As someone who has been new at three different universities in the past several years, I’ve learned a few things both academic and social that may be useful to students who are new to BU this year. Many of these tips are cliché, things you’ve heard a million times from adults in your life, but some of them are really useful.
First, take notes. For real, just do it. Preferably take notes by hand in classes you can keep up because when you write something by hand it has been proven to stay in your brain longer (thanks Dr. Holland). If you have to type them try to take the time that day to read them over. It will help you in the long run when it comes time for assignments or exams.
Get to know your professors. Sit close to the front, go to office hours, introduce yourself. It might feel intimidating and like you are being a kiss-ass, but it helps if you miss class or an extension and the Professor knows who you are and has made a connection with you. If you are going to email a professor, make sure you put the title of the class in the subject line and introduce your email by calling them Dr. or Professor if they do not have their doctorate.
Try to get to know one person in every class (the introvert in me cannot believe I am writing those words but there it is). It might sound cheesy but even if it is just the person you end up sitting nearest to it will come in handy if you have questions about an assignment or miss a class and need notes. It’s also just nice to have a familiar friendly face in every class.
Join one club related to something you love or believe in. Even if you are someone who hates social situations, if you pick a club connected to something you enjoy it will not be as bad and you will meet people. University can feel lonely and isolating, especially when moving to somewhere new and knowing no one. It is a lot easier to survive university with a few friends. BU has so many different clubs and collectives that there is honestly something for everyone. Most departments have their own club, so that is a good place to start. Keep an eye out for BUSU’s club day at the start of every term and posters around campus for events hosted by clubs that you might enjoy.
Get help. Whether you are struggling with multiple choice tests, essay writing, or your mental health, get help. BU offers a ton of services and workshops for students who are struggling. These services are free and available either through the entire year, or periodically. Many students struggle their first year, especially with writing multiple choice tests and their mental health. University is a tough environment so reach out to whoever you need to get you through. Workshops, counsellors, a free gym membership, and clubs offering peer support can all be great resources, use them.
Self-care. Something we hear a lot about these days that usually brings the image of some person in the bathtub using a bath bomb, but that isn’t always what it looks like. Sometimes it looks like a night off school with friends going to a movie or for supper or binging an entire series on Netflix by yourself. Whatever it looks like for you, make time for it. Burning yourself out for school is not worth it and you won’t do as well academically. Make sure you take that time for yourself as often as needed.
Find a study spot. Find that once place that you can study and go there. Whether it is a quiet spot in the library, a table at forbidden flavours, or a spot around Brandon, use it. I always found that I couldn’t study at home. As soon as I went home, I got nothing done because I always procrastinated by cleaning or doing absolutely anything else. It is also helpful to find a study strategy that works. This is another workshop BU offers that can help you try out different strategies and find one that works. I like to study in bursts. So, I will set an alarm on my phone for 20 minutes, and study until the alarm goes off. Then I give myself 10 minutes to do whatever I want, social media, Netflix, but once that ten minutes is up it is back to studying. Maybe you prefer to sit down for hours and just get stuff done, or maybe you need to read while doing something active like being on a treadmill. Find what works and do it.
These are just a few tips and thoughts for new students, or students who have been here a while but haven’t developed the best habits. University life can be stressful and challenging, but getting to know people on campus, creating good habits, and reaching out for help when it is needed are all great places to start.