By SMU Social Media Team
1. Make the most of your orientation camp
Talk to as many people as you can, whether or not they’re from the same course as you. There’s no better time to get to know people than during orientation, when most freshmen like yourself have yet to make friends in a new school and are looking to meet new people. It’s also a time where you’ll receive lots of tips about making the best of your university life from seniors who have experienced it all.
Photo by: SMU Freshmen Orientation Camp 2016
2. Be mentally prepared
University is not a walk in the park; you will feel lost and intimidated, so make sure you start with the right mindset. It will be hard, but you’ll learn to enjoy it with the help and company of all the awesome friends you’ll make here.
Photo by: IGer @projectpolarisiii
3. Do your research
Speak to seniors and friends to find out which lecturer’s classes they recommend, and the coursework required in each class to figure out if it’s for you. Having a good lecturer and ensuring you can manage the class requirements means good grades for you!
Photo by: Harold Koh
4. Build friendships
Say “hi” to as many people as you can, and try to hold conversations to get to know them better. Hang out together after class or during lunch, because these are the people you’ll be seeing for the next few years and you’re going to want to make lots of friends!
Photo by: IGer @zaaccchary
5. … but not too much
Making friends is a great thing, but remember that you’re in university to study, first and foremost. Always maintain that balance between socialising and school work. You don’t want to end up with a ton of friends and poor grades.
6. Use your first semester as a gauge
The first semester can be overwhelming, and it’s a good idea to plan the rest of your university classes based on that experience. If taking five modules a week is too overwhelming, consider taking just three to four modules the following semester and see if it helps you cope with the workload better. Learning is a journey, not a race, so take your time to do your best.
7. Buy second-hand textbooks
Ask friends and seniors who have completed the classes you’re taking if they still need their textbooks and if they would be willing to sell them to you at a lower price. Some lecturers might even tell the class that there’s no need to purchase the textbook. Be thankful when you realise you’ll still be able to afford the occasional Starbucks treat to cope with your new-found caffeine dependency.
8. When it comes to studying, know what works for you
The university campus is huge, and there are tons of excellent places to study in large groups, or alone. Some people choose to study with their friends in groups, while others choose to study alone. Neither is right or wrong; what’s important is that you should know what works for you. If you’re the kind to get distracted and end up talking to your friends instead of focusing on your work, then studying alone might be a better idea. If when alone, you lack the motivation to stay awake or even open your textbooks, gather your friends and ask them to help keep you focused while you all learn together.
9. Bid wisely for your modules
Make sure you know when the bidding period for the new semester is starting, and ensure that you allocate points for bidding wisely. It’s hard to stay focused if you’re learning about something you’re not interested in, especially if you’re taking a particular class only because you had no other choice. (Here are some tips on how to bid like a BOSS.)
10. Always attend classes
Yes, we all know how difficult it is to drag our limp bodies out of bed in the morning, and some of us struggle more than others to try to reach class on time. Punctuality also extends to completing work on time, and is an important quality that will not only benefit you in university, but in the working world as well. But even if you fail, it’s better to be late than to be absent. At least try.
11. Take extra notes in class
Prior to undergraduate education, you might have had been able to breeze through school just by studying your textbooks despite never paying attention in class, but that won’t work as well in university. Your seniors will tell you that the trick to doing well is to pay attention and take notes. Lecturers tend to verbally share extra important information in class and sometimes include these extra bits in their tests to see if you’ve been paying attention while they were speaking. Plus, they sometimes share personal stories gathered through their years of experience, and these might come in handy when it’s your turn to step out into the working world.
Photo by: themetapicture.com.jpg
12. Take note of useful resources
Look beyond Google. Find resources in the school’s physical and online library, and always support your work with quotes from peer-reviewed journals and scholarly articles, all available online. For example, SMU’s Li Ka Shing Library provides a host of e-journals, databases, as well as comprehensive and useful guidelines for APA citation requirements.
13. Help is key
University might feel like a competition between you and your course-mates; after all you’re probably going up against them for a job after graduation. But we can’t all be good at everything, and it’s important to know when to ask for help. If you’re unsure about a theory explained briefly during class, ask your classmates if they could explain it to you. And if they need help, do the same for them. Trade notes, share your sources, and help each other to proof-read essays. Help goes a long way.
14. Step out of your comfort zone
Trying new things helps to build your confidence and university presents countless opportunities for you to challenge yourself in various ways. Passive? Take up a leadership role during a group project, and you might just discover a new-found ability to lead and manage.
15. Get involved
The whole university experience goes beyond textbooks, and joining student groups or clubs in school will make your university life much more fulfilling. Pick up a new hobby like dancing or muay thai; learn how to play a new instrument; or take the chance to give back to society by joining a community service club. It’s a good way to get to know other people besides your course-mates.
16. Attend talks and events
Have free time between classes? Check if there are any talks or events scheduled in SMU that you might be able to attend. It’s a great opportunity to learn about other topics and engage in discussions, as well as a wonderful networking platform that will definitely benefit you in future.
17. Visit Career Services
Finding a job takes time, and starting to do so only after graduation means going up against the entire pool of graduates fresh out of university like yourself. Freshman year is a great time to start figuring out the opportunities you’re looking for and the Career Services preparation workshops and internship experiences will better equip you for your future career. (Psst.. here are some tips on how to be a ‘Super Intern’.)
18. Stay healthy
You might feel like late nights and skipped meals are inevitable, especially during exam periods, but there are ways to stay healthy despite the stress and workload. Prepare your own meals once in a while to ensure that you’re eating well, and find time to go for the occasional run. Exercise and sufficient sleep keep you calm and boost your brainpower so you can make better use of your time instead of dozing off in class.
19. Make full use of your student ID
For most, university is probably the last step in our educational journey, so fully utilise your status as a student! Use it to get student discounts for food, movies, and even travel concessions because you’ll really miss it after you graduate.
20. Have fun!
Work hard, but don’t forget to de-stress as well! Hang out with friends after class, meet up over the weekends, and exercise if that’s your thing. University life should be fun, enriching, and fulfilling, so know when it’s time to set that book down and let loose.
Photo by: IGer @davidlautw