If you’re one of the new, incoming faces to the community of St. Mary’s, welcome! And welcome back to those returning to school after a lovely, yet unfailingly brief summer break. With fall approaching, it means that the first day of school is inching closer and will be here before we know it. Maggie Lachica and Kalissa Bliek of the Academic Advising team are here to help you achieve success as a student at St. Mary’s. Maggie, the Team Lead in the Academic Advising department, is no stranger to the St. Mary’s University campus, as this will be her fifth school year helping show the way for us. I had the opportunity to gather her thoughts this week on everything students (especially new) should know with the school year around the corner. Part of what makes Maggie such a great fit for StMU, is that her passion in what she does is based on us; the students. Maggie highlighted this, saying: “I love my job because I get to work with students and help them navigate their post-secondary experience. From meeting them at Open Houses, to registering in their first year courses all the way through to watching them walk the stage at graduation; it’s very rewarding!”
As you’ll soon find out, the other passion comes from the rest of the people she shares the campus with.
“I also love the people that I work with. St. Mary’s staff and faculty are some of the most kind and passionate people I know. They care deeply about their jobs, their students and making an impact on the world.”
If you haven’t got acquainted with her yet, Maggie and Kalissa Bliek are available by appointment; their contact information will be found below. Things for every student in the upcoming school year are about to become a blur, so let’s get right to it – here’s what I was able to gather from our very own advising expert.
Transitioning from high-school to post-secondary represents a shift into more freedom, as students have the ability to choose their education in ways they haven’t before. Maggie explained this by saying, “[Students] get to choose which classes they want to take – and many times they get to choose when to take them. They can choose whether to attend each class or not, which degree they want to take, or when they want to change degree programs.” Flexibility in picking classes and schedules can make certain days of the week easier than others, Maggie commented on this saying, “In University, you may have a very flexible schedule with one class in the morning and not again until the evening. Or maybe you have all of your classes on two days a week and you have 3 days a week that you aren’t at school. This kind of schedule requires you to be much more disciplined and effective in your time management. This amount of choice and ‘free’ time is often times the hardest part of transitioning to University and can be overwhelming for many students.” If you’re approaching this freedom for the first time; enjoy it – and understand that responsibility goes hand in hand with freedom. By being diligent and mindful with these choices you can stay on top of things and avoid the risks that come along with increased independence.
If any of that sounds foreboding, rest assured – St. Mary’s has plenty of resources in place to help make sure you’re able to succeed. In addition to academic planning with Maggie and Kalissa, there are a range of programs including the Centre for Learning Access and Student Support (CLASS), which is dedicated “peer-mentoring, tutoring, and academic accommodations.” In addition to CLASS, there are Success Strategy Seminars that Maggie attributes to “[helping] students learn or improve some key skills that will benefit them in their post-secondary journey… such as academic writing, library research, wellness, career success and general study skills.” Find out more about these programs in the Learning Centre, located in the C-Building!
Unlike larger institutions, one-on-one time is available in many formats and can be a big help to students who utilize it. There’s nothing quite like getting help in class from the person in charge of the course, and St. Mary’s faculty are available with allotted office hours and by appointment to help ensure you’re right where you want to be in every single course. Students can also access a full-time counsellor for support and overall wellness, says Maggie. As well, her and Kalissa are both poised to help any student who needs it should they come across academic adversity. “If students are unsure of where to reach out if they are struggling our academic advising team is happy to be a first point of contact. We’re here to help!”
When asked about some tips and tricks to help assist students onto the road to success, Maggie was able to map out some pointers.
Maggie’s School Survival Guide
- Buy an agenda! Physically writing things down helps commit them to memory. Many students are tempted to use the calendar on their phone to set reminders for school deadlines, but our phones are used for so many other purposes and we get so many notifications a day that we may miss important school related reminders and deadlines.
- Take your course outlines at the beginning of the semester and put all of the due dates and key information in to your agenda. Then work backwards to figure out when you need to start projects and set deadlines for yourself to keep you on track with completing your assignments. This will help you from getting overwhelmed when you realize you have more than one paper or assignment due at the same time.
- Use the resources on campus! As mentioned above, we have so many great resources available to support students in their transition to post-secondary, and throughout their whole journey up until graduation. We are here to help – don’t hesitate to reach out!
- Take care of your mind and body. When students get stressed, the first things that tend to be sacrificed are sleep, nutritious food and physical activity. Try to get 8 hours of sleep a night, remember that you can’t survive off of Mr. Noodles alone, and try to get some activity in each day – even if it’s just a short walk in the sunshine.
- Last but not least, be kind to yourself. This is a big transition and there will be growing pains. Give yourself some grace, learn from your mistakes, lean on your support system and ask for help when you need it.
University can seem like a daunting place, and the warmth and support you’ll find within the school is a reassuring thing to have along your journey as a student. There’s plenty of help around you – this guide is here to let you know about some of the many resources available to you as a student.
As the finale to the summer makes its way closer, St. Mary’s looks forward to seeing some refreshed faces this fall!