Letter From the Incoming Editor: Don’t Panic

Caitlin McLaren - Incoming Editor-in-Chief
Posted on: August 29, 2016

Welcome to all first-years! Congratulations; you did it! You made it here! I hope you are all as proud of yourselves as I am of you. Look around campus: this is basically going to be your home for most of the next five years. You’re going to work here, study here, eat here, and yes, sometimes you will sleep here. You might meet your best friend, start a career, or find the love of your life. Who knows?

I am super excited to be the editor of this paper for the upcoming term. It feels like only a week ago that I was a first-year, finding my way around campus for the first time and trying to juggle my classes, events, sleep, personal life… you name it. It might feel overwhelming at first, and there are sacrifices you will need to make, but it is totally doable (I promise!) and will get easier over time.

Many of you don’t really know what to expect in university, or how to handle the changes in how classes, homework, and exams are run. Here are some practical study tips:

  • Your professors have office hours for a reason. Use them. Even if you understood everything in class and managed the homework just fine, ask your prof for a heads-up on what you will be doing next and how to prepare for it.

  • I’m going to be honest – some professors aren’t very good at teaching. If you really can’t understand anything, there are usually at least one or two others who teach the same course. Go to their office hours instead.

  • Engsoc runs a large exam bank (https://www.engsoc.uwaterloo.ca/exambank/). Use it. If it doesn’t have exams for your course, try asking your professor for past exams. Those are probably the best way to see how much you know before midterms and finals, and make sure you go over as many as you can beforehand.

  • Don’t sacrifice your sleep. Seriously, don’t. If you build up a big sleep deficit, your work will slow down and the quality of work will go out the window. If it’s getting too late and you can’t keep your eyes open, nine times out of ten you should just push the stack of homework aside and get some shuteye.

You’re getting really thrown off the deep end this year, with two days of classes in the first week. It might feel like a lot of work is getting thrown at you right away. That isn’t going to change over the next five years, so take a deep breath, relax, and get down to things. Probably many of you found high school pretty easy, and you might be used to not taking school very seriously. Don’t make that mistake! It can be easy to fall behind. Even though you are an adult now (I know, right?) and there is no one forcing you to go to class, do your homework, study at night instead of partying or watching movies, it’s in your best interests to do all of those things.

On the other hand, if you are someone who focuses a lot on your academic life, lives for getting good grades, and spends a lot of your spare time studying, I feel you. We’re all nerds here. Still, there are also times when you should lighten up. Don’t take everything too seriously, at least not all the time. Make sure you manage to squeeze plenty of fun times in as well. Join a club or a student team. (Or join us here at the Iron Warrior!) You’re not just here to learn how to be an engineer; you’re also here to learn about life. Meet as many new people as possible, and talk to them and learn new ideas. Thankfully, Waterloo has an incredibly diverse body of students and you can learn something from everyone!

If I could go back to my first-year self and tell myself one thing, it would be: don’t worry too much. Don’t worry too much if you don’t do well on some test or exam or course; just move onto the next keep going, and do your best in the future. Don’t worry if something goes wrong with your plans; if you try hard enough, there will always be a way out. Don’t worry about your future; just try to create the best future possible. And definitely, 100%, do not worry about whether you can make it here. You got yourself here, and you absolutely can get yourself to the end.