University Life Hacks.

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They always say live life with no regrets. It’s a basic quote you see written on Tumblr and printed on posters. I guess it’s supposed to make people feel better about the bad choices they’ve made or something. As much as I would like to say I agree with this, there are definitely things that I would have changed looking back at my four years. So far on this blog, I have gone into detail on a few of the tips I wish I had as a freshman in university. Today I would like to give a list of my “life hacks” that I’ve learned in university.

 

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1. Don’t skip class to catch up on class.

It just doesn’t work. It really doesn’t. Believe me, I’ve tried it multiple times with multiple different classes. It becomes a never ending spiral of work that you will never EVER catch up on. It’s kind of like not paying off your credit card and racking up a ton of debt. You’ll never pay it back and you won’t ever catch up on all of your work. Ultimately, just go to as much class as you can and everything should be fine. There are tons of benefits of attending class. Honestly you pay the same amount regardless, so you might as well go.

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2. Take milk thistle when you drink.

Although my friends constantly make fun of me for being like an 80-year-old woman and taking dozens of daily vitamins, they can all agree that taking milk thistle on a night out is one of the best decisions you can make. Basically it’s this capsule of herbs that protect your liver. Depending on how much you drink, your liver can take a real beating after a night of fireball shots and mixed cranberry vodkas. Taking a milk thistle limits your hangover by a massive amount. Also try to eat something with lots of carbs and drink lots of water. Speaking from experience here, being hungover is not a great experience and it can be avoided.

3. Write your assignments in your calendar a day before they’re actually due.

One thing I recommend doing is putting in all of your due dates for assignments, tests and papers in some sort of calendar (iPhone, planner etc.) at the beginning of each semester. However, instead of putting the actual day it’s due put it one day before the due date. This works for two reasons: (1) You’ll start thinking about it early and (2) you might actually forget that it’s not due that day and finish your assignment a day early.

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4.  Take classes you actually enjoy.

Please do it. I know that it’s not an option for everyone to take something they like because of parental pressure etc. but try to at least take electives or a minor in something that you enjoy. Don’t be like me and take two years of Philosophy even though you hate it because you want to get into law school. You will most likely just have an existential crisis and end up changing your major completely into something you enjoy.

5. Don’t latch onto people.

This is for those of you in first year, specifically at the beginning of the year. I speak from experience here when I say that making friends can be very difficult and stressful in university. When you finally find a person or two you click with, it’s tempting to completely close yourself off to every other possible friend. This is something that I did in first year and I missed so many opportunities to meet new people and turned down so many invitations because all I would want to do is hang out with this small group of people. Although it seems impossible in the moment, it’s likely that your group of friends will become distant and won’t last forever. When this happens, you won’t be left with a lot of options of people to hang out with. Keep an open mind and don’t seclude yourself to a small group. Be nice to people and broaden your friendship circles.

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The Most Underrated Thing in University

Tip #5: Get Enough Sleep.

Hearing my alarm blare in my ears at 8AM in the morning when I fell asleep at 3AM is one of the worst feelings. It’s so tempting to pull my pink duvet over my head and ignore my responsibilities for the day and just go back to sleep. But because of my assignments, classes, meetings and having time to eat and get a coffee – this is not an option. This is a situation that most students find themselves in.

University students are notorious for being sleep deprived. It’s almost a character trait that each university student has. Every time you ask someone how they are, instead of saying “good” the answer is almost always “tired”. Not getting enough sleep is something that almost every student can relate to. A study done at University of Toronto found that:

  • 46% of students get less than 6 hours of a sleep
  • 35% of students get 6.5 or 7 hours
  • 19% get 7.5 or 8 hours
  • 0% of students get more than 8 hours of sleep.

 

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However, the recommended amount of sleep for students is 8 hours. According to the previous study, there are no students getting enough sleep. There are several reasons for this:

  • Procrastination – saving studying for midterms and doing assignments to the last minute. Procrastination is one of my specialities. I’m the type of person that will clean my entire room, do laundry and go grocery shopping just so I can feel productive and justify not doing my assignments. This utilizing the time you would normally spend sleeping, to do all of these things. I know procrastination can be a hard thing to avoid, but if you can avoid it, you won’t have to sacrifice sleep.
  • Prioritization – the same way you write in your assignments and appointments into your calendar, do the same for what time you want to go to bed. Set an alarm for midnight or 1AM when you want to go to bed and stick to it.
  • Balance – if you don’t have a good balance between social life, academics and other things you’re involved in, it’s going to be impossible to find the time for sleep.
  • Technology – I’ve found that if I have my phone in bed when I’m trying to fall asleep, I always spend way too much time scrolling through Instagram and texting my friends. Once I put my phone away before bed I find it so much easier to fall asleep.

