All Posts Tagged With: "first year"
Universities help first-year students with mentors and more
Shari-Ann Baker, who was born and raised in Jamaica, moved to Toronto in 2010 to attend York University. Her first assignment was an essay for a Canadian studies course. Baker got a B, a mark she was able to improve after learning about the school’s Writing Centre: Her next assignment, for a sociology course, received an A. York’s various facilities, programs and clubs, such as the Community of United Jamaicans, were invaluable in helping her get settled. “People say you’ll get worse grades than in high school,” says Baker, now 22, in her fourth year of a linguistics degree. “If you take advantage of resources on campus, I don’t think it’s a problem.”
First year is a precarious time, fraught with new challenges and responsibilities—both academic and personal. Suddenly, “the world sees you as an adult,” says Barry Townshend, manager of the Centre for New Students at the University of Guelph. “A lot of responsibility comes with that,” from getting to class on time to paying rent, not to mention choosing an academic direction that will help with a future career. It’s a lot of pressure, all at once. Universities are increasingly finding a way to support students through this transition with writing centres, advisers, academic coaches and mentors.
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.
Orientation leaders apologize for jokes about sexual assault
HALIFAX – A spokesman for Saint Mary’s University in Halifax says senior administrators were shocked after seeing a video of students in a frosh-week chant condoning non-consensual sex with underage girls.
Steve Proctor says the “sexist and offensive” chant posted on Instagram was led by student orientation leaders at the campus.
Proctor says the Labour Day incident occurred just days after senior school administrators and police met with student union officials and orientation organizers stressing the importance of discouraging sexism and sexual assault during frosh week.
“We were surprised,” he said in an interview.
“The senior director of student services had met with the (student) executive and the organizing committee … and spoke about these very issues and the need to be respectful.”
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.
Not always. Some things matter more than class size.
From the 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings
It’s 11:30 a.m. and this is how the morning has gone for the 71 students in Science One at the University of British Columbia—one of the rare small-class programs that brings big universities down to a more human scale. It started with a physics mid-term, which most of these high achievers feel good about. Then a quick, unscripted shift into biology. Projected on the classroom screens was a story from that morning’s headlines about a massive phytoplankton bloom off the B.C. coast caused by a program that seeded the ocean with iron sulphate in hopes of building a salmon food source. Chemistry instructor Chris Addison happily ceded time to biologist Celeste Leander so students could discuss what she called the “justifiable concerns” of messing with the ocean environment.
That diversion is what Addison calls a “typical Science One moment.” Seated at the back of the room were other instructors in this holistic program—a physicist, a couple of biologists and a mathematician—all welcome to contribute. Instructors try to sit in on as many other classes as possible, said Addison. “That’s where you get the interplay between the disciplines.” Addison then waded into a mini-lecture on energy levels in multi-electron atoms, before the class split into groups of about six to work through a series of questions. They debated the answers among themselves, knowing they’d have to justify their reasons before the full class, if called upon. Amir Ashtari, 17, prefers the small class size to the usual first-year prospect of packed lecture halls. “Here you are amongst a group of friends who are respectful to you and also who are smart,” he said. “Even if you ask a stupid question they come and help you.” Hanne Collins, 18, said she likes the accessibility of instructors, and that they know her name. “Their doors are open and if you have a question, you just walk in,” she said. “They’re not bogged down with 500 students.”
Hippocrates offers students seven timeless truths
Recently I was reading a very old book, John Cotta’s Short Discovery (1612), and I came across a list, attributed to the ancient physician Hippocrates, of the things necessary for serious, advanced learning. I was particularly struck by the fact that though Hippocrates lived nearly two and a half millenia ago, his list still constitutes good advice for anyone who wants to make the most of a university education today. Hippocrates’ list is as follows: nature, precept, fit place for study, study, institution, industry, and time.
Nature, in this case, refers to the nature of the student. Before investing all the time and money and effort that university education requires, you should ask yourself if you are cut out for it. Do you really want to go? Are you really prepared for the long hours of work? Would you rather be doing something else? I often hear people lament that “people think everyone should go to university.” I don’t know what people they’re talking about. Not anyone who teaches at a university, that’s for sure. We know that lots of people should have thought twice.
Don’t make the same mistake I made
In my first year of university, I tried a lot of new things. Some of them worked. Some didn’t. Taking summer classes is among the big mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I finished—barely. If I could travel back in time, I’d tell myself to skip them.
