All Posts Tagged With: "First Year Survivor"
Advice from a woman who couldn’t find help on campus
I dropped out of McGill University because of depression. It was the type that begins as a barely perceptible malaise but quickly penetrates your mind and renders you nearly unable to speak, think, or even walk. Perhaps the most common misunderstanding of depression is that it’s simply an overarching sadness permeating your positive thoughts. In its most serious form, the illness may actually leave you unable to feel anything—comfort or happiness, fear or rage. It wasn’t until I’d reached this level that I finally decided to take time off from my routine and accept help. If you find any aspect of this story relatable, I hope that you seek help immediately.
I vividly remember the first (and last) time I used McGill Mental Health Services. My parents had been asking me to get in touch with someone for months. I’d always responded to these requests by saying no, I wouldn’t see anyone because I was “fine” and “therapists are for people who need attention.” But after two years of growing increasingly despondent, I knew I had to do something. So I temporarily abandoned my mask of confidence and called.
Hundreds of ways to get involved at McMaster University
Teresa Ziegler is listening to a pitch from two enthusiastic third-year students who want her to join yet another club. Classes haven’t even started and she’s already committed to the strength and conditioning club, a medical club, a few volunteer groups and the rowing club, whose members are showing off 12-foot oars in neon t-shirts that read “Beat the freshman 15.”
How will she handle it all? “I’m just going to go them all and find out what I’m most passionate about,” says the first-year Kinesiology major.
Ziegler’s got the right approach to McMaster University’s Clubsfest, the annual outdoor fair where representatives from the school’s roughly 325 campus groups spend four hours recruiting members. It’s a frenzied competition for names and e-mail address where a capella ballads from the Gospel Choir compete with pop tunes from a Chinese culture club while representatives from the Disney Dreams Club try to entice women away from the Catholic Students Association’s table.
Avoid these freshman pitfalls
1. Fail to realize that, special as you are, you’re just one person on a huge campus. This has unfortunate side effects like clogging up busy hallways and other such silliness.
2. Buy brand new copies of every single book listed on every syllabus only to find out at the first lecture that half of them are ‘on reserve’ for free in the library.
3. Fail to speak up in class. This can lead to painful silences that are eventually filled by that one guy who lives to talk and whom just about everyone hates.
4. Go to every frosh event no matter how ridiculous. You’ll be fine if you don’t make it to “Back-to-School-a-Palooza” and “Frosh-Tastic Tastings” and “School’s In… Togas!” Toga parties are done anyway. The only good one happened 30 years ago… in a movie.
5. Explore the fun and exciting world of parent-free alcohol consumption but go way too far. Most people drink in university but freshmen have a knack for ending up with their faces in toilets. Or garbage cans. Or friend’s roommate’s beds. It’s just not classy.
6. Sign up for way too many activities and force all your friends to sign up for way too many activities too because this is university and we must make the most of it!!!!!
7. You burnout, get sick, stop doing everything and come perilously close to failing. This is why it’s imperative to figure out which classes you can afford to skip occasionally.
8. Complain about how hard it is to budget when your parents aren’t around to buy groceries after spending all your savings on vodka and unnecessary textbooks.
9. Live on campus and wear pajamas or shorts all year long. We all know you don’t have to walk far in rainstorms and blizzards to get to classes but there’s no need to rub it in!
10. Date a high school boyfriend/girlfriend and Skype them for hours each night.
Do not be this roommate, freshmen. Nobody likes this roommate. Good luck!
Secrets to success from the editor of Maclean’s On Campus
This was first published in August 2011.
This probably isn’t the advice your mother would give you. She’s going to tell you to get involved as much as possible, to do all of your readings and to stick with whatever degree you’ve chosen. But as someone who graduated with a master’s degree in 2010, I think I know better than mom about what works and what doesn’t. Here are the Top 10 things that I wish I’d known in first year.
1. Meet your professors in person.
Guess how many e-mails a professor who teaches your 600-student course receives each week? It’s a lot of e-mails. That’s why it’s important to make personal connections by visiting them during office hours or by asking them questions after a lecture that particularly grabbed your interest.
