back to school survival guide


I feel great about returning to school as a second-year student instead of a lost and confused first year. Don’t need to worry about people not knowing my name. Don’t need to reconsider my decision to attend because I’m too far into the program to make a run for it. But most importantly, I don’t need to worry that I will have a dreadfully awkward first week.

Some of you, however, will be making your grand entrance through the gates of overpriced knowledge this year, so here are a few survival tips to help you along the way.

To undergrads it’s known as frosh, but to grad students orientation is six Powerpoint presentations by academic advisors who are paid to lecture you on the importance of getting involved in activities outside of school. Yes, you may have invested $10,000 towards your education, but it’s only one part of the overall equation. For a better idea of what I’m talking about, see below.

Estimated Real World Success =

(Grades  + Internships or co-op  +   trust fund   —  sleep  —  debt)   /  Cost of degree    x  clubs or committees or conferences you participated in per school year

Ice Breakers
Nearly every class will incorporate an ice breaker of some sorts to make you even more uncomfortable and nervous than you already are. To prepare, try to remember your name, where you’re from, your previous degree, why you chose the program, and one interesting thing about yourself that will win over friends. If that last one is a problem, just say your favourite show is The Simpsons. People like pop culture references. It makes you seem down-to-earth and “with it”.

Another common question is the one that every faculty member is curious to know: what do you want to do after graduation? People want specifics and this opens up an opportunity to show them how creative you are at lying.

On those special occasions you feel like cracking open a textbook, you need a good study spot, as well as a back-up study spot in case some jerk decides to take a nap where you were originally sitting. A desk with a bit of sunlight, room to leave your snacks, and within walking distance of a clean washroom works best.

Try not to walk into the wrong one. If you do, pretend you received a very important phone call and make a beeline for the door.

Starbucks is not dinner. Spend some time on those first few days to see what’s around campus. Twenty-four hour supermarkets will save you from passing out during late-night essay-a-thons.

One perk of being a journalism student is the free printing. If you’re in any other field, expect to fork over your lunch money to print out your readings. Keep a little extra credit on your student card for this as well as for photocopying.

Making the Grade
Your profs may never learn your name, but they may remember your face. Ask them lots of questions about the class. Easy ones, of course, so they appear smart and useful.

Making Friends
The first few weeks are crucial in terms of building a large pool of friends who could bail you out when you skip five classes. Be on speaking terms with the keeners and play nice with everyone else. Your job network will build up from there so Facebook friend your classmates, pronto. Wait until you completed the course, however, before you add your profs. They don’t need to know what time you actually started working on their assignments.


2 thoughts on “back to school survival guide

  1. karonliu says:

    I actually walked into a wrong classroom in fourth year. First sign was that I didn’t know anyone in the class. Second sign was the prof giving out handouts for a class I don’t remember signing up for. It took a good five minutes after that before I feigned having to go to the washroom, packed all my things and left.

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