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+.