Watch out for the curmudgeons and Christmas graduates
If you’re just starting university, chances are you don’t know anyone on campus. Orientation is a great opportunity to meet friends before homework starts to pile up. As someone who has been involved in McMaster University’s Orientation Week since 2009, I thought I’d share six types of people that you’re likely to meet and some advice on how to approach them.
The Curmudgeons: These people are vocal about what they dislike, and they dislike a lot. They think the events are cheesy, the cheers are dumb and despise football. In some cases, they just doesn’t know how to get engaged. In other cases, they may be homesick or having a rough time outside of university and that’s affecting their ability to have fun. Chat with them to see if you can help but remember that some people are just complainers. Don’t let them ruin your fun. Oh, and don’t become the curmudgeon yourself.
University means big changes to romantic relationships
Nearly a third of university students (32 per cent) who filled out the biggest-ever survey of health on Canadian campuses earlier this year agreed that their intimate relationships had been traumatic or very difficult to handle, tying it with sleep problems as the third most common worry after academics (57 per cent) and finances (37 per cent).
That’s not surprising considering that when a person moves away to school and leaves a partner behind, he or she will see far less of that partner and far more of other interesting people.
“The main reason students will tell us they end their relationships is because they weren’t able to spend enough time together,” says York University psychologist Jennifer A. Connolly, who researches young love. “Relationships often benefit from stability,” she adds. “Established ways to spend time and have fun together make the relationship easy. If that’s disrupted there may be disruptions to the relationship as well.”
Keep costs down with these 14 money saving tips
University is expensive no matter how you do it but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to save money—potentially thousands of dollars per year.
Whether you’ve moved from the other side of the world or are commuting from the other side of the city, here are 14 ways to keep costs down.
1. Get a student bank account.
All the major banks in Canada offer free banking for post-secondary students. At CIBC, for example, students get unlimited transactions for free while non-students might pay $13.95 per month. All you need is proof of enrolment.
2. Buy used textbooks online.
Many universities have websites with postings from students who are offloading last semester’s books at deep discounts. You can make dough selling the books back at the end of the year too.
New research shows how much early instructors matter
I arrived at the University of Guelph just shy of 10 years ago and was so excited to study marketing that I spent much of frosh week highlighting and making notes in my intro to marketing textbook.
By week three, I was skipping my marketing classes because the professor couldn’t speak enough English. He verbally stumbled through the same lecture notes that he had posted online and when asked in one early lecture to elaborate on some point, he couldn’t even find the most basic words. His response devolved into mime as he frantically fumbled with an imaginary steering wheel until some blurted it out: “he means car!”
We laughed awkwardly that day but things became a whole lot less cute when he informed us that our 20 per cent participation marks would comprise four pop quizzes worth five per cent each. It was a desperate attempt to stop us from skipping classes where he did nothing but read lecture notes.
Students report rental fraud from Halifax to Calgary
When Adam Michaleski decided to move from Manitoba to Calgary after graduating from Brandon University this spring, he didn’t expect to lose $1,300 and a place to live. But a fake landlord he found on Kijiji who showed him around a nice place took his e-transfer for a damage deposit and then disappeared without a trace.
Rental fraud is a widespread problem for students. A landlord in Halifax recently made off with more than $10,000 after scamming at least 30 people out of their cash, reported CBC Nova Scotia. While the police caught that perpetrator, who pleaded guilty, many cases go unresolved.
Dana Drover, who investigates financial fraud for the Halifax Regional Police, says it’s important for renters to leave a paper trail. If the landlord is paid with a cheque instead of cash or e-transfer, “there’s solid evidence that the money left the account and landed in the account of the recipient.” The two peak periods for rental scams are when students come to university in the fall and when they leave in the spring, he says. A telltale sign of fraud is a landlord who seems rushed, he adds.
Why you should always go straight home after the bar
Students from two Ontario universities are no longer in legal trouble for dumb things they did while drunk but their cases serve as reminders that youthful indiscretions don’t just disappear.
At least not when newspapers write about the cases allowing Google searches to forever link names to drunken behvaiour that some (though not all) potential employers will look down upon.
Exhibit A: Two University of Guelph students, both 19, pleaded guilty this week to mischief for shooting passing cars with paintballs around 2 a.m. one January morning. They apologized and got absolute discharges from a judge but the Guelph Mercury still printed their names.
