Monday, 28 August 2017

10 Things To Do Before The First Day of Classes

Can you believe it? Summer is almost over and the most dreaded/loved (take your pick) time of the year will soon be upon us.

As you prepare for what may be your first year or your final year on campus here at the University of Alberta, here are a few things to check off before the first day.

1. Explore campus

If you are going into your first year or are a transfer student, make sure to take a tour of your campus prior to the first day of classes. You should probably consider taking a quick walk around even if you’re a returning student (just in case)!

That way, you can explore the fastest way to your classes and get to know where the major landmarks are (HUB Mall, SUB, Van Vliet to name a few) without having to deal with the tens of thousands of people who will also be on campus during the first week.

If you are clueless about the difference between L1-140 and 1-140 in CCIS, the University of Alberta has an interactive online map that displays the floor plans of buildings on all its campuses to help you out. And, you can always stop by the nearest InfoLink booth to ask for directions in person – they’ll point you in the right direction.

2. Double check which textbooks you actually need

Make no mistake, buying textbooks can be expensive. The worst feeling is when you end up barely touching a page of the brand-new textbook you bought. To avoid this, always read the syllabi for your courses to see if the textbook is recommended or optional and ask your professors if the textbook will be relied upon heavily during the entire course.

If the textbook is mandatory, you still do not have to buy a brand-new one. Check with the professor to see if older editions of the textbook will suffice, and check the Used Book Registry (where you can sometimes find books for free – yes people literally give them away!), scour Facebook groups and Kijiji to get the best deal.  You can also look for used books in The Bookstore (they'll have a big "Used" sticker on them). You can also buy the electronic version of a textbook or see if any of your friends have a copy from last semester that they could lend you.

3. Get your student loans in order

If you are going to be applying for student loans for the upcoming school year, make sure to do so well in advance before your tuition payments for the fall semester are due on September 29, 2017. Most students who apply during the summer for the fall semester receive their funds in late August or early September.

If you do not need loans for this year but have taken out one in prior years, do not forget to complete the Confirmation of Enrolment form so your loans can be kept interest-free until you graduate.

4. Go to Orientation

The first few days can be tough if you do not know anyone on campus. This year’s New Student Orientation is on September 4th, providing new students with presentations, tours, and activities to help them make new friends and get to know what campus life is all about. Plus, if you live in Residence, you get to attend BaseCamp, and new international students will start to settle in with the help of Transitions.

Some faculties including the Alberta School of Business and the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences will also have their own orientation events so keep an eye out on your UAlberta Gmail account for updates.

5. Check out your prof on RateMyProf

By now, you should have a professor’s name assigned to the course you have enrolled in on BearTracks. RateMyProf is a great way to see what your professor might be like and how they will test you on midterms and finals. While your mileage may vary, RateMyProf gives you a glimpse of what to expect from your professor. (Just keep in mind that all of the opinions are those of past students who might not have done well in the class, and blamed the prof… so sometimes you have to take the reviews with a grain of salt.)

6. Log into your student portal 

Whether you use eClass, ULearn, or any other student portals, it is important to log on before the first day to read announcements for your courses. You might be asked to bring specific things for the first day, or perhaps one of your classes was cancelled on the first day – either way, you want to be as prepared as you can be!

7. Pick up your U-Pass sticker 

One of the things students most commonly forget on the bus ride to the first day is their U-Pass stickers! If you can pick it up before the first day, you will save yourself $3.25 on the way to classes. You will also save yourself the hassle of long lineups when they are being mass-distributed through InfoLink locations across campus (check the U-Pass website for exact times and locations.

Note: If you're entering your first year at the U of A, you'll receive your U-Pass when you get your ONEcard.

8. Organize your first few weeks with an online calendar 

The first few weeks of school can be hectic. Between classes, work, meetups, group projects, club activities, and events, there is usually a lot going on. You do not want to miss out on any of them so make sure to organize all your activities using a calendar.

Usually, I would recommend doing it electronically on your laptop or on your phone so your calendar is easily at hand. Keep in mind: your Gmail calendar syncs to your Android phone and you can also choose to sync your Mac and iPhone calendars together through iCloud.

9. Research student groups you would like to join 

There is a saying in university that goes: always be involved. It is sound advice – being a part of student groups on campus can be very rewarding. Not only do you get to meet lots of friendly people, but you can also pursue your passions including photography, human rights, entrepreneurship, and leadership. With over 450 student groups, there is literally one for every interest out there. Plus, checking them out online might make it easier for you to decide who you want to look for at the Clubs’ Fair during the Week of Welcome.

10. It's okay to be a little nervous 

This is the Bookstore Bear - he might look nervous, but this is just how he always looks. He's got this, and so have you.

You might be having some butterflies in your stomach – and it is okay for you to feel a little scared. What helps is knowing that you are definitely not the only one feeling this way, and there will be plenty of opportunities for you to meet new friends once school starts.

It really is as simple as striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you in class, or joining one of the hundreds of student groups on campus, or attending the various events during the Week of Welcome 2017. Always remember to have fun and enjoy your student years while they last. Good luck on your first day!

Alvin - YouAlberta Contributor

Alvin is heading into the final year of his Business degree in Accounting and Finance. When he is not crunching numbers or compiling financial statements, he is always staying on top of breaking news and current affairs. A self-proclaimed foodie, Alvin loves a good bowl of poke, Nando’s chicken, and you can always win him over by offering some Purdys hedgehogs. He is excited to be able to share the stories that reflect the diversity and inclusivity of campus life at the University of Alberta.

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