Looking back on my very first semester of university, it simultaneously seems as tho I’ve been here for my entire life and like I just moved into residence yesterday. I remember wasting so much energy stressing about my first semester over the summer. Was I going to be able to meet the standards of post-secondary academics? Would I meet new friends? How would I adjust to living away from home? While all of these questions caused me incredible amounts of anxiety during the summer, I look at them now and question why I was ever so worried? Everything – until this point in the year – has turned out well. I have been able to meet all deadlines in a timely manner, I’ve learned more in a span of three months than I ever thought possible, made so many new friends, and really feel as though I have adjusted well to life in university.
While I have adjusted to life in university, this is not to say that my first few weeks on campus did not meet with any surprises. For this class in particular, I found that I was not prepared for the kind of writing that was required of me; specifically, I was not prepared for the open ended prompts that were given for essays and assignments. In high school, the topics that were assigned as prompts In my English courses were almost always accompanied by a very direct question that would lead me – and all of my classmates – to respond in a very specific way; there was very little room for creativity or thinking outside the box. You can imagine my surprise when we were assigned the rhetorical analysis and the usual guiding question was nowhere to be found. You mean I actually have to think for myself? Independently? On my own? This was uncharted territory, and it made me uncomfortable.
So I didn’t do it. Not right away at least. It seemed entirely too difficult so I put it off until just 3 days before the due date. Bad idea. Instead of orienting myself around an article and working out a thesis over a few weeks, I gave myself only 1/7th of that time. Queue the stress. Except once I started, I discovered that rhetorical analysis wasn’t so difficult after all. I quickly stumbled across a decent thesis and was able to finish the paper before the deadline. Crisis averted.
I guess then, that if I could give any piece of advice to a first year student, I would tell them to just start. It doesn’t matter how daunting something seems from afar, the actual process of completing something is almost never as painful as you think it will be. Starting any and all assignments in a timely manner will ensure that you save yourself the stress of last minute cramming, and from the anxiety of believing it can’t be done. If only I could have adopted this method over the summer. If I could have just started university earlier, then my I wouldn’t have had to stress about it for so long, and I could have arrived at this state of adjustment a bit sooner.