Succeeding in your first year: Strategies for triumph!
From effective note-taking to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, discover the keys to success in academia and beyond.

First-year courses can seem very daunting. The endless lectures, assignments, and exams are no easy task. But fear not, for I have embarked on my own journey through the academic maze and discovered some invaluable tips and tricks along the way: 

Master the art of note-taking

Effective note-taking is a fundamental element for achieving success in your university journey. To optimize your classroom experience, there are several valuable note-taking strategies to consider. Firstly, adopting digital note-taking apps like OneNote can significantly enhance your organization and accessibility. OneNote allows you to access your notes seamlessly across various devices. Another helpful technique is the Cornell Method, which involves structuring your notes into sections for main ideas, keywords, and summaries. This method not only helps with comprehension, but also facilitates easier review. Lastly, active listening is an essential studying technique. Engage actively with the lecture material by paraphrasing, asking questions, and recording your thoughts. By doing that, you will reinforce your understanding and contribute to more effective note-taking overall, making it easier to study for finals later. 

Plan wisely

Navigating a successful university life requires meticulous planning to balance academic responsibilities and personal commitments. Here are several planning techniques that have proven to be highly beneficial, in my experience. First and foremost, utilize a planner—whether physical or digital—to maintain a comprehensive record of deadlines, appointments, and to-do lists. Implementing a weekly review of all your course content can also be incredibly valuable. Allocate time each week to assess and organize upcoming assignments and exams. This will help you mitigate last-minute stress and ensure a proactive approach to your workload. Finally, prioritize your tasks. When you prioritize your responsibilities and address important items first, you can tackle the most crucial tasks effectively while leaving time for the lower-priority tasks to still be completed. These planning techniques collectively contribute to a more organized and successful university experience.

Organize your study environment

An organized study space is vital for maximizing your focus and productivity. Although it may sound difficult to achieve an organized environment for studying, there are many hacks you can use to jump start your clean up. Firstly, make decluttering a regular habit to ensure your study area remains tidy and free of unnecessary distractions. Next, employ colour coding by using coloured folders or digital tags to categorize your subjects and materials. Finally, minimize distractions by eliminating temptations such as social media and noisy surroundings during your study sessions. These strategies collectively contribute to a study environment that promotes enhanced learning and concentration.

Collaborate and network

University offers more than just academics—it’s a unique chance to cultivate relationships and gain insights from your peers and professionals. To make the most of this aspect of your university experience, join study groups. Collaborating with classmates can lead to a deeper comprehension of complex subjects and exposes you to diverse perspectives. Additionally, growing a network is key. Attend university events, seminars, and workshops to broaden your knowledge and establish connections with like-minded individuals and industry leaders. These interactions not only enrich your academic journey, but also offer opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Have a healthy work-life balance

Striking a harmonious balance between academics and personal life is crucial for sustaining mental and physical well-being throughout your university journey. To achieve this equilibrium, incorporate short breaks into your study routine to recharge your mind and prevent burnout. As well, prioritize regular physical activity and maintain a balanced diet to ensure you stay energized and focused. Allocate dedicated time for hobbies, relaxation and socializing to maintain a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle. By implementing these practices, you can foster a sustainable and thriving equilibrium between your academic and personal pursuits.

Seek help when needed

When encountering challenges in your university journey, it is crucial to proactively seek assistance. The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) offers a wide range of support. You can attend your professors’ or teaching assistants’ office hours for course material clarification. You can also consult academic advisors for guidance on your academic path. Moreover, it’s important to prioritize your mental health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to UTM’s mental health services if you’re facing any challenges. All these resources offer the help you need to overcome any obstacle you might encounter during your time at UTM, and help you to succeed throughout your university experience.

Figuring out how to manage your course load in university is full of trial and error. Note-taking, planning, and organizing are your allies in this journey. Remember that it’s okay to adapt and refine these techniques to suit your unique needs. Stay organized, stay curious, and embrace the challenges of academia with confidence. You’ve got this!

Associate News Editor (Volume 50) — Karine is currently completing her bachelor’s degree specializing in Digital Enterprise Management at UTM. She has been involved with The Medium since 2022 as a contributor. She hopes to contribute to society's efforts to provide authentic and factual journalistic media to educate her readers during her time at The Medium. Her goal is to take her interest in ongoing research within the business and technology field and explore ways to share it with others through this platform. In her spare time, she enjoys going on walks, FaceTiming her family, and painting sunsets with her friends. Moreover, she passionately pursues the chase of the Aurora Borealis, seeking to experience and capture the breathtaking beauty of these natural light displays. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.


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