While my own advice might not be as professional as the Academic Advising departments, being a student looking to soon come around that final lap on my degree has afforded me with some experience to pass on and I’ll do my best to break them down for you with some fresh takes. What I’m not going to do, though, is regurgitate all the clichés of doing your homework ahead of time, or attending all your classes, etc. (all super important, but let’s face it – we should know this already). University is a time where people come into their own, settle into being more independent, and learn to think for themselves. It’s afforded me all of that and more, so being conscious of this transition is great and warrants the excitement that comes with each school year.

All of it, however, doesn’t matter in the long-run if students don’t know what their ‘why’ is, or why they are choosing to be in post-secondary school. This is something that dramatically changed my perception of university and allowed me to begin getting everything I could out of school.

I’m going to be honest with you, I was not a fantastic student during my first year of post-secondary – which, for the record, was at another institution. Classes felt like a duty and schoolwork was a bit of a chore, resulting in my overall investment being lower than what it should’ve been (despite this, I still loved being a student and I’ll explain that later). So with this mindset, my satisfaction and subsequent achievement was capped and it was all due to the way I viewed school itself. The reality is that while it’s possible to fall into a mentality of school as a duty, the fact remains that thousands of students ache for the opportunity to pursue a higher education, yet for whatever obstacle in their way, they can’t.

Ask yourself: why are you in school? There’s a ton of answers that can come to mind, but after sifting through the ones that are based on something else, like your parents, focus on the reason you want to go to school. My ‘why’ is based on my desire to continue my path in children’s mental health, and it’s only possible with the bridges built by university. For myself, the easiest way to appreciate the opportunity school gives me is by imagining how difficult it would be if I didn’t have this bridge available, or I was unable to cross it. Even if it sounds bizarre, count yourself as one of the lucky ones because this reality doesn’t exist for everyone. Finding your personal ‘why’ can set you up for viewing the privilege of going to school the way it should be, as well as imagining the difficulties you would face should you not be so lucky.

Not only that, but it just might help you in alleviating the pressure that sometimes feels like you ‘have to’ do something, and instead make you remember that this is what you want and that you are choosing this.

Still with me?

Cool. Now here’s the best part of university, in my humble opinion. School has an innate way of creating a feeling of community and belonging. We’re united onto one campus with hundreds of others seeking the same goal and the addition of teachers/mentors all around us (or even a caretaker who is the human embodiment of school spirit; Peter that’s a shout-out to you!), it’s a place of uniqueness that just isn’t often found elsewhere. While many universities boast this quality, StMU elevates this to another level with the interpersonal nature of the community and the enhancement of our roles here as a result. What I mean by this is that with a smaller campus and class size, relationships can be built much faster and deeper than at massive institutions. Some of the best people I’ve met have come from this university, and the smaller community has given me the chance to get to know them on real, personal levels. Take advantage of this and get to know the people around you, staff and student alike; the rewards onto yourself and your own experience can be staggering.

With a few less total pieces in the puzzle it means that your contribution is that much more important, making you a pretty valuable piece in the St. Mary’s community. Whether you’re a first year student or a seasoned vet, there’s plenty to be thankful for in the coming eight months.

School is just around the corner, I’ll be looking forward to meeting you!