Your Next Seven Weeks

Regular Posts, Videos and Contests

Check out this page for videos and blog posts from upper year students. This year’s themes are:

We are also hosting weekly Facebook Lives and Instagram contests.

Grand Prize

Submit your entry for a chance to win an iPad

In 250-300 words, tell us about a time in high school where you faced academic challenges. Describe what you learned from this experience and how that will help you in University.

Final submission due date: Friday, August 9 at 4:30 p.m. Email your submissions to skills@mcmaster.ca.

Winner revealed: Tuesday, August 13 on Facebook live. (Winner will be chosen and contacted on the Monday.)

Week One: Welcome to University

Welcome to the first post in a series from Student Success Centre (SSC) Academic Skills! The next seven weeks will include daily posts to welcome you to university and help you learn many important academic skills that you will need throughout your time at Mac. As we welcome you to university in this first week, we’ll discuss all of the things you need to do before September and what to look forward to this year.

Coming to university was a really special experience for both of us. We started cooking and shopping for ourselves, following our own budget and scheduling our own time. One of the spookiest parts of all this was that we were suddenly in charge of our own learning. No one was taking attendance anymore, it was up to us to go to class every day, complete readings and schedule study sessions. This difference was a shock to us. That’s why today we’re here to talk to you about a few different ways you can master independence!

When people talk about university, they throw around a lot of acronyms. Here at Mac there are so many new terms that it can be overwhelming. When we were in first year we found it very difficult to navigate campus and it was sometimes frustrating, especially when we would ask for directions and they were given completely in acronyms that we didn’t know yet. As a result, we hope to help you avoid this confusion, so in this post we will try to give you the gist of the acronyms and terms that you will need while you get comfortable here at Mac.

Week Two: Expectations Versus Reality

By now we’re sure that you’ve heard that there are many differences between high school and university, especially academically. This can be a difficult transition to wrap your mind around, so today we thought that we would outline some of the differences that you can expect to see in university concerning workload, learning in class, and daily schedules. 

I’m sure that you’ve learned a million anecdotes about what university will be like; we know that we certainly did. Whether it be the freshman 15 or endless all-nighters, we know that these myths can make university seem intimidating. Today we’re debunking four of the more common myths that we ran into before we started first-year.

At this point in the summer you may be thinking about money. University is expensive and is often the first time students have some financial independence, which can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, it is very important that you stay on top of your financial situation. Today we will discuss financial wellness and give you some tips on how to ensure that your finances stay under control.

Week Three: Learning in Lectures

Have you thought about your first lecture yet? This week's posts will discuss the challenges of navigating everything lecture-related from note-taking to managing distractions. Today is specifically all about how to start preparing for lectures. Going into our first lecture many things, including the size of the room surprised us.

Now that you’ve got a grasp on how to prepare for lectures, we thought we would introduce you to another aspect of course instruction: tutorials! University classes are commonly set up with lectures and tutorials and/or labs. 

One thing that may be new for you as you transition into your first year will be note-taking. We didn’t have a comprehensive toolkit when it came time to taking proper notes and that posed a significant challenge particularly throughout our first semester.

Week Four: Being a University Learner

Another tool that professors will frequently use throughout your time here at Mac are textbooks. We know that textbooks are used in most high schools, but they take on a different role in university. Depending on the subject area that you are studying, you may have to read large volumes of pages each week. It is important to note that you often won’t read a textbook as quickly as you would a regular book.

We hope that your summer is going well!  Today we want to talk about research. Independent research can be tricky, especially while you are beginning to learn how to navigate the research process. However, there are tons of tips and tricks that can help to make this entire experience more bearable. As a result, we thought that we would share some of these strategies with you today!

Now that we've thought about reading effectively, let's think about how to communicate your own ideas in an essay. If you think you'll encounter more lab reports in your program, stay tuned for tomorrow's post! Although, if you're planning to take any classes that will have written components this post is a good place to start building your confidence in essay-writing.

Week Five: Managing Time and Finding Balance

Welcome to Week 5 of the blog! To start this week off, we want to get you thinking about balance. We know that it can be difficult to manage all of the demands that you will be feeling throughout your university experience, but it can be done. Sometimes sacrifices are necessary, but balance is about figuring out how to make compromises with yourself so that you are living in a way that you find fulfilling. In our experience, these compromises often look like cooking with friends instead of going out, so that we can all save some money and work fewer hours.

Today we are going to talk about something super exciting—scheduling! Stay with us for a second—we know that’s probably not a popular opinion. We weren’t always like this; there was a time when we tried to function without a schedule other than our classes and part-time work. For us, this meant that there were large stretches of time that we threw away in favour of doing all of our work in the final hours.

Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of why you are in school or what value your degree can have, especially when things like midterm season arrive. One of the best ways to keep a positive mindset throughout your university career is to be goal-oriented and know that you are working towards something meaningful.  In this post we are going to talk about what it means to be goal-oriented and how to structure your goals for the next phase of your life.

Week Six: Connecting with your Community

Welcome to week 6! By now, I’m sure you’ve gotten the impression that university is pretty different from high school. Before we got here, this difference was something that we were pretty worried about. Specifically, we worried that “different” would mean less community and more isolation. In high school, we enjoyed the community that came with scheduled lunches, school plays, clubs, taking the bus, etc. We didn’t want this to go away. Thankfully—it didn’t.

As summer is coming to an end, you may have noticed that many large group chats are being created on Facebook. We know that this was the case as we were transitioning into university and we found it to be overwhelming at times. There are many pros and cons to being involved in these groups; this is why we are here to discuss a few of them with you! Today we will be focusing on the advantages and disadvantages of class group chats. 

Coming to university can be overwhelming and we know from firsthand experience that the idea of juggling grades, extracurriculars and this transition can be scary. However, to help mitigate some of this fear of getting involved, we thought that we would address some of your potential concerns and tell you why getting involved is a great idea!

Week Seven: MacHacks

Today we decided to compile a list of some of the hidden gems on- and off-campus. These gems include study break spots, places to get healthy and affordable food and ways to keep active!

Navigating university can be difficult and so it is important to know some simple hacks that can make your life easier. For example, our lives would have been a lot easier if we knew about the Undergrad Writing Centre sooner. So, here are some tips and tricks that we wish we had known about when we were in first year.

Have you ever thought about what type of studier you are and how this may impact where you like to study? There are so many different places to study on campus that it can take some time to find the right place.