road maps for the term, and contain valuable information to succeed, such as learning objectives (what you are expected to learn in the course), assignments, methods of evaluation, exam schedules, professor’s contact info and office hours.

Remember: if you don’t ask questions, your professor will assume everything is clear and that you agree to abide by this document.

3) Take Control of Your Time

Time to Plan

University is all about self-regulation. No one will tell you what to do next or where to turn to unless you make an effort, so managing your time efficiently is a must. Use your phone, computer or a good old-fashioned notebook to track the multiple obligations you will need to manage. In a weekly agenda, you might record recurrent events such as classes, study time (individual or in groups) and or work. Use a monthly schedule to remember other occasional events and deadlines such as assignments, exams, meetings with professors, course intentions, payments, etc.

Check out these tip-sheets from the TRSM Academic Success Centre  and the Time Management Module by the Ryerson Library for practical advice on how to deal with common time management issues. This last includes a new assignment calculator to help you manage your schedule for each assignment.

Also, the Ryerson Registrar’s Office just came out with the Ryerson’s Visual Schedule Builder, a user-friendly interactive tool that allows students to ‘pin’ time slots for part-time jobs and other personal commitments, search remaining time slots for available courses, drag and drop courses, and push your entire schedule to enrolment in one step. While the tool is very intuitive to use, an instructional video and step-by-step instructions is also available here.

4) Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions!

Ask More Questions Poster

TRSM and Ryerson have numerous resources available for your personal, academic and professional growth at no extra cost. Remember that you are already paying tuition, so make use of what is being offered to you! With that in mind, be proactive and think creatively about your needs. Don’t wait until you are in the middle of a crisis to ask for help; while counselors, learning strategists, program offices (where you will find your academic advisors) and tutors will do their best to help you, you will not obtain the same results if you came to them early in the term before things get out of hand.

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