How to Prepare for Your First Year in University or College

Posted in School

Congratulations, you’re starting your post-secondary career in September! Maybe you’re a little anxious about making new friends, or keeping up with the coursework. In today’s post, I am going to discuss some of the things I did to prepare for my first year and hopefully some of these resources will help you.


I consider my sense of direction pretty strong, but somehow I was getting lost on campus ALL THE TIME. I know strange, right? Maybe I was nervous but I couldn’t ask anyone, because well… my pride was at stake. That quickly ended when I walked into a calculus course and interrupted the lesson. To avoid further embarrassment, I sat through the entire lesson. Yes, the full class. I learned very quickly that I needed a campus map and I went to the library (which I found right away, thank goodness) to print a map.

Although that Calculus class was very interesting, this couldn’t keep happening. When I got home, I recorded all my class information and campus map into my phone so this wouldn’t happen again.


At this point in my life, I make a list for EVERYTHING. I find it the best way to organize my thoughts and sometimes – I just need to see it on paper (or my phone screen). If you find yourself beginning to feel overwhelmed, write it down. Not sure what you need to purchase for your dorm room? Make a list. Have specific goals for your first year of university or college? Make a list. I know this can be an obvious tip, but I definitely credit some of my university success to my ability to clearly organize my thoughts on paper.


Depending on the high school you attended, the teacher provided you with a school agenda. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I saw those in the garbage at school. I found myself using an agenda every day to organize important dates or tasks that needed to be completed. If you don’t like the free agenda that is provided to you in school, check out your local school supplies store or Etsy for unique agendas.

If you prefer to have everything in your phone, use apps like Evernote and your mobile calendar to keep track of coursework and tests.


This made a significant difference in my University career. Throughout the course, I would connect with my study partner and we would exchange notes and study tips. When I met this person, I didn’t say – “Hey, want to be my study partner?” Instead to avoid this awkward conversation, I would begin a causal conversation and the study partner role would result naturally. Everyone is in the same boat and nervous about the first couple of weeks. If you begin the conversation, you’re already a step ahead. Don’t know where to start? Visit Top Universities for tips on how to study and succeed in university.


Now, this wouldn’t be a money on trees blog post if I didn’t mention budgeting. I think if I added the amount of money I spent on coffee, I would be shocked. Of course at the time, I didn’t think about it much because as a student, I needed coffee. Now, I always bring a coffee from home. Yes, it’s only two dollars a day (or more depending if it was exam season), but it definitely adds up. We wrote an entire blog post on this topic, “The B-word Every Student Should Know: Budgeting” and it goes into detail about what a student budget should include. Don’t forget to visit CanLearn, by the Government of Canada which includes information on saving, grants, scholarships and other ways of funding your post-secondary education,

Finally, get excited! Whether you’re starting university or college, this is a great time to meet new people, but also to learn more about yourself. I’ve always believed that preparation is the key to success and hopefully these tips help you next page.

Good luck!

– Nancy