I had written an earlier blog about my trials and tribulations while navigating my post-secondary adventure. During my journey I picked up a few things that worked well and some things that were an absolute disaster. My son is in his final year of high school and I don’t want him to make the same mistakes I did.
Below are the 184 suggestions that I have gathered for my kids. Okay, there may not be 184 but when you see them all written down it looks like a lot. I have a lot to tell! And I say ‘suggestions’ because as much as we can tell our children, it’s up to them whether or not they actually heed our advice. When reading this, keep in mind that I am not an advisor or a counsellor, these are just my fatherly opinions.
- Put school first.Your hard work in high school has paid off and now you are in the program you always wanted. It’s not cheap! Work hard and make it worth it. If you work hard in school, all your friends and social networks will come together to complement all of your hard work.
- Don’t be the social butterfly. This was my downfall at university. I felt I had to be the social butterfly and say yes to everyone. There were Aggie Pubs on Wednesdays, Thursday night was the night to go out and then it’s Friday night! Saturday rolls along and you can’t stay home… the point is, take everything in moderation. You don’t have to say yes to everyone and your true friends will not be offended if you say no to them.
- Make one good decision a day. I recently heard one of my coworkers say he gave this advice to his son. Don’t be overwhelmed by what school you are going to pick, what courses you’re going to take, what kind of job you will get etc. Learn to make one good decision per day and the rest of your decisions will fall in line. For example, make the decision to attend your 8:00 am class even though you were up until 1:00 am last night. Choose to go to the library for an hour in between classes instead of going back in your room (you won’t study in your room). If you make these decisions on a daily basis you will teach yourself how to make bigger and better decisions down the road.
- Demonstrate a strong work ethic. Strong marks will show your work ethic but joining clubs and activities will also show your teachers and potential employers your commitment to planning and juggling various activities.
- Understand that your pathway may change.
Don’t be upset if your first choice of school, program or major doesn’t work out. Your interests, motivations or even your marks may dictate that this isn’t the program or school for you. That’s okay. Go to where you will be successful. You know your family will support you.
- Make some friends. It’s so important to have friends that you can lean on, lend an ear to and do fun stuff with. You will figure out who the hard workers are in your classes and make an effort to connect with them. You will help each other.
- Sit in the front of the classroom. Your teachers know that the people at the back of the room are not as interested in paying attention. Yes, you may get asked more questions but it will force you to do your homework and keep up with the readings.
- Be present and participate.
You may be in class but are you on Facebook, on your smartphone or tablet, distracting the person behind you? Show the teacher and your classmates respect by giving it your full attention.
- Get to know your teachers/teacher’s assistants. Make eye contact with them. You get to know them and you will be more involved. Tell your teacher if you have to leave early or apologize for coming in late. It’s a courtesy and they will respect you for it.
- Treat your time in post-secondary as a networking/job interview. One of my colleagues told me that you just never know where your classmates will end up. Some students get hired on with a company and the employer may ask them if they can recommend a couple of their graduating classmates for an interview. Your faculty at your school may also have contacts in the industry that you can tap into.
- Join a club, volunteer, exercise. I’m going to sound like a textbook here, but research has shown that being more involved on campus will lead to better marks in school. You also need to find a good work/life balance. You can’t study all the time, especially with a difficult workload. Sometimes a quick trip to the gym for an hour is a really good opportunity to use up energy so that you can actually focus better when you get back to studying. Joining a club, activity or volunteering looks really good on a resume and you can meet new people.
- Call home at least once a week. Your parents are always curious as to what you are up to and secretly would love to call you everyday. Call (or text) regularly and keep them in the loop.
- Watch your money. At the start of the semester it may seem like you have a lot of money (potentially, given your circumstances with student loans, grants etc.) but if you don’t manage it properly, you could fall short. Some money savers: bring your lunch to school (cafeteria food is expensive and high in fats, salts etc.); buy used books where you can (Amazon, Kijiji, your school bookstore will have used books); carpool; and watch the booze, it can kill the budget!
- Be nice and respectful to your neighbors. If you are living off campus become a part of the community, be respectful to your neighbors. If you’re having a party, shut it down early so you don’t make enemies. You will also gain respect in your neighborhood if you cut your lawn and look after your house and garbage.
- Get help if you need it – ASAP. Whether you are suffering with your marks, time management skills, or anxiety pressures, to name a just a few, there are lots of options to get help. Don’t wait until exam time, the sooner you can get help the better. Help is available through your teachers, program coordinators, Learning Commons or Counselling. Take advantage of it.
- Manage your time and your tasks.
Whether you have a journal, or you use the calendar function in your phone or computer, make note of all your activities. Schedule in study time and break time. And stick to it. You will find that if you setup a schedule you won’t have the ‘all nighters’ that I had.
- Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. This ties into my point above, if you schedule your time right, you should be able to get the proper sleep you need. If you get your proper sleep, you will be more attentive in class, it will be easier to study and go to the gym.
- Arrive early to class. If you get there early, you can get a good seat and you will get to know your teachers. Just be warned, you will look like a keener (and that’s okay). Try to get to every class, especially the Friday 8 am classes, some teachers will put the important content in that class knowing many students won’t be there.
- Go overseas!
An international experience while in school is amazing. While in college I did a two month placement in Germany working for Mercedes and traveled every weekend. It’s an experience you can talk about for the rest of your life and it sets you apart from other applicants for your job interviews.
- Seek job advice on campus. Go to your Career Centre, counsellor, program coordinator, or a teacher you respect and they can give you job advice. Your school will also have employer liaisons who have connections in industry. Take advantage of what your school has available. They can help you with your resume and prepare for your interviews.
- Plan to get an entry level job. You’ve just finished your program and now you have to get a job. You won’t be stepping into a well-paying management role, you have to get your hands dirty and get some experience. With the credential you have, you may eventually step into management roles but you need the experience first.
- Don’t make decisions based on your boyfriend/girlfriend. If you truly love each other, you’ll make it work no matter where you are. And more importantly, use a condom!
- Last but not least…Have fun and enjoy the journey!
Do you have any tips that you have given or been told that really helped you? I would love to hear them. Leave your comments in the field below.
Thanks for reading and good luck to all those future students out there!