Back-to-School Advice from Options Alumni


Whether you’re diving into your first year of post-secondary schooling or starting to narrow down your application list, here is some heartfelt advice from students who have been in your position before:

What advice would you give to a first-year student about post-secondary life?

On the people you’ll meet

“Make a support network and reach out to people!”

“The people you meet will be amazing connections for the rest of your life even if they don’t relate to your faculty.”

On the skills you’ll need

“Time management is essential!”

“There’s a lot more freedom at university, and you need to have strong self-control/time management.”

“Do whatever tricks you need to help you get through and be open to various study techniques.”

“The more organized you are, the better.”

“Read the course descriptions and reviews of classes and professors to better understand and prepare.”

On what to expect

“Preparation matters. If you came from a private school, university will not treat you the same nor be as easy as high school.”

“University is really hard. You need to learn how to manage your time to meet project deadlines and balance courses. Sometimes you don’t even have time to do your laundry or go grocery shopping.”

“Late homework or last-minute assignments are not allowed. They must be in by the due date – period.”

“It is a big change and can be overwhelming, but you have the tools to manage it all! Keeping up with your reading is very important.”

On how to make the most of it

“Get involved! Join clubs, apply to research opportunities, take a semester abroad.”

“University is really what you make out of it. If you want to learn something, join a club, or research it on your own – you’d be impressed with the amount you can learn outside of the classroom.”

“High school is a small world. I would urge anyone who is able to see something different and gain a new perspective. I am a different person than I was a year ago. and I could not be more grateful.”

On what’s important

“Try and have a balance in your life as much as you can. However sometimes to understand what that means to you, one must test out the extremes. Embrace that, as you might just answer some questions for yourself there… but at the end of the day, remember to keep the balance in mind.”

“Balance – don’t get too stressed and forget to get your physical activity in. First semester, I was stressed and thought I didn’t have time to go for runs or to the gym. My grades showed it. Second semester, I worked out more, stressed less, and my grades went up nearly 10%.”

“Don’t place all your focus just on school. Find other activities and other life things because balancing school and mental health is really important.”

“First year is full of new experiences. Enjoy living in first year residence and meeting lots of people. Study hard (first priority). If the pressure is too much, think about taking four courses instead of five. Keep communication open with professors. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra help.”

What advice would you give grade 12 students starting the application process?

Do your research

“Make sure that you visit the city of the university you would like to attend or do research on where it’s situated. I think it’s important to be able to explore outside of the campus, so you don’t always feel like a full-time student.”

“Attend events or tours of the campus to get a feel for it. I found they quite accurately demonstrated the actual feel of the campus. Just know there will always be construction somewhere.”

“Look at the program that you want to study, but also the place. If you’re looking for a busy city, then London, Ontario is not the place. If you’re looking for a small, tight-knit campus, then London is great for that! I’m really glad I looked at the full package that is university and not just the program.”

“Consider if you want to do a graduate/postgraduate program. If so, your GPA may be too low coming from such a competitive university. I would recommend going to a less competitive university for undergrad.”

Respect the application process

“Show your personality as much as you can in your application. The school does care about who you are as an individual.”

“Focus on creating concise but thoughtful answers for the questionnaire and try to find a student already in the program you can speak with, so you can learn more.”

Be true to yourself

“I’d suggest constantly creating and pushing yourself, don’t worry about what others think or how weird or bad you might think things are. Just keep pushing and keep making things that you enjoy. Push yourself to try new disciplines and expand your knowledge of different mediums.”

“Try to keep an open mind and pursue things that you genuinely wish to do, not so much that you think you should do or for prestige. Make choices that make sense for you.”

“Do what feels right, not what you think should feel right… it took me the better part of a year to learn that lesson.”

“Be ready to work hard – but it pays off. Also, quit comparing yourself to others; there’s always going to be someone smarter than you.”

Perspective is key

“Don’t be too nervous if your essay skills aren’t great because they will become great! You have to like reading and writing though because that is literally all we do and can get tedious even to those who love it.”

“Just because everyone else is slacking off doesn’t mean you should too.”

“It is more than okay and completely normal not to know what you want to do with your life!!

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