September To-Do List
Written by: Savannah Staszkiel, 2nd Year MIT
Photo by: Adobe Stock
Starting a new chapter of your life at university is without a doubt a daunting time for many. Whether you are moving to a new city, will be living on your own for the first time, or are not completely sure of what it is you will be studying, as a new student you will face and embrace all these new challenges and experiences in your own way. Although it’s key to remember that you can never be entirely prepared for your first year, there are many ways you can academically brace yourself for the upcoming year.
1. Get familiar with your courses before the first day
At this point in time, you have completed the first, and for a new student probably one of the hardest steps of first-year – registering for your classes. However, now that you have an idea of the subjects you will be studying, it’s time to familiarize yourself with not only an overview of the course content but the structure of the course. Does it have a midterm? A final exam? Long essays? A lot of group work? Surprisingly enough, all these questions can be answered by a quick Google search. Just look up the course name and it is extremely likely that you will come across a course syllabus. Although it is important to keep in mind that a course syllabus you find may be slightly outdated or created by a different professor, it is still a great way to prepare you for the type of work the course will require you to do. Then on the first day when your professor sends out the current syllabus, you will already be one step ahead of your classmates.
2. Get in touch with an academic advisor
I cannot stress the importance of an academic advisor enough, and it is super easy to do. All you have to do is email your faculty (which can be found on Western’s website) to set up an appointment. The advisor you are assigned will be able to answer any general faculty inquires, program progression requirements, and course-related questions (or can direct you to the right place/person to answer any other questions you may have). Your advisor will also help you with adding/dropping courses and will ensure you meet all the requirements for graduation.
3. Connect with your professor or TA
Once classes begin, I highly recommend that you make an effort to get to know your instructors. Although large lecture halls (or Zoom calls) filled with many students can be daunting, your professors and TAs care about your learning and want you to succeed. One of the best ways to meet with your instructors is through office hours. Depending on the size of the class some professors will run office hours, and other courses will use the TAs. Either way, these people specialize in the fields they are teaching and are able to answer any questions related to course content (and some will be able to offer more general advice if you please). Not to mention, they are also the people who will be marking your assignments and exams, so whenever you have the opportunity to help your instructor “put a face to the name”, take it.
4. Explore OWL
Lastly, learn how to navigate OWL. OWL is the platform Western uses for essentially every academic and even some non-academic-related matters. All your courses will be found on OWL, and each course site allows professors and TAs to upload the course outlines, week overviews, readings, lectures (if online), notes, assignments, and extra content. In addition, this platform is also often utilized to submit assignments. OWL can be overwhelming at first, but if you dedicate some time to explore the site, it will make your learning experience a lot more enjoyable.
All in all, even if you take some or all of my advice, I can’t guarantee that you won’t face any difficulties in your first year at Western. University is a learning experience and learning to embrace the challenges and preparing to expect the unexpected is all a part of the journey! All in all, even if you take some or all of my advice, I can’t guarantee that you won’t face any difficulties in your first year at Western. University is a learning experience and learning to embrace the challenges and preparing to expect the unexpected is all a part of the journey!
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