Illustration of a student's backpack, textbooks and water bottle
August 28, 2018
3 mins read

Tips to kickstart your school year

There are a lot of things I wish I’d known earlier when I was in first year.

Like how to take effective notes. Or, how to use the printers on campus to avoid last-minute essay printing scrambles. And that all-nighters, an inevitable rite-of-passage, do not (unsurprisingly) produce the best work. 

But now, as a close-to-graduating student, here are some things I’ve learned the hard way so you don’t have to.

Get the logistics out of the way

Before you start your first week of classes, it’s a good idea to get these housekeeping items done.

Connect to UBC Secure Wireless

Use your Campus-Wide Login (CWL) to AutoConnect to UBC Secure for safe and secure WiFi across campus.

PS. For mobile WiFi connection, select ‘ubcsecure’ after you install AutoConnect on your phone, and then use your CWL to connect. 

Get familiar with Canvas

Canvas is an online (and mobile) learning platform for everything related to your courses like submitting assignments and quizzes, accessing lecture slides, and participating in discussions. Get to know Canvas as a tool to stay organized and on top of your classes. 

Download MS Office for free

All UBC students with a CWL are eligible for a free Office 365 subscription, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote. 

Tip: For other free tech resources available to UBC students, check out this post.

Grab your textbooks

Check out the UBC Bookstore for all your textbook needs and to build your personalized book list, or check out Discount Textbooks in the University Village. Some profs will list required course material on Canvas before classes begin, so you can get a head start. I mean, I’ve never been that prepared, but that’s probably why I feel like I’m always catching up on readings.

Get ready for a new learning environment

Academics at UBC will be different from high school and, frankly, it may be difficult, but it’s okay—it’s all part of the university learning curve. 

Engage with your learning  

I think all students know this in theory, but it’s harder to practice. Engaging in class doesn’t have to mean sitting in the front row and answering all the questions, but being an active student. Take notes that aren’t verbatim, challenge the material, and interact with classmates. If you’re wary about speaking up, talk to the TA or prof after class or shoot them an email to show that you care about your learning. 

Show up

Unlike high school, no one is really policing your attendance. However, a lot of profs will take your attendance as part of your participation mark. Plus, some profs won’t upload all of their lecture material or slides online, which means sleeping in could cost you some crucial information—especially if it's exam season. 

Explore your (dis)comfort zone

Being plunked into a brand new environment can be a confusing but refreshing mix of nerves and excitement. Take the opportunity to meet new people who, more likely than not, are probably feeling the same way. Who knows—a simple 'hi' could be the start of a study group or life-long friendship. Plus, it doesn't hurt to have someone to count on to send you lecture notes. 

Learn to manage priorities

Learning how to balance life with academics will be an ongoing process. Over the years, I had to learn how to say no, discovered the joys of keeping a calendar, and admitted when I needed to ask for help. With some trial and error, self-motivation, and getting ahead of your procrastination, you’ll find ways to manage your time.

Know where to get support

No one can do it all alone. Luckily, UBC has resources from your Academic Advisor to tutoring services to ensure your university experience is positive and rewarding. Check out these 10 resources you'll want to bookmark now to help you make the most of your academics—and beyond.

Your first year may be full of changes and discoveries—but it’s all part of the first exciting steps in your UBC journey. Take this opportunity to explore new interests, to rediscover old passions, to try and fail and repeat, and to realize that a lot of learning happens in between all of it.