UTM’s declassified first-year survival guide
A letter from UTM students to incoming students.

Transitioning to university can be overwhelming, especially in first year where you’re experimenting and finding out what’s the best fit for you. Whether it’s moving away from home, or getting used to a different study environment, university can be stressful. We, at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), want to make this transition easy by giving you, the new student, some tips. So, without further ado, welcome to UTM’s declassified first-year survival guide! 

Here are some students from different backgrounds and years talking about their experiences at UTM and some tips that might be useful to you as an incoming first-year student. 

One of the main struggles you might face is the change in workload. Krishna Teraiya, a third-year student double majoring in biology and psychology, highlights that the high school workload is completely different from the university workload. “It was a bit much but what I did was overcome [it through] time management and dividing my courses from the hardest course to easiest to know what I should be focusing on more.” 

Similarly, Aayushie Srivastava, a first-year international student planning on double majoring in management and environmental science, highlights the struggle of balancing your personal and student life. “I am planning on doing a double major and hence I have a good load of science and commerce courses in my semester. On the other hand, I am an international student and I live off-campus.” She also describes her initial struggle to make friends. “In the beginning, I did not interact with people outside of my lectures and tutorials. So, I found it pretty hard to make friends that are not just limited to class, and there were times when homesickness used to hit.”

Srivastava describes the importance of giving yourself the time to take in the new environment and noting down the changes by creating a schedule. “I figured out a schedule which would help me stay on top of my classes and would also give me some time for myself, to relax and be productive with small things like household chores and talking to my family across the globe [which I think was very important to keep me going in university].” 

Srivastava also highlights the importance of not pressuring yourself too much in trying to maintain your social and academic life, as that has helped her navigate through first year. 

First year is a year where you navigate university life and find what works best for you. If something doesn’t work out, don’t panic. Try finding a different approach whether it be regarding study methods, making friends, and even mental health. 

As one method to overcome loneliness, Teraiya encourages people to join groups on social media to make friends. “I made a few friends before [the first semester of university] started through UofT group chats.” She also highlights the importance of mentorship and becoming friends with an upper-year student as “they can help a lot too. They can show you around campus and guide you throughout your first year.” 

Students can always network with upper-year students through clubs. Many of the clubs at UTM have mentorship programs in place that can help you connect with an upper-year student in your field of study and serve as a guide throughout the semester. 

University is also a place where you work toward your anticipated future. Srivastava brings up making POSt. “It is in the second year of university that you have to decide your major. So, you can use the first year to see if you like the courses you’re taking, because it is very common for students’ preferences to change when transitioning from high school to university. Luckily, you have the option to drop any course which you think doesn’t fit your interests.” She stresses the importance of joining academic societies and clubs as they can help you discover more information about the work field through different panels and activities throughout the year. “Do not panic if you find yourself completely disinterested in something that you thought of as your career in high school. You have plenty of options to explore.” 

Srivastava and Teraiya also have some general advice and study tips that they used to succeed. Srivastava points out the importance of following a schedule due to how easy it is to fall behind with the fast pace of classes. “I know it is extremely difficult to follow a set timetable but that is the best option to keep you on track. I am not telling you to build a timetable for the entire week. Have a to-do list for your day and have a daily timetable according to that list.” She highlights how it helps with effectiveness and efficiency when it comes to studying. “This will make your work much easier without having to make you feel like every second of your life is governed by a timetable.” 

Teraiya recommended dividing your course study material from hardest to easiest and organizing your schedule and tasks in advance to utilize your time effectively. It helps with studying efficiently and making time for your social life. “Using a to-do list, prioritize your tasks, and mak[ing] sure to stay on top of things, even if it means working on assignments beforehand. What is nice about university is that you have access to the syllabus and the schedule of when everything is due. So, make sure to read the syllabus and take note of all of the deadlines within the different courses.” 

The two also have some words of motivation for you.

Teraiya: “First of all, welcome to UofT! All the best for your studies. Study hard, but also, don’t forget to make time for yourself between studies. It can be overwhelming at first, but don’t let it get to you too much.”

Srivastava: “To all the new incoming students, UTM actually welcomes you with open arms. There are plenty of opportunities for you to explore. It is not going to be a bed of roses. There will be bad days. DO NOT stress yourself with peer pressure or the pressure of making 500 friends in the first year. Try protecting your mental peace as much as you can, and just try to have the best time possible! Especially for international students, I know it might be difficult but please stay in touch with your long-distance loved ones as much as possible. UTM is very academically competitive but also gives you the chance to have the time of your life! All the best!” 

You’re now wrapping up one chapter of your life and turning to a new one, and we hope that this UTM declassified guide to first year proved helpful to you. Best of luck on your journey in UTM!


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