It is no secret that many undergraduates lack a variety of skills before embarking on that road towards higher learning. As a current sophomore at university, I have still yet to master many of these student life hacks. Nevertheless, in this University Survival Guide, I compiled a list of life skills that I picked up during my first year of university so that your own transition to a post-secondary institution may happen more smoothly. Keep in mind that these are just suggestions and by no means will they apply to every university or college.
First semester is considered difficult not really because of the harder classes, but because you have to adjust to a new environment. So, if you are allowed to choose your own courses, it might be a good idea to lighten your course load until you get comfortable with how college works. This will also free up some time to explore extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, etc.
Register early for the classes that you need to take to keep you on track. If you concentrate all classes on a few days, you will have entire days for study, work, or personal matters. Try to schedule classes back-to-back, because if you have breaks that are only an hour long, you’re not going to get much done unless it’s for eating lunch. Also, make sure to talk to an academic advisor so that you know when is the best term to take all the courses you need for graduation.
Go to class. Skipping class makes it easier to fall behind. Online notes that professors post are usually just outlines, so if you want to be more prepared for exams and assessments, you have to go to class. Many professors will give subtle hints about what they will test in exams during class. Other professors will do additional examples of problems in class that you won’t find in posted notes.
Creating a bank account is usually not too difficult, as the employees are there to guide you and answer any questions you may have. When deciding which bank is best for you, some things to keep in mind are distance to the nearest branch and ATMs, and special offers for students.
Never underestimate the power of routine. Whether you want to learn a new language, hit the gym, or keep in touch with loved ones, if there is something you want to accomplish despite the increased work load, schedule it in. Doing it during the same time each day will help you form a habit.
It’s always a good idea to write important things down like in an agenda, a calendar, a phone app, or sticky notes on your laptop. There have been many times when I told myself I would remember something, but I ended up regretting not having written it down.
Where to Keep Important Documents
Besides thinking about what to carry around with you, you might be wondering about what to do with important documents such as bank documents, birth certificates, and travel documents.
Scan important documents and save them to safe cloud storage, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, or Mega.
Keep hard copies and original documents in one place so that you know where to locate them. It might be a good idea to keep them in a locked storage system. If you don’t have a safe, a sturdy suitcase does the trick.
Use plastic sleeves to prevent important papers from getting wet or damaged. Keep all your most important documents in a single accordion file, so that you can grab everything quickly in an emergency.
Consider getting a safety deposit box for documents like birth certificates, marriage/divorce documents, property documents, etc.
What to Carry in a Backpack
You are probably going to be carrying around a backpack to class, so it’s important to get an idea of some things that you may want to keep with you in your backpack at all times.
– Portable charger (and cell phone): you don’t want your phone to run out of battery when you need it the most.
– Emergency contacts written down (and memorized): prioritize on writing down contact information of people that live close by, as they will be easier to reach in case of an emergency. If you are an international student, consider including the address and phone number of your embassy in case of passport and visa complications.
– Medical information: emergency services may need to know about your health conditions such as allergies, diseases, or what medicines you take currently.
– Health insurance card: health services may not be able to treat you if you don’t have it with you.
– Identification: such as a student card or a driver’s license. It’s a good idea to carry your student card around, because you never know when you might stumble upon student discounts! And you’ll probably need it for various reasons on campus, like for getting into a dining hall or accessing campus gyms. In some countries, you might need to carry your passport or photocopies of it with you.
– Notepad and pen: there are various benefits compared to carrying around a cell phone for digital notes including that you can rip out a piece of paper and hand it to someone or you can use it when your phone is not working.
– Wallet: your debit or credit card may not be used all the time, so it’s important to have some cash with you.
– Keys: put keys on a lanyard. If you have pockets, it’s best to keep them there in case your purse or backpack gets misplaced or stolen. That way, you won’t be locked out of your room.
– Water bottle and small snacks: to prevent dehydration and in case you don’t get a chance to eat a meal.
– USB: very useful if you need to transfer files between different computers.
– Tissues: what if you get emotional? It’s probably more useful when you accidently spill something, or you need to blow your nose.
– Umbrella or a light raincoat: if the rain is unpredictable where you live.
– Flash light: there are ones that you can crank to power up so that you don’t have to worry about batteries running out.
– First aid kit
More on University Survival Guide: Make use of available resources to make your college life easier.
See the previous article:
Part 1: Getting Ready for College
Download the digital copy here.