First year: you can hack it

The transition from high school to post-secondary isn’t easy. That’s why we asked our three Student Program Managers for some tips and tricks to get you through first year and beyond.

From left to right: Connor, Kianna, and Ryan

From left to right: Connor, Kianna, and Ryan

Ryan, Kianna and Connor share some insights into how they balanced their studies, their budgets, and their time.

Make time for extracurriculars (both on- and off-campus)

First year can be overwhelming. Between classes, studying and completing projects and papers, your life seems busy enough as it is. But making time for extracurriculars will help set you up for success later on.

Not only do employers want to see that you’re a well-rounded person, but these activities serve as proxies for work experience when applying for your first job. (So when they ask about soft skills like teamwork, you have more to talk about than a myriad of awful group projects.)

The connections you make can also come in handy when making a career switch, says Ryan. When he made the move from career counseling (his first job) to working for a local startup company, it was through one of his good friends from the University of Alberta.

Block off time

Your syllabus is a wonderful thing. Once you get your hands on it, block off time in your calendar to work on the various assignments listed. Work backward from your due date and determine how much time you’ll need to prepare and complete each one. Carve some time out for readings or day to day classwork as well.

But it’s not just about blocking off time to study, says Kianna. Whether you enjoy playing video games, exercising or hanging out with friends, make sure you set time aside for the things you love. Building these things into your life is an important aspect of self-care.

And if you’re the type of person who skips a meal or the gym when you’re stressed, you may also find it useful to block off time for lunch or a workout. “Putting it in your calendar makes it harder to ignore,” says Kianna.

Stay on top of your budget


Set aside the money you need to pay off tuition or your student loans. While this makes us sound like a parent, you’ll thank us later.

“Not having the money to do the things you enjoy is stressful,” says Connor, who ran a financial literacy program for high school and post-secondary students. Piled on to academic stress, it can start to affect your mental health.

An easy way to stay on top of your budget and save money is to look over your monthly bank statements for any subscriptions you aren’t using. (It’s so easy to forget you signed up for that free 30-day trial, says Connor.)

At Startup, we want to see you succeed. Sign up for a (free) student membership for more useful content.