Things I wish I knew before starting college

By Melissa Nilan, Marketing-Communications Office

Avoid pain, disappointment and potential epic fails in your first year with excellent advice from students who’ve been there.

Ask for help

If you’re struggling in your classes or feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. The instructors at Douglas have office hours for a reason, so drop by for a chat and ask questions. They’re human too, and sitting in an office all by yourself can get lonely after a while, so student visits are appreciated. There is also the Learning Centre for tutoring and writing help, and Counselling Services for personal and emotional support.

Look into financial aid options

Financial aid isn’t just for full-time students with super high grades. There are also part-time studies grants, as well as bursaries. If you’re paying for school yourself, don’t hesitate to talk to a Financial Aid Advisor about your options. You never know what you might be eligible for, even if you think you’re not.

Be healthy

It’s easy to get stuck in a routine of going to the cafeteria when it’s just so darn convenient. But it’s hard on your wallet and your body if you make it a regular thing. Pack your lunch and some snacks, and don’t just live on coffee! Bring a water bottle and fill it up at our environmentally friendly drinking fountains. (Some of them even have a special water bottle spout and track how many times it’s been used.)

Money-saving resources

The library isn’t your only source for study space, computers and printers. The Douglas Students’ Union building also has quiet study space, extra computers and printers. Save some money on textbooks through the Textbook Exchange on Facebook. Also, if you can stand not having a physical copy, e-books are cheaper than their paper counterpart, especially when there is an online component.

Plan ahead

If you don’t have an academic or career goal, it can be tempting to just take whatever courses sound interesting. However, eventually you’ll have to decide what your plan is, and you don’t want to regret doing a bunch of courses that aren’t helpful to you. So be mindful of the future when you’re scrolling through the course catalogue each semester. (Also, make sure you know what the different credentials mean. A diploma is not the same as an associate degree, and they generally lead in different directions.)

On the other hand, while knowing exactly what you want to do is admirable, be sure you’ve done your research and know what you’re getting yourself into. You don’t want to plan on being a teacher and then find out at the end of your degree that you don’t particularly like working with children. Who knows, you might also discover another career option through your electives. So follow your dreams, but be informed and keep an open mind along the way.

Be engaged

Sit at the front of the class. Although it sounds daunting, your grades will thank you. Being closer to the professor prevents you from falling asleep and getting too distracted by your phone or your friends.

This goes double for outside the classroom. College isn’t just about going to class, studying, taking exams, repeat. That would be so boring! Check out all the events and activities going on around campus, and consider getting involved. You’ll meet awesome people and develop life skills that can help you get a job later on.

That said, there is such a thing as being over-involved, and you may find your health or grades suffering if you commit to too much. Work-life balance is essential to being healthy and happy, so work hard, have fun – and remember to chill.

Special thanks to the following students for their contributions to this article: Sabrina Gaspar, Marissa Martin, Klyde Ouano and Mary Valdez

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