Staying on top of your first-year workload 

Hey Marauders Today I want to talk to you about how to stay on top of your workload in the first few weeks of university. I have a STEM perspective, but a lot of the information shared can be relevant to any program. It can be an overwhelming transition to keep up with your courses.

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These blogs are part of Mac101: Introduction to University Life, a collection of events, workshops and more to support your university transition.

July 26, 2022

By: Nabeelah (fourth year, Biology, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour)

The work may seem significantly harder, and I remember already feeling behind after the first week of school. With the right strategies, you can ensure that you are instilling efficient study habits to maximize productivity. It is important to set goals, hold yourself accountable, introduce scheduling and understand the relevance of the content you are studying in the real world.  

Setting clearly defined goals can provide direction and make progress feel more attainable. When I set out goals, I feel a certain sense of motivation to achieve the task at hand. Goal setting can be guided using the SMART goals template to ensure that your goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

A goal I would set as a first-year life sciences student was ensuring revision of class content was completed daily in addition to completing assignments and quizzes. This helped me keep up with a fast work pace and ensure that I did not fall behind on previous material. 

Holding yourself accountable can help you more effectively prioritize your goals and enrich your understanding of them. You can use accountability strategies to stay motivated and learn what study strategies work best for you. Accountability can be created through consistent scheduling as it establishes a routine. Some methods for holding yourself accountable can include:  

  1. Participation in study groups may help reinforce your own learning through immediate feedback. I would always study with friends in my first year and found the experience to be very enjoyable and productive.

  2. Having an accountability buddy may help overcome temptations of procrastination. My friends and I would commit to testing each other on material at the end of a school week. This made studying easier. 

Setting a standing time to work with peers can keep you motivated. Connecting meetings with rewarding activities such as taking coffee breaks together can provide an incentive to stay on track and create a friendly work environment.  

Sometimes it might seem that there aren’t enough hours in a day to complete everything you need to get done or it can be difficult to visualize tasks. You must create a disciplined strategy for yourself if you want to achieve your academic goals.

Create a schedule to ensure that you are effectively utilizing every bit of your time. I would usually start off the week by jotting out all the tasks I have to complete within the span of the week. This would allow me to visualize my goals and create a sufficient action plan. Your schedule will help you prepare well for challenging course exams, and it is an excellent habit to continuously develop and implement in your daily life. 

With many of the courses you take, you will find many overlaps in the content that is presented to you and naturally we make connections. This helps consolidate information in a more meaningful way and you are likely to have a better grasp of the content when you are tested on it.  Take a moment at the end of the week to try to connect information across disciplines.

  • Can I apply what I learned in physics today to what I learned in chemistry last week?
  • Can I connect the information I am learning in psych to what was taught in biology today?

By connecting the information to your daily life, you will find overlap and think beyond what is taught in the classroom. It is always so interesting to see the things you are learning applied to your life beyond the classroom.  

Signing off

I hope you found these tips helpful and that they work just as well for you as they do for me.

Nabeelah student blogger

Nabeelah (she/her) is the program support assistant for the Student Success Centre’s (SSC) academic skills team. She is going into her fourth year of Biology, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour. Outside of school, she loves to play tennis, cook and watch Netflix.

Mac101 continues until July 28, 2022

Make friends. Meet staff and faculty. Discover resources and services. Your Mac101 experience is what you make of it, so visit the Mac101 event page to learn more.

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You must be an incoming first-year McMaster student to participate.

Instagram giveaways ($50 Campus Store gift cards): Follow @MacSSC on Instagram during Mac101 for giveaway posts. Tag a friend and comment one thing you’ve learned from a Mac101 workshop to enter the draw.

Grand prize ($50, $100, $150 Campus Store gift cards): The transition to university can be both exciting and challenging! In a 200-word response, share how Mac101 helped you prepare to overcome potential academic setbacks in your first year. Email your submission to by July 30, 2022, 11:59 p.m. ET.