Five Ways to Succeed as an Undergrad

A Reflection on My University Experience

Over the past five years, I’ve grown so much, made some amazing lifelong friends, and become a true master of the sacred art of memorization. Just kidding about the last part: I’m still not the best at that yet. Jokes aside, university has been a great time, and as I near graduation, I’ve been reflecting on my time at uOttawa. From this reflection, I’ve come up with five of the most important ways to achieve both academic and personal success in university.

So, without further ado, let’s settle in and get started.

Plan and Organize

The most common tip, but one that’s incredibly important, is to plan and organize. When I first started university, I found it difficult to keep up in class and I felt very lost with the material. As a result, I didn’t do too well in my courses during my first term. One of the ways I turned things around was by sitting down, laying out a to-do list, prioritizing tasks, and then organizing a schedule. It was at that point, in my second term, that I really started to see a massive difference in my marks and how I was doing in general. With a proper plan and schedule in place, you can go about your day with fewer worries and less stress, and really focus on what’s important. It keeps your mind from wandering all over the place by giving you something to refer back to.

For more on planning and organizing, check out our other articles in the Mentor’s Corner.

Find Balance

This point goes hand-in-hand with the last one. It’s important to stay on top of your studies, but that doesn’t mean that you need to avoid taking some time out for yourself. Spend some time catching up with your friends over coffee at Happy Goat, or hit up Alirang for some amazing Korean food (I promise I’m not sponsored: I just really like these places). It’s important to take care of yourself in university, so please try not to sacrifice your well-being for anything else. My suggestion is to work with your schedule and block out times of the week where you can stop studying and take some time for yourself.

Your mental health is definitely the number one priority, so creating balance in your schedule and in your life is crucial to any kind of success.

Get Involved

One of the best things I did during my time at uOttawa was to start a music appreciation club on campus called uOttawa TalkMusic. It allowed me to meet others with a shared interest in music, and to find “my people.” You don’t need to start a club to connect with others, but joining one might be a good start. There are tons of clubs on campus, from cultural and religious clubs to fraternities and sororities. You can check out a full list here. To get involved, you don’t necessarily need to join a club either. You can join your faculty’s student association, volunteer as a 101 Week guide, join an intramural sports team, or even find a paid-work option on campus.

There are tons of things going on at university; getting involved really helps provide a sense of community and support, and something to look forward to each day. For more information on how to get involved, check out the student guide website.

Seek Help from Those Who Came Before You

Think about what you’d say to a Grade 9 student about to start at your high school. What kinds of tips and advice would you give them? I’m sure you’d have a lot to say. Similarly, students like me, who’ve been at university for a couple years, have been through a whole lot of experiences and have a ton of advice to share. Reaching out to an older student who is in your program can set you off on the right foot, and we’re all incredibly happy to share our advice!

If you don’t know any older students, think about dropping by your faculty’s mentoring centre, where you can sit down and talk to a mentor who has been in the same position you are in right now and can provide you with some perspective. Find out more about uOttawa’s mentoring services.

Surround Yourself with People You Want to Resemble

Now my final tip, and the most important, is to try to surround yourself with people you want to resemble. In my case, the friends I’ve made have been instrumental in helping me achieve success. We’ve been able to create a competitive, yet communal, atmosphere for one another, in which we all motivate and support one another in reaching our goals. Every time one of us sets the bar high in some area, we all see it as a learning opportunity for self-improvement and as a chance to help one another get there. My peers have played an immense part in my growth as a person, and on that basis, I really cannot stress enough the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people in university. It makes a world of difference.

These past five years have been some of the best of my life, and I really hope that you will feel the same way once you reach this point. I encourage you to try to squeeze every last drop from your undergraduate experience, because before you know it, you’ll be the one up on stage graduating with a degree in your hand and a smile on your face.

Student mentor Ash posing in the CRX building atrium

Ash, Student Mentor

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