First year is two months away. Here’s how to get ready.
Hundreds of thousands of Canadians will be starting university or college a little over two months from now. If you’re one of them, you may be freaking out a little bit, so to help calm your nerves, here’s a list of things you can do to prepare, other than the obvious stuff—because you’ve already applied for student loans, paid tuition and picked your courses, right? Right!?
1. Stop worrying about making friends.
Most people will arrive not knowing anyone and that’s a good thing. It means the people living close to you will become a surrogate family for the first couple weeks of September. You’ll attend meals, football games and parties together. Then, like a real family, you’ll drift apart somewhat. But don’t worry. By then you will have made new friends in labs and group projects, at club meetings and on intramural sports teams, at parties and at the poutine shop at 3 a.m. Just give it time.
From Pong Flu to the Cinnamon Challenge
University sounds tame enough, but it’s actually a dangerous place. I’m not talking about Charlotte Simmons’ loss of innocence on the sex-crazed, alcohol-laden, fictional campus of Dupont or even the food fights and public urination in National Lampoon’s Animal House. I’m not talking about the obvious things either, like drinking way too much. I’m talking about the activities students think are innocent enough, but that can, surprisingly, lead to early graves. Here are five examples.
1. Pong flu
According to a recent Clemson University study, the ping pong balls used in beer pong games are rife with bacteria. That’s not surprising considering they often come into contact with the floor. When they are successfully tossed into cups of beer, players chug the contaminated brews, unaware or dismissive of the offending bacteria. Luckily, the potential danger of the game doesn’t mean you have to stop playing altogether. An alternative that many health-conscious—and germaphobic—students are resorting to involves replacing the beer with water and drinking clean beer instead.
I thought there would be more maturity in university
When I got out of high school and enrolled at the University of Alberta, I was particularly excited for one thing: the end of the dreaded group project.
In high school a number of different things led me to hate working with others. We would prepare arbitrary presentations and our peers wouldn’t listen to them anyway. I thought that studying English and Comparative Literature in university would mean never having to collaborate for meaningless group assignments again.
Boy was I wrong. In fact, I seem to be doing more group projects than essays lately.
When I first saw all the group assignment descriptions on my syllabi at the beginning of the year, I decided to be as positive as possible. Perhaps the maturity level of my groups would be higher in university. Boy was I wrong again. Group work only seems to get worse in university, and I can safely say that the biggest source of my school stress has come from working with my peers.
But instead of letting it get me down any more, I’m going to relive the worst group project I have ever been a part of and hopefully my misfortune will at least brighten your day.
Students are staying longer for a variety of reasons
When Michael Prior came to the University of British Columbia in 2008, he expected to spend the standard four years at the school.
Now in his fifth year, he realizes his original plan was unrealistic. The 22-year-old English Literature major has funded most of his own education, so he works for pay about 20 hours a week. That requires a lighter course load.
Prior is hardly alone. In fact, graduating more than four years after starting may be the new standard. A recent study from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario reports that less than half of Ontario university students finish in four years.
Hannah Talbot, a first year Arts student at UBC, was surprised. “I always thought that it was a four-year deal until I came to university and realized a lot of people were in their fifth or sixth year.”
What I learned from Princess host Gail Vaz-Oxlade
After years of watching her TV shows Til Debt Do Us Part and Princess, I got the chance to listen in person to Gail Vaz-Oxlade discuss her Money Rules earlier this week on campus. Moneyaftergraduation.com and the University of Alberta’s Student Financial Aide Office hosted the free event. After an hour and a half, I felt less afraid of the sometimes ruthless world of money. I’d like to share five rules that stood out for me.
Rule 1: “Don’t pay the bullsh*t.”
By “bullsh*t,” Vaz-Oxlade means your monthly minimum credit card payments. Every credit card owner should pay more than the minimum. Those seemingly low payments required each month are meant to keep you in credit card debt for as long as possible, so you pay more interest overall. Oh, and the same go for student loans. “Aggressively pay down your debt”, says Vaz-Oxlade. She says students in debt should only worry about savings after they’ve paid off their loans.