So if you’re one of the ones who is never getting enough sleep, you’re definitely not alone. However, this doesn’t have to be the way you go through university. You might actually not have to answer “tired” when someone asks you how you’re doing. Sometimes it’s impossible to go to sleep on time and get a full 8 hours of sleep. When you have to pick between failing a midterm and getting enough sleep, you’re probably going to choose to former.

My advice –  schedule sleep into your life and make it a priority. Try to utilize your small breaks in the day to do assignments and study instead of leaving it all to finish late at night. Sleep is one of the most important things for success in all areas of life, especially in university when there are so many stressful things continuously happening. Ultimately, just get enough sleep!

 

Finding Balance as a Student

Tip #4: Finding the perfect balance is one of the hardest, but best things you can do.

Every university and college student knows the feeling of having so much to do, that you just lay in bed and go to sleep. I think I’ve been here too many times. I’m the type of person that spends hours making lists and planning out all of my tasks, that I end up doing nothing because I feel like I’m being productive when in reality I’ve spent 4 hours making a colour-coated list of things that I will never get done. It’s seems silly that such a common problem that everyone experiences has such a clear solution. Such a simple, attainable fix to the issue of being stressed and overwhelmed. What is this solution? Finding a balance. 

Although it seems clear, it is no easy task. Finding balance in university is one of the most difficult things to figure out. Some people never find it. Some undertake every opportunity given to them and end up barely having enough time to eat or sleep. I used to be one of these people. In first year, I was so desperate to find somewhere to fit in that I completely exhausted myself. There are so many ways to get involved in university including clubs, sports teams, academic societies and jobs. These things create so many new opportunities to get valuable experiences and meet friends. However, they also create the ability to completely fill up your schedule and stress yourself out.

I’m not here to say that if you join the debate team you’ll instantly undergo horrible stress and will be lying in your bed crying from your to-do list. It’s important to be a part of something. But finding a way to balance out all aspects is a necessity to university survival.

My advice is to start with one thing and build up from there. In first year there is already a massive amount of change going on. Even the classes itself and your entire schedule is such a big change that takes time to adjust to. Adding on a new job and being part of a club adds more things to adjust to and can result in you mirroring the Kim Kardashian meme. Start with your classes and see how that goes. Once you feel like you’re comfortable with your schedule, then maybe add something new, like a new job or joining a club.

Honestly, just don’t be like me in first year. I took 6 classes, worked 20 hours a week at Sportchek, volunteered at my church, was a part of the pre-law association and I was in the music club. Let’s just say, I definitely know what it’s like to not have balance.

It’s not necessary to completely fill up your schedule. It’s okay to have days with nothing schedules – it’s healthy! Taking time for yourself and hanging out with your friends is something that takes up time and is important.

Finding balance in your life is extremely difficult, especially in university. If you take things slowly and add one thing at a time, you’ll be fine. If not, your bed will always accept you.

How To Find Success in University

Tip #3: Success means something different for everyone. 

GPA. The three letters that encompass almost every university student conversation. The three letters that can make or break your life-long dream and can determine whether you’ve found success. It might sound dramatic. Especially to those who couldn’t give a shit whether or not they pass a class. I mean some people go to university and college solely to party with their friends and make memories. But for someone who wanted to go to Law school for the first two years of university, I know what it feels like to think that your entire life’s success depends on academics. I mean sure, if your main goal is to get in to a graduate school then yeah, your GPA might matter a lot. However, after five times changing my major and two different universities, I’ve found that the term “success” relies on more than just having a high GPA. But who is more successful – the student going out drinking every night or the person spending their Friday nights in the library? I guess it depends what you define as success.

“Who is more successful – the student going out drinking every night or the person spending their Friday nights in the library?”

If finding success to some is having good grades and a high GPA, then why doesn’t everyone just take the easiest major to them? It seems like that must be the easiest way to find academic success – just take something you’re good at. Then why is is that approximately 75% of university students change their major at least once before graduation? I am not a part of the decisive 25% as I previously mentioned – I have changed my major five times. You’d think it would be easy to just pick a major that will result in a high GPA. However, there seems to be a pressure to not only be successful academically, but also be happy. It seems wrong to take something that you hate just because you’ll get high marks in it. So, success must not only depend on pure academics as someone with a high GPA, but continuously dreadful would not seem to have found success. When picturing a successful person, I think most people think of someone happy.

