laptop and book
September 11, 2018
3 mins read

How to deal with new school nerves

We know it can take some time to shake off those first-year nerves—whether it be about classes, friends, or a new campus environment.

It’s exciting to start university—you’re looking forward to all the fun new opportunities while simultaneously realizing all your new responsibilities. Living on your own for the first time, balancing a new social life (and FOMO) while maintaining good grades—it can all end up being a bit nerve-wracking at times.

For some perspective on how you’re currently feeling or may feel down the road, we’ve brought you words of wisdom from upper-year students (myself included) and alumni!

If you ever feel like a drop in the ocean...

I came to UBC feeling confident that my accomplishments in high school would continue into university. But suddenly it hit me: I was a little fish in a pond full of big fish—everyone here was equally smart and capable.

That was definitely a reality check and took some getting used to, but everyone (at some point!) will have the desire to compare themselves to their peers. In those moments, know that you bring your own unique perspective and individual experiences to UBC!


“You're here with the best of the best, which can be scary, but remember that you deserve to be here.”

- Julie, 5th year, Sauder

“Everyone is nervous, whether it looks like it or not, so take the initiative to meet new people and make new friends! Find ways to get involved! Everything will be okay. :)” 

- Marcus, 6th year, Land & Food Systems (LFS)

“I was surprised with how many people felt lost and confused like I did at times. I was expecting everyone else to have it all figured out and that definitely wasn't the case!” 

- Igor, 5th year, Science

For those days when the academics get tough and you need a pep talk...

I completely underestimated how different, and of course, challenging, university is compared to high school. At first, I continued with my old study habits and felt discouraged by the results. It was only when I took steps to engage with my new learning environment that I saw positive changes in my grades.

Whether you take notes on paper or notes on your laptop, understand how you learn best and how university learning works in the first few months. It takes time, but you’ll find your groove!


“Be very honest with yourself about your study habits (or non-existent study habits) and work towards improving your habits and time management skills.”

- Kathy, 4th year, LFS

“University is drastically different from high school—you will fail at some things. This does not mean that you are a failure. The most important thing is that you keep trying.”

- Tyra, 4th year, Applied Science

“Make sure you have goals you want to accomplish throughout the year and cross them off as you go.”

- Suman, UBC alumnus, Forestry

“You can easily lose A LOT of time. Start planning from day 1. Create a schedule for yourself. Mark down the exams, deadlines, etc.”

- Termeh, 3rd year, Science

If you ever feel like you don’t belong...

I have never been a person that instantly connects with others so making friends in university sounded like a tough feat. When I settled at UBC, I realized there were tons of different ways to get involved and find my community. There is something for everyone to do—just take that first step!


“Be yourself. Be brave. Stand out. The university has ample room for different personalities.”

- Arlene, 3rd year, Arts

“At first, it might be a bit overwhelming, but you'll soon realize that there is a place for everyone—no matter if it's within a school club, your own faculty, athletics, or anything else you want to be a part of.”

- Jennifer, 5th year, Forestry

“Don't be intimidated by the campus. Find others with the same basic passion/hobby and build off that.”

- Ethan, 4th year, LFS


When I look back at my first year, I smile thinking about how different everything turned out compared to how I initially imagined it. University can be a challenging time but know that you’re not alone—a lot of folks including profs, TAs, and other students are here to help you make the most of your experience.

From academics to health, there are resources like the Wellness Centre, Chapman Learning Commons, Centre for Student Involvement & Careers, or the Centre for Accessibility to support you—whenever you need it.