Tips for First-Years Students from a Graduate and Scoundrel

by Chris Carr

“University”. The word itself is an institution. It invokes images of grand bricked buildings threatening to pulp the nubile minds of young people who assume to ask too much. It can be a lot to take in.  Harder still to know the ins-and-outs of how to be the successful student.

 Here then, are just a few tips that you won’t find in your student handbook.

Think Used First

The Guelph Campus Coop bookstore does its best to offer used options of your course’s textbook if available. Always go for the used one if you can—highlights and pencil smudges and all. It’s cheaper. Plus, and here’s a pro-tip: the important parts are usually already highlighted, but you didn't hear that from me.

 Be master of your schedule

Early on in my career at UofG I decided that my class schedule was going to make me an early-riser. And I missed a bunch of classes because of it. If you like to get up at the crack of noon, plan your classes accordingly. Especially  in second semester when it’s considerably colder and darker in the wee hours of the morning. Stay in bed. Just remember: lions always sleep before the hunt.

 Prey on the Weak

Find someone who is—umm, let’s say weak in their class studies—to latch onto as a study partner. What ends up happening is that you end up learning more to teach the other person. It happens naturally and you also don’t develop a crutch on another person to learn for you. They might, but that’s their problem.


It doesn’t matter the system, just have one. Whether it’s a daily planner, your phone or a trail of breadcrumbs, just have a system for keeping track of classes, exams, meetings, study dates and social events. Writing them down takes the task away from your mind, so it can focus on more important things, like trivia night at the pub.

 Pay your respects

Meet your professors. Even if it’s to ask a dubious question about the course syllabus, meet them, shake their hand, tell them your name and make eye-contact. Then, when they see your name on an exam or essay, they will remember your face. It’s harder to give someone a bad mark if they can visualize your face crying about it.

 Don’t be proud

Sometimes in school and in life, we need to bow to the whim of those in power. This doesn’t mean you need to be an apple polisher to get ahead, it means that sometimes your personal ideals run a close second to what will get you a good grade. If your teacher is a left-wing anarchist, write your essays to agree with them. It helps you with grades and it helps them to smile while they give you an A+.

Most of us will get into a car accident eventually

Let's say you're driving down Gordon Street when - bam! - someone smashes in to the rear of your car. Or you're in the parking lot of No Frills and you pull out and - bam! - crunch in the side panel of an old lady's SUV. Maybe you borrowed the car from a roommate, or it was Mom & Dad's old beater that you've borrowed for the term. 

Do you know what happens next? Do you have all your documents in order? Do you even know what all the documents are? 

It's not going to cut it to call up Mom or Dad on your cell and expect them to take care of everything. 

Most of us work hard to push all these pesky issues out of our mind. And it works for awhile. Until it doesn't. Don't wait till it happens to you to get prepared. When the adrenaline is pumping and the fear kicks in is the wrong time to wonder how to cover yer butt.  So here's the deal: read our new doc "10 Things you Need to Know if you get Into a Car Accident".  It's free to download. It could save you some real grief "down the road."

The Student Guide to Staying Connected

Pretty soon children will be born digitally compatible, like in The Matrix. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened yet. (…or has it? Nevermind.) Regardless, we all need to know the best ways to stay connected without being gouged. We've come up with a list of questions you should ask to make sure you are getting the best deals and best service. Are there differences in providers? Should you buy or lease your phone? What happens when you travel? How much data do you need?

The world is changing, and nowhere is this more evident than with technology. A short decade ago, every student moving in to Co-op housing ordered a home phone line. Now - not one. But while our choices have expanded, and we have services and capabilities we couldn't have even known would exist back then, it's not like everything is straightforward - or cheap. So check out our Staying Connected guide, available for free in the Documents section, to help you navigate the brave new world. Be ready for the Minority Report.