Stories From The Arch

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15 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Starting University

This post is inspired by Ariel. No, not the red-headed mermaid that lives under the sea, rather one of my co-workers; or at least she was one of my co-workers as little as 24 hours ago.  Ariel just ended her contract with the SSC and will be moving to the London area to continue pursuing her career in marketing and communications – congrats Ariel!!

Her job for the past few months has been running some of the social media pages for the SSC and in her spare time, Ariel writes for her own blog, Ariel Coverage (apparently we are all very invested in the art of blogging around  here). Recently, Ariel posted “20 things I wish I had known before starting University” and after reading and reflecting on her post I got to thinking about my own list of things I wish I had known….

So here it is, the 15 things I wish I had known before starting University.


1.You will learn how to be self-sufficient. You will learn to be an adult here. You will learn how to do your own laundry (ok you might wash all the darks and lights together to save a bit of money – but you will still learn). You will buy your own groceries and cook your own meals. You will clean up after yourself. Learning to do all of this on your own, without reminders, is a big accomplishment. It’s your first step into what one may call “adulting.”

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2. It’s up to you to decide how you want to have a good time. If you like to go out and party, that’s great (waves my drink in the air for you), but if you would rather hang out, play video games and chill with some friends, that’s cool too. There are hundreds of ways to have fun and make friends at university, so do what you are most comfortable with and enjoy yourself.

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3. Don’t be intimidated by a challenge. The way you perform under stress is the best judge of your character. Learn to work through what challenges you and don’t be intimidated by hard courses, or challenging events. They often prove to be the most rewarding.

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4. Make your own decisions. Everyone in university is asked the same question: “what are you doing with your life? Is this really a good major?” The way you answer this is up to you, but if you like what you’re doing, keep doing it, no matter what others think.

5. Letting go of things is okay. We, as humans, want to hold on to so many things – people, places, objects. But these people, places, and objects will continue to change, just as you will. Know that it is okay to move on from friendships, situations, or places which may not serve purpose to you anymore. Sometimes you need to let go of things in order to grow.

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6. Call home. You are no longer a teenager, which means that the previous anger and angst you may have had towards your family needs to go. I have grown closer to my family and love and appreciate them now more than ever; I just needed the distance to realize how much they mean to me.

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7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. University is an open and safe space. If you don’t understand something, ask questions. It is better to find your answers and challenge opinions than it is to sit with ignorance or confusion.

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8. Don’t feel stuck in your degree. It’s okay to change programs, majors or even faculties when in University. Take the time to explore what interests you and work towards your end goal – a job that excites you, applying to grad school, or whatever it is for you. Just remember if you find that what you are currently studying is no longer a fit, you aren’t stuck in one place, and you can switch to something else which may help you achieve your goals.

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9. Be okay with being alone. This is a big one. Being in university means that you may spend countless hours alone or hard at work. Your friends won’t always have the same schedule as you, so it is really important that you learn to be comfortable doing things alone, and still feel confident while doing so.

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10. Take more opportunities to attend events and conferences. I cannot stress this enough. I only got involved with extra-curriculars when I was in my third year of University and wish I had started earlier. Participating in outside of the classroom learning will help you build a network, make connections, and learn more about yourself.

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11. People are really understanding of emotions. The statistic of people who suffer from mental illnesses on campus is staggeringly high, but the number of people that will understand your problems is higher. People all go through emotional or difficult times, and we all get it. If you have a problem, you can talk to pretty much anyone here, and feel supported. It’s one of the nicer things about the close knit community at McMaster.

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12. Use logic when you argue. If you need to debate in class or make a case for your argument, make sure you can back it up with facts. Know as much as you can before supporting a certain side. It will make you aware of the strengths and weaknesses within your own arguments.

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13. Stay active during school. The freshmen fifteen is real. Over eating from stress is also just as real. Staying active becomes important not only to keep off the extra weight but to also de-stress after assignments or exams.

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14. Regulate your sleep, you will be more productive. Sleep is so important. I promise you that if you get a good night sleep, you will be able to accomplish so much more the next day.

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15. Be true to yourself. Sappy, I know – but also important. These next four years will give you the opportunity to find out more about yourself. You will struggle, fail, laugh, cry, make friendships, and find your passions. If there is one thing to emphasize, it is to find yourself, and be yourself. I know it is hard in the mix of all the stresses you may face, but sometimes truths and clarity come in the most random of ways. Be open, and embrace who you are.

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If you have any other ideas on what you wish you had known, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Photo of Taylor Noble

About the Author

Taylor Noble blogged for the Student Success Centre from 2015 to 2016.

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