Then success must have some element of happiness. What I’ve realized is that finding success in university means to do what you enjoy. It means figuring out what you like and don’t like.

Why You Should Watch Netflix.

Tip #2: Take care of yourself.

By reading the title, you’re probably thinking that this isn’t something that needs to be explained. If you’re anything like me, you might actually need some instruction on how to stop binge-watching Netflix TV shows for days on end. I once watched the entire 10 seasons of Grey’s anatomy in the span of a month. I’m 90% sure I can perform an appendectomy after all those hours. The worst is when the screen goes black in between episodes and I could see my reflection staring back at me. That’s when I knew you needed to get back to reality… but then the next episode loads, so I might as well just watch it. I know, I have a problem. However, watching Netflix and taking time to relax is one of the main pieces of advice I can give to any university student for the following reasons

1. It relives stress.

Watching Netflix is just one of the many ways I procrastinate and ignore my never-ending to-do list. University can be stressful. I’m not one to get easily stressed out, but everyone has a breaking point. A breaking point that comes in the form of watching 10 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in one month. There’s not only academic stress, but also emotional, mental, physical and even social stress to cope with. This isn’t to freak you out, but it is a normal part of being a student. However, everyone has different levels of stress so you never know how stressed out you’ll be until you delve into university.

There’s that classic image floating around the internet with the triangle with each corner labelled with: social life, good grades and enough sleep and it tells you to “pick two”.college-triangle-1hjpwgm.jpg

You may be one of the lucky ones to have all three of these things. For me personally, I pick the no sleep. Four hours of sleep per night is definitely enough, right?

“I’m not one to get easily stressed out, but everyone has a breaking point.”

Although you may have what seems like a never-ending to-do list, it’s important to take a break. Even taking 20 minutes to step away from your textbooks and watch an episode of a TV-show or listen to some music makes a huge difference. Studies show that taking breaks every 45-60 minutes makes your studying more effective. So basically, watching Netflix can actually improve your studying by relieving stress. This isn’t to say that spending an entire day binge-watching TV will improve your GPA. If that were the case my GPA would be flawless. I’m saying that taking breaks from studying and from the other stresses of university can make a huge difference and alleviate a lot of stress.

2. It helps you gain perspective.

To this day, first year was the most stressful year of my entire life. I had major FOMO (fear of missing out). I was so desperate to find my friends for life or find a group that I felt like I perfectly fit in to. I’d always hear people in their mid-40s saying that their roommate in college is still their best friend to this day or that they married their first-year crush. I wanted that so badly. I thought it was the normal pattern for everyone in university. I would attend every single event on campus, regardless of if I was actually interested in it or not. I would go to pub nights, paint parties, free lunches etc. Even social things, like dorm parties, I would be desperate to go to. I would even try to hang out in the cafeteria as much as possible, because I knew that people would always be there. Now that I’m writing this, it sounds really sad. My 18-year-old freshman self was so desperate to find friends that I sacrificed my well-being to do so.

“My 18-year-old freshman self was so desperate to find friends that I sacrificed my well-being to do so.”

The truth is, I never actually found my friend group in first year. It wasn’t until my third year that I started to have friends that now feel like my family.

In first year, I felt like meeting friends and going to parties is the most important thing in my life at the time. If I missed out on something, I felt completely destroyed. However, each year I realized more and more how insignificant all those things really are. I got completely consumed with the social pressure to fit in and be on the inside of all the jokes. I started to realize that university is about more than having the perfect group of friends or having the perfect GPA to get in to law school. University is about growing and figuring out who you are. Okay, this is sounding pretty cheesy. But it’s true.

Taking a night to myself, watching some TV and being by myself allowed me to realize that there is more to life than the university residence bubble I was living in. It’s important to have time to clear your head and get perspective on your current situation and watching Netflix is one way to do this

3. It helps you take care of yourself.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give to someone in university, is to take care of yourself. Self-care is an absolute essential to surviving university. One area of stress can affect all other areas of your life. My idiot 18-year old self was under so much social stress to find friends, that I stressed out mentally, emotionally and academically as well.

