I would like to begin this article by welcoming all of our incoming students to Acadia and Wolfville. Whether or not you’re planning on being here for four years (or more), your life as you know it will not be the same by the time you leave us. After spending nearly five years at this institution, I’ve rounded up some tips to share so that you incoming students can avoid some major gaffes while you’re here. I could say that this article is going to set you up for academic success or an unforgettable university experience, but it won’t. The beauty of Acadia is that from your first class to your very last exam, it’s your job to make university what you want it to be. But, whoever you are and wherever you’re from, there are some things that are helpful to know as you embark on this journey. I won’t say one point is more important than another, but as always, we should start with why you’re here: your education.
Depending on the requirements of your degree, some of these suggestions will be more difficult to implement than others. In general, try to avoid classes beginning at 8:30 in the morning or ending at 10 at night. It seems that the rates of absences increase in these time slots. In other words, you probably won’t go, and if you do it will be an irregular occurrence. Your schedule will be occasionally hectic, especially if you have back to back lectures in different buildings. If I could recommend a classroom to avoid it would be Huggins 10 in the fall semester. It has a famous oven-like quality in early September, something those of you in introductory psychology have likely already experienced. Other than that, you’re safe to take a class in whatever time slot you like best. If you get particularly lucky, you may even wind up with a schedule that gives you a few days off.
Another important aspect of your time here will be assigned readings, which can come in a number of formats, but none costlier than your textbooks. Much of this will again depend on your program, but you can be sure that you’ll spend a minimum of three hundred dollars on textbooks per semester if you buy them all from the bookstore. However, there are ways to avoid spending so much on books. It often helps to ask your professor if you’ll be using the assigned textbooks a lot. If the answer is anything but “yes,” it’s probably safe to say you can simply borrow it from someone else in your class or take it out at the library if its available. Buying used textbooks is a great way to save money as well – you can save anywhere from twenty to seventy percent if you buy them from a buy and sell group on Facebook and buying them on Amazon is sometimes cheaper as well. In select cases there may even be a free online PDF – you’ll have to search hard for free versions, but when you consider that some textbooks can cost hundreds it is definitely worth your precious time to find as many free versions as you can.
When it comes to classes, you should also maintain a good relationship with your professors. They will dictate both your grade and your experience in their classroom, so ask upper year students which professors they recommend and which they avoid. I can tell you that after four years here you’ll know each one of your professors and their quirks. Speak with your professors during their office hours as often as you think is reasonable: seeing my professors in their offices has saved me hours of work and has usually resulted in improved grades. Acadia is particularly unique for the access that our students have to professors and you would be wise to use it often.
After you finish all your course work, you will have to write one or more exam per semester, and the recipe for success on these finals is very simple. Start studying two weeks before your first exam, sleep, eat, study, write, repeat. Your health during exam season should be your first priority.
I would love studying if it weren’t so tedious and time consuming, but it has to be done. The Ath has published articles in the recent past detailing how best to study and where the best study spots on campus are, but my advice would be to find out what works for you. Study in the library, study in Just Us! cafe, study in the KCIC, study wherever you find yourself most comfortable. Study when it’s convenient, and study often.
Everything I can tell you about your classes, exams, professors and everything else about academics will never save you from the mandatory eight-thirty lecture or the three-hundred-dollar biology textbook, but it might make life a little easier. If you can manage to show up to class on time, take half decent notes, and perform well on your finals you’re most of the way there. But, with all that Acadia has to offer, it would be the greatest mistake of your life to come here to spend four years with your nose in the books.
University is what could be categorized as a “challenge by choice” environment. This means that you as an incoming student are in a very unique position. If you want to take it easy over four years and do the bare minimum, more power to you – but I can’t imagine that’s the case. There are endless opportunities to challenge and enrich yourself through Acadia’s many clubs, societies, and other extracurricular happenings. If you like writing, there is a club for that; if you like debate, there is a club for that. There is a club for everything, and an exhaustive list of Acadia’s clubs can be found here (Link http://theasu.ca/campus-life/clubs/), but if you can’t find a club that you think fits with your interests, start one! There are also a number of excellent volunteer groups, for example S.M.I.L.E., which does incredible work for our community, or the Acadia Food Cupboard which opened just last year. Whatever it is that you like to do, you should seek out a club that you like. Two personal favourites of mine are the Acadia Model United Nations Association and the Acadia Rugby Football Club. Both are very good examples of clubs and communities that can open interesting doors for you.
This article would be distinctly lacking if I didn’t mention the social aspect of your time here. Weekends are always fun at Acadia. Go out with your friends, whether it’s to a house party or the Vil – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I should also remind you to “keep it social,” but that mantra is unlikely to save you from violent alcohol induced illness or the “Irish flu” that is likely to follow. I would say that I’ve been successful at moderating my intake but like any student there are mornings when I’ve worn sunglasses in class. The best practice for these moments is black coffee and Tylenol. Have responsible fun and enjoy the nightlife.
Regardless of how closely you follow the above suggestions, there are two things that will take you far here. First, jump into all university has to offer with both feet. By that I mean you should do things all the way. Get as involved as you can. Run for a position on the Acadia Student’s Union, write for the Ath, start a club, go to as many sports events as you can, go out with friends, talk with your professors about things that aren’t class related. I can’t guarantee you that you’ll succeed in everything you do here, but I can guarantee you that if you jump into life you’ll never be unhappy, and you’ll certainly never be bored.
My last piece of advice is that you should do your best to be kind to one another. Take ten seconds out of your day and ask that person from your class how they’re doing. Hold the door for your professors, they’re people too. Do a favour for someone without expecting anything in return. The challenge that you’ve undertaken by coming to university is significant, and the journey that you’ll be on over the next four years will be difficult. You will have moments when you wonder why you came here, you will have times when you’ve gone without sleep, you will miss deadlines or get grades that aren’t as high as you wanted them to be but if you walk into this place with kindness, you can’t lose. You can be sure that a small act of kindness will make somebody’s day.
To conclude, congratulations on choosing this extraordinary place. You do belong here. You will get your degree. You will figure it out.
Christopher Vanderburgh is a fifth-year (Honours) Politics student and Features Editor of The Athenaeum