Here are three things I learned that all students should consider before taking summer classes:
#1. It is way too nice outside to be trapped in a classroom all day.
So why do universities make it so hard to switch rooms?
Dharun Ravi, a 20-year-old Rutgers University student, is facing up to 10 years in prison if jurors decide that his unauthorized webcam broadcast of a roommate’s gay trysts amounts to a hate crime.
The New Jersey court case, now is in its twelfth day, gained international attention because Ravi’s roommate, Tyler Clementi, fatally threw himself from a bridge two days after a humiliating show.
The jury has heard details of how Ravi used the word “fag” in instant messages and how he Tweeted “anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 pm and 12.”
What the jury won’t hear is what Clementi had written as his reasoning for requesting a room change, according to the prosecutor: “Roommate with webcam spying on me/want a single room.”
How to deal with a roommate who’s the polar opposite
By Rosemary Counter.
A decade ago, which might as well be a century in technology years, Michelle Titus was like many ﬁrst-year university students: away from home, stuck in a “teeny tiny, horrible” room, and living with a complete stranger she couldn’t stand.
In her defence, it was a bad match from the start. Titus was popular and outgoing, the soon-to-be relationship columnist at the University of Waterloo’s student paper. Her roommate was an introvert who’d wishfully described herself on her application as a “social butterﬂy.” “On paper, we should have been the best of friends,” says Titus, now 30. In real life, following some drama worthy of Mean Girls, they were estranged by the end of the year.
What Scott Dobson-Mitchell would tell his Freshman Self
Assuming I couldn’t accidentally cause some sort of butterfly effect that would prevent me being born, I wish I could travel back in time and tell my Freshman Self a few things about university. Considering I’ve already forgotten the answers to every exam, this is what I’d tell the younger me.
1) Plan ahead. WAY ahead.
It happens to every semester. Searching through the course calendar, I find the perfect class. It sounds interesting, it fits perfectly into my schedule and it fulfills my upper-year science requirement. The prof has checks out on RateMyProfessors and the course has a high score on Bird Courses. But I don’t have one of the prerequisites! If I’d been smart enough to plan, I would have that first year zoology credit that’s mandatory for nearly everything. Instead, I’m stuck with Phytochemical Biosystems.
2) You’re richer than you think.
Or at least, you’re less broke than you think. There are plenty of ways to get money beyond student loans—scholarships, bursaries, and work study programs that not only get you some cash, but also valuable work experience. The Ontario Work Study Program is one example. If you’re receiving student loans, then you’re probably eligible. Also be sure to check out the Maclean’s Scholarship finder.
How one mother coped when her daughter left for school
From the Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now. Story by Ellen Vanstone.
I wasn’t actually planning to attend college with my daughter Eliza when her acceptance letter arrived in the mail last spring. That would be creepy—like the mother in that Robert Munsch book who stalked her grown-up son, breaking into his house to cuddle him while he slept. I am perfectly aware that the parentally appropriate, non-crazy thing to do when your child leaves home is to let them go and have their own life.
And yet, I still felt there should be some kind of special dispensation in my case—since the school that accepted my child was the Savannah College of Art and Design, on the Savannah River, in Savannah, Ga.
Universities and parents have a duty to educate
From the editors of Maclean’s
Some predictions can be made with absolute certainty. The tides will shift. The sun will rise. And young university students will drink to excess.
From Tom Brown’s Schooldays to Animal House, exuberant drinking by underage students has long been a part of the experience of going away to school. Realistically, there is little society can do to change this fact of life. But what can we all do to cut down on the harm it may cause?
Last week, Canada’s university community was shocked by an orientation-week death at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. A first-year student from Calgary, just 19 years old, was found unconscious in a basement dorm room at the school suffering from severe alcohol poisoning. He later died in hospital. Fellow students told reporters he’d been playing a competitive drinking game called “flip cup” and had consumed an estimated 40 ounces of alcohol during the night.
This follows two student deaths at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., last year that the provincial coroner’s office attributed, in part, to a “culture of drinking on campus.” Both men, aged 18 and 19, fell to their deaths after drinking, one from a residence window, the other from the roof of a library.
The accidental death of a son or daughter is an unimaginable tragedy. But the death of a freshman student during their first few weeks away from home seems particularly difficult for any mother or father. While a university can never become a surrogate parent, it is nonetheless expected that campus residences will be a sufficiently safe place for teenaged students to live as they make their final strides to adulthood.