It may feel like if you miss that one party you’re going to miss out on making life-long memories and connections. Trust me, it’s worth it to take time for yourself. Stay in for the night and have some alone time to re-charge. Do a face mask, order some food and watch Netflix. My personal favourite thing to do on a night-in is get into my bright pink fleece pajamas, order California rolls from Moon sushi, paint my nails pink and do a charcoal face mask. Doesn’t that sound like heaven? Maybe to some this sounds like a basic-white girl nightmare. Just do whatever works for you to de-stress and relax. It’s not worth sacrificing your well-being and getting burned out just for the possibility that you might miss out on something. Besides, nothing that memorable happens at first-year parties. It’s mostly just people getting way too drunk and being out of control.

I’ve found that meaningful friendships and relationships happen naturally. It’s not something you can force and they happen in the most random ways. I met my boyfriend at a random potluck because he asked me to pass him a glass of water. I ended up forgetting that the glass I filled was for him and he watched me drink half of it. The point is, it’s okay to spend some alone time in your room watching Netflix. It helps de-stress, get some perspective and take care of yourself. These are all essential things to surviving university.

 

University Expectations

Tip #1: Get rid of any expectations going into university.

University ads are the worst. They have pictures of a perfectly balanced multicultural group of smiling students, dressed in white lab coats measuring out brightly coloured liquids into a beaker and laughing. The pictures of the dorm rooms look like they are straight out of an aisle in Ikea.

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This is not realistic.

 

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Neither is this.

Everything looks so candid and everyone seems to have their life together. I wish I could make a realistic version of university ads. It would have a photo of my three friends and I sharing a $7 jug of Girls Night Out “Wine” on a Tuesday night, ignoring all of our assignments and watching the Bachelor in Paradise in our pajamas at 8pm. There would also definitely be some sort of graph outlining my declining GPA and the declining will to fix it.

At 17 years old, I would look at these pamphlets at the university fairs and fantasize the glamourous life of university. However, now I sit a 21 years old in my senior year dorm room here to tell you that this is the exact opposite of how it really is. And by “it” I mean the realistic and raw experience of being in university. I mean sure, you could decorate your room to look like a Pinterest board. Personally, that was one choice I did make.

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My university dorm room.

But the image of having your life together? Now that’s as far from reality as university gets. I’m not writing this to completely destroy university and college for you. In these four years, I changed and grew more than I ever knew was possible. I think most seniors in university can agree that their 18-year old freshman self is pretty much gone. I mean, you probably won’t be candidly sitting in a circle on the field with your multi-cultural group of friends, talking about how perfect your life is. If anything, you might sit with your group of friends and cry in your dorm room together about how much of a mess your life is. I know, it’s so glamourous, right? But you might grow into the person you’ve always wanted to be. You might even have the best four years of your life. This is getting cringey. Back to the point.

“If anything, you might sit with your group of friends and cry in your dorm room together about how much of a mess your life is.”

I feel as though the biggest piece of advice I can give to someone entering university is: erase all expectations. I’m not saying to go in with a negative mindset and think that university is going to be a shit storm. I mean, it might. But it probably won’t be. I’m saying be careful to have a head full of expectations. I know it probably seems like everyone’s first year roommate ends up in their wedding party and they met the love of their life in their first lecture. But the truth is, it can take months and even years to find friends that you truly connect with. Most people don’t even end up talking to the people that they hung out with in their first year.

I transferred universities, so I basically re-lived first year twice. Both years I didn’t connect at all with my roommates in the slightest. I spent most of the time in the library and skyping my Mom. I know, it sounds pathetic. But, that’s the way it is for a lot of people. At least, that’s what I told myself. My mom said that it was normal, and it sounds pretty legit to me. When I moved in, I expected to immediately become best friends with my roommates and have them for life. I got so disappointed because of the expectations I had created in my head.

“I got so disappointed because of the expectations I had created in my head.”

Honestly, just have an open mind and befriend people that you usually wouldn’t. Although some people may not seem like the ideal friend-group you’re looking for, just give people a chance. You may be surprised at who you connect with. You may also be surprised how irritating people are. Either way, you’ll gain some knowledge of who you get along with.

The first few months or even years of university, it seems like everyone around you has a big group of friends and is having the best time of their life. But honestly, everyone is in the exact same boat, feeling anxious, desperately hoping to fit in, and on the verge of an existential crisis. It’s okay. Don’t put pressure on yourself to fulfill the expectations you have in your head about university. It’s going to be an experience that you will never forget. It may even be the best four years of your life. It’s impossible to know until you get there and journey into the experience of university life.