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.
3. Download Skype
For less than $3 per month, you can call any phone in the world and talk for as long as you want. For no money at all, you can call other Skype users (if they’re sitting at their computers). All you’ll need is a computer and a headset, which can be purchased for under $20 at any big box store.
4. Change your cell number
That guy or gal from down the hall is going to call you. Before they do, call your cell phone provider and change your phone number to a local one, to avoid long distance charges. There’s a flat fee of around $20 to change it, but if you tell them you’re a student, they’ll often waive it entirely.
5. Tour the library
Too boring for frosh week, right? Too bad. Every school has a database of scholarly journals that you’ll need to use for research. It’s much easier to have someone teach you how to use the system than to try and learn it on your own. The library has other useful things: books are one. Free computers and printers are in there too. Some even have writing and research help desks.
6. Log in to your course management site
These online course hubs are where you’ll interact with professors, submit certain assignments and read the syllabus. Click on the syllabus to find out what books you’re expected to buy. You may be able to snag cheaper used copies from the bookstore or from online rental companies if you check early enough. After the first day of class, you’ll likely get stuck paying full price.
7. Make a budget
This is almost as boring as a library tour. But it’s important to know how much money you’ll have coming in (from student loans, working, savings, parents) and how much you’ll have going out (for books, food, clothing, entertainment). Too lazy? At minimum, divide the total amount of your meal plan by the number of days of school, so that you know how much you spend on food daily.
8. Opt out of dental/medical insurance
If your parent has insurance through work (hint: most do), you can opt out of the plan that the student union charged you for when you paid tuition fees. Opting out requires proof of alternate coverage in the form of a letter from your parent’s provider. That letter can take weeks to arrive, so ask for it now. Miss the deadline and you’ll miss out on roughly $200 that arrives mid-semester.
9. Sign up for the campus gym
The first week of school is like the first week after New Years. Everyone has renewed their commitment to losing weight or gettin’ jacked. That causes everyone to show up at the fitness centre in the first week of school, rendering it overwhelmingly busy. Don’t be discouraged by this. Once classes start, the gym will become much less crowded. But do sign up now to save time later.
10. Visit your lecture halls
Find your way to classes (see your course management system for buildings and room numbers). Time how long it takes you to walk there. You’ll sleep better on the night before your first class, knowing you won’t get lost. You may sleep later too, knowing that it’s only a 10 minute stroll away.
For more ideas on surviving first year, pick up the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities.
Have your own advice for surviving university? Share it with us in the comments section below.