The recent deaths thus raise two difficult questions: who bears responsibility for instructing teenagers in the risks of alcohol abuse; and how should schools deal with students’ inevitable desire to party.
The obvious place to begin educating about alcohol is at home, as it is with most other topics. Someone needs to let every teenager know that drinking 40 ounces of alcohol in one night is reckless and dangerous behaviour, and parents are the obvious candidates. A full and frank discussion on drinking and its consequences is as necessary before heading off to school as packing sufficient underwear and pens.
In fact, many parents believe monitored underage drinking at home is the best way to teach teens about learning your limits. Depending on the situation and teen involved, this may make considerable sense, and be entirely legal. Of course there are serious risks to this sort of parental permissiveness as well. This month, an Orillia, Ont., mother found herself facing criminal charges in New York for providing alcohol to her 14-year-old son. After being served a few beers by his mother while camping, he wandered off at night and drowned.
As for universities, most now recognize an important obligation to protect the youngest students from their wildest instincts, at least during those first few days away from home. The initial week of school was once a time of unremitting partying. Today many universities have banned alcohol entirely from campus during this time. Most have also changed the name from frosh week to orientation week to make this distinction clear.
Going further, some forward-thinking universities have declared first-year residences to be dry throughout orientation week. The University of Guelph has had such a policy in place for the past two years. Where kids once showed up at university residence with a case of beer among their luggage, Brenda Whiteside, assistant vice-president for student affairs at Guelph, says those days are now over. The new week-long regime “sends a strong message about creating a new culture in our residences,” she says. During orientation week at Acadia, on-campus activities were alcohol-free, but the residences were not, as the flip cup games attest.
It seems reasonable that every Canadian university should set an appropriate tone for the school year by eliminating alcohol from first-year residences during orientation week. And some schools should be encouraged to experiment with the more drastic step of banning alcohol entirely from all first-year residences—particularly given that a large number of those students will be underage. This might even become a marketing advantage, at least from the perspective of nervous parents.
University students will drink, and it is naive to ignore this fact. But parents and universities—and the students themselves, who have an equal responsibility to look out for one another—must find ways to make our campuses safer, regardless of life’s inevitabilities.
Advice from an upper-year student
10. Pick your major carefully. If your university doesn’t make you declare a major off the bat, don’t. Explore new things. Even if you must declare immediately, remember that you can always change your mind. Quiz people in programs you’re considering. Any regrets?
9. If you need help, ask for it. If you don’t understand something, ask your professor. Many will help you. Another place to find help is the library, where employees can show you how to format your citations or find articles in academic journals. If you’re ever accused of cheating, your student union can help explain your rights.
8. If you’re going to need an extension, ask early. If you ask early enough, many professors will grant extensions. But don’t annoy your prof by emailing and asking the night before it’s due.
Residences are full. Courses are too. Welcome to first year.
On your first day of class, you could find yourself scanning the room for an empty seat.
The University of Regina has grown by 11 per cent this year. The University of British Columbia (Okanagan) has grown 12 per cent year-over-year. And Ontario welcomed its biggest first-year class ever this fall.
Are universities ready for the students?
Some schools have planned for the growth. Although they have 400 more students than they expected, McMaster University has added extra classes and created more study spaces to cope.
Thomas Chase, Provost and Vice-President (Academic) at University of Regina, told Maclean’s On Campus that Regina is ready too. He said that class sections are not expected to get any larger and that residences are expected to be nearly full, but no first-years have been turned away.
Things haven’t gone as smoothly elsewhere. The University of Guelph had to set up a deal with the local Best Western hotel to provide dozens of students with rooms after its residences filled up to capacity. And although Carleton University opened the doors to its new residence building on Monday, the building will be under construction until at least the end of October. Many students who were promised a single room will find themselves with a roommate until the building is complete.
At the University of Alberta, some students complain that they are unable to enrol in mandatory classes after 300 extra students signed-up this year. There aren’t enough teachers to meet the demand.
But at least one school has a potential solution to the increase. Eric Bercier, of the University of Ottawa’s registrar’s office, said that his school raised admissions standards to cut down on the overwhelming number of applications it received this year. Even after hiring 250 new teachers in the past five years, there may not have been enough resources to go around. And so, they didn’t risk it.
Rudayna Bahubeshi is a fourth-year humanities student at Carleton University.
You’ve moved into residence. Now what?