Rule 2: Take on no more than one year of your future net income in student debt.
Vaz-Oxlade says this is a well-known rule of thumb, but I’d never heard it. Apparently every student should try to graduate with less student debt than their projected net income in their desired job. So if your career starts out paying $30,000-a-year after taxes, you shouldn’t have more student debt than that. (Law students, for example, can borrow more because they will make more.) Otherwise it eats up too much of your income, “and you won’t have a life for a very long time.”
Former top banker on his days at Queen’s
The 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings asked some of Canada’s most successful writers, politicians and scientists what they wish they’d known in university. Their answers are perfect additions to our First Year Survivor blog. Here, David Dodge, former Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chancellor of Queen’s University, looks back on his days in university.
I graduated with a B.A. in economics from Queen’s University and later a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University. It was a very exciting time: neither of my parents had been to university, and I was going down the highway from Toronto to Kingston. I thought I was going to do mathematics and chemistry but I ended up studying economics. Out of high school you know some things, you don’t know others. At that time at Queen’s—it is fair to say it is the same now—you had to take a pretty broad range of things in first year. I took economics. It was relevant to the world, whereas seeing OHs run around the page in organic chemistry didn’t seem quite so exciting.
University for me was a formative period. I was lucky enough to be able to live away from home. You learn a lot about yourself and about the world when you are out of the environment in which you have been comfortable. There is a tremendous advantage, I think, to going away to university. Queen’s had an advantage too in that you were in a relatively small town—Kingston. I lived in residence and you got to meet different folks.
I was in the Naval Reserve Officer Training program. It wasn’t like a job but it took six to seven hours a week. I worked on the student newspaper too. We had ancient Underwood typewriters and the paper was still produced on hot type downtown. That was quite an experience.
As told to Julie Smyth
Leader recalls great teachers, friendships and… manure?
The 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings asked some of Canada’s most successful writers, politicians and scientists what they wish they’d known in university. Their answers are perfect additions to our First Year Survivor blog. Here’s advice from Bob Rae, former premier of Ontario and interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
I came to University College, University of Toronto, in the fall of 1966, studied modern history, and graduated with a B.A. in 1969. In the first week I was assigned by the seniors in residence late one night to find a bucket of horse manure, which meant figuring out where the police stables were.
Andrew Scheer’s university advice
The 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings asked some of Canada’s most successful writers, politicians and scientists what they wish they’d known in university. Their answers are perfect additions to our First Year Survivor blog. Here’s advice from Andrew Scheer, the 33-year-old Member of Parliament for Regina—Qu’Appelle and Speaker of the House of Commons.
I always had an interest in politics, so I took several political science courses while pursuing a history degree at the University of Ottawa. I moved to Regina to get married (my wife had moved back home there), and I took my last few credits at the University of Regina.
I really enjoyed first year. In university you get to meet hundreds of other young people with similar passions. Solving the world’s problems in the campus pub, volunteering during provincial or federal elections and participating in student associations were not only fun, but very educational.
What I learned from choosing the wrong university
After years of research, tours of Dalhousie, Mount Allison, Queen’s, Carleton, and McGill, and multiple family discussions, I selected my university. It was a well-considered and entirely reasonable decision, and it was completely wrong. I’m officially a first semester drop out.
Since the end of September, I’ve been at home in Toronto trying to figure out a new vision of my future. As any student knows, the age-old question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
For a while, I had it all planned out: political science, then law school. I accepted my offer to Carleton University for their difficult-to-get-into Global Politics program in June and started in September. I left after three weeks.
Prof. Pettigrew’s five tips for avoiding failure
Distinctions among university students appear starkly at exam time. You can see who has been following along and who has been sleeping through class, who has been doing the reading and who thought the book was too big and expensive to bother.
As winter exams approach, I hope you are one of the organized types. I hope you have been diligently attending every lab, organizing every note, and completing every bonus assignment. If you are, you really won’t need any advice on surviving this semi-annual ordeal.
So let’s imagine that you’re not one of those types. By this point, it’s too late to go back and do everything you should have done to ace your exams. Instead, your best hope is to try to avoid a worst-case scenario. Here are some ways to do that.
1. Be sober.