1. Go downtown. Then find your way back.
You’ll end up downtown at some point. You may not be sober the first time. Spend some daylight hours riding the bus along the essential routes, so that you can find your way back in the dark. Write down the numbers of the bus routes that take you to the entertainment areas and back. Find out when the last bus leaves from downtown for the school. Look for landmarks near stops. Store the info in your phone or on paper in your wallet.
2. Pick up a free agenda
Most student unions hand out free agendas with important dates already printed in them. If you loathe paper, get one anyway and transfer the dates into your web calendar or smartphone.
Study, research and procrastinate like never before!
There’s nothing worse than paying $100 for a book that’s going to make your life miserable (I’m thinking of you, Organic Chemistry). In some cases, you might think that you’re actually finding it interesting, but it’s probably Stockholm Syndrome. Once rescued from your hostage takers by the sweet December holiday break, you won’t want to see that book ever again.
That’s where sites like AbeBooks come in. You can buy used copies for a fraction of the regular price, or older editions that are even cheaper. In most cases, older editions are practically identical to new ones, except for a few diagrams. When you’re finished, sell the books back to the site.
Advice for first-year students from our resident professor
Ever heard the story about the university student whose paper was too long, so his professor tore off the extra pages and graded the remainder? It’s just an urban legend. But there are some big differences between high school and university that freshmen should prepare themselves for.
1. How you write matters. In high school, your teachers were likely happy if you wrote anything at all, and were probably ecstatic if you wrote something clear and gave an opinion or two. That won’t cut it at university. Professors expect essays to be formally structured and to provide analysis backed by evidence. They expect papers to be properly formatted, and they expect you to cite sources according to professional style guidelines. Dashing something off at the last minute — no matter how smart you are — won’t cut it.
A warning to first-year students
Residence has its upsides. You have a built-in social life, easy access to parties and somebody in your dorm is bound to have an Xbox. But here’s what else you have to look forward to:
1) You and your roommate aren’t just sharing a room.
You’re also sharing your food. And your toilet paper. And your toothbrush. Maybe in theory you don’t mind sharing your sleeping quarters and bathrooms with a complete stranger. But here’s the question that you need to ask yourself: will it bother you that Mr. Toothbrush is right next to Mr. Toilet? Every time they flush, your brush is in the blast radius. The lesson? Guard it closely.
2) 24-7 parties aren’t always a good thing.
Entertaining (but true!) advice from a third-year student
There’s still over a month of summer vacation left, but as a soon-to-be freshman, the advice is already starting. Everyone is telling you what you need to do, talking about how you’re going to ‘find yourself’ in university, and prattling on about how you need to stay on top of the readings.
So we thought we’d provide you with some anti-advice. You know, the top five things you shouldn’t do in your first year. Here are the top five:
1) DON’T: Listen to the podcasts that your professor uploads after each lecture
It’s a slippery slope. At first it’s just a study tool, a way to reinforce everything you heard during the lecture. After all, repetition is the best way to learn, right?
But the next thing you know, your chemistry class is no longer a lecture hall with hundreds of other students three days a week at 8:30. It’s a bedroom at 2:30 in the morning the day before the exam.
2) DON’T: Bring your laptop with you to the library
Stop kidding yourself. You won’t be using that laptop to research your lab report, or to write your essay, or to flip through the PowerPoint notes from biology class. You’ll be watching this video.
It’s much better to just bring your books.
3) DON’T: Use the word “including” in your 2,000 word term paper.
Why? Because “such as” is two words, cutting the required word-count effort in half. And if your word count is still coming up short, throw a chin-stroking “perhaps” or two and an: “As evidenced by…”
4) DON’T: Sit at the back of the lecture hall
Do you remember sitting at the back of the bus on the way to a field trip? The land of spit balls and minimal teacher intervention? The back of the lecture hall is a similar territory.
But unlike the back of the bus, you’re not dodging paper airplanes — you’re surrounded by Tetris players. And unlike the front of the lecture hall, you’re not learning about valence states and atomic structure — you’re overhearing how wasted Jake was last night.
If you actually want to hear what the professor is saying, don’t sit in the back.
5) DON’T: Utter the words, “There’s no final exam, so this course will balance out my physics and chemistry courses.”
That’s a direct challenge to the Elective Gods. Their response is usually a 5,000 word essay about the juxtaposition between modern man in a consumer-driven society and the ambitions of Macbeth.
When you write an exam, it’s over after two hours. You either get a good mark or you bomb and then vow to change your study habits. Then you do pretty much the same thing for the next exam.
And that is much easier than an essay.