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May 26 2017
by Jamie Su

A Freshman's Guide to The University of Waterloo

By Jamie Su - May 26 2017
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Transitioning from high school to university, combined with the stress of processing a substantial amount of new information, can be overwhelming for college freshmen at first. If you're feeling anxious about the kind of things first year will throw at you, take a deep breath in. In order to slightly ease your worries, here is a freshman's guide to the University of Waterloo. In this guide are some tips that will help ensure that your first year at university is a success academically, personally and mentally.  

1. Keep your Watcard safe.

Jamie Su

Your Watcard student identification holds the key to your life. Do NOT lose it or you risk having to pay for obtaining a new one. It isn't just your school identification card; it's also used for many other purposes, such as your GRT bus pass, your meal plan, laundry at your residence building, food services on Waterloo campus, retail services and many others listed here. Your best bet for keeping it safe is to have a lanyard and a cardholder for your Watcard.

2. Use UW Flow and Rate My Professors to find out info about courses and good professors. 

If you're looking for fun and easy electives to help you focus on all of your harder courses in your program or just want to know how difficult your future mandatory class is, UW Flow is an excellent way to find out. Just find the course code for the specific course! The ratings of the level of easiness, usefulness and whether the student would recommend the course are listed for each course. 

You're also going to want to have a good professor and avoid less competent ones, especially during your first term at university. The professors for each scheduled lecture are also listed for each class on UW Flow, giving you the opportunity to check out their ratings on Rate My Professors. After thorough research, you'll be able to determine whether you want to be taught by the professor you were assigned to or switch your schedule to a different professor's class for your own benefit.

3. Work out at Ron Eydt Village's (REV) gym if you're living on campus.

Located in the North Quad, Ron Eydt Village is a Waterloo residence that has a newly renovated gym, making it convenient for students living there, at Mackenzie King Village (MKV) or Village 1 (V1). All MKV and V1 residents have to do is cut through the buildings or walk down the path towards REV to find a decent place to work out at, which is less than a five-minute walk away. This gym is not as crowded as the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) or the Columbia Icefield (CIF), so students living at one of the three Waterloo Residences can enjoy the quieter and less busy gym environment while also getting a chance to use all the equipment available.

4. Try going to PAC and CIF if the REV gym is too far away or too small for you.

The Physical Activities Complex (PAC) and Columbia Icefield (CIF) are two of Waterloo's athletic facilities. PAC, which is centrally located on campus, contains squash courts, a swimming pool, rock climbing room and many other features. CIF, on the other hand, is located on the North campus at the corner of Columbia Street and Hayes Boulevard. It has features including a fitness center, fitness studio and ball diamond. If you sign up for any intramural sports, you'll be playing at one of these locations. For more information on the athletic facilities' office hours, maps, a list of all the features provided and open recreation schedules, click on the hyperlinks!

5. Check the frosh group page frequently.

University of Waterloo Class of 2022, Frosh 2017 via Facebook

The University of Waterloo Class of 2022, Frosh 2017 is your go-to page for meeting prospective roommates and friends, finding volunteering and extracurricular opportunities that are advertised, hearing about cool events to participate in on campus, looking at memes to get you through school or even finding your lost WatCard by a kind stranger who posted a picture of your identification card on the group page. You can also ask upper year students questions about specific courses, professors or any other inquiries that you have. It's both beneficial and a form of entertainment, so be sure to turn on your notifications for this page!

6. Need a quick bite late at night? No worries.

Let's say you're in a scenario whereby you're craving a late night snack or desperately in need of food while studying or scrambling to finish an assignment. Don't worry, you won't stay up cranky or fall asleep hungry. International News at the Student Life Centre (SLC) and Village 1 (V1) are open later than most places. International News, which is a quick walk from residence to grab food, is open 24 hours, and V1 is open until 12:30 AM for students living on campus. 

7. Download the Portal app. NOW.

I cannot emphasize enough the many advantages to having Waterloo's Student Portal as an app on your phone. Firstly, it has your daily class schedule on it — that means you don't need a printout of it like you did in high school, or have to screenshot a tiny picture of your entire schedule that may also change every other week if your labs and tutorials are scheduled that way.

Secondly, food. During your fresh new start at the University of Waterloo, you'll be on the lookout for places to eat on campus. With Portal, you can find a list of EVERY food service on campus, their description, location and of course, their hours. Some of the food services, like the traditional style residences, even list what they're serving for lunch and dinner!

That's not all. Portal lists the balance remaining on your meal plan and your flex dollars too, showing your past transactions deducted from your Watcard. It also shows which lecture halls in various buildings are vacant for studying, as well as the duration the lecture hall will be available for. Other features you can use on the app include to-do lists, events occurring on campus (such as conferences), alerts on important dates to take note of, a list of all the textbooks you need for your current term and classes and much more. 

Download the Portal app on your laptop, iTunes and Google Play to see it for yourself! Trust me, this widget gives you all the information you need to function on a daily basis at university. 

8. Book a room at one of these locations for individual studying or group meetings.

Pictured above is one of UW's libraries with various resources, the Davis Centre (DC) Library, located on Ring Road. Another main library on campus is the Dana Porter (DP) Library at the center of campus. At these two libraries, you can book rooms for a specific date for DP group studies and DC group study rooms and single study rooms. Visit the University of Waterloo's Library Study Room Booking to book study spaces.

The Student Life Centre (SLC) is another place on campus that offers booking group study rooms, as well as other services listed on their website. All you have to do is find the Turnkey Desk on the SLC's ground floor and book a room for your group meeting a few days in advance. Those are not the only three locations where you find study rooms and casual lounges to study; there are plenty more places like these on campus listed here.

9. Visit AccessAbility Services at Needles Hall for any accommodations. 

AccessAbility Services at Needles Hall (NH) is a service that provides academic support for students with permanent or temporary disabilities. Check out their website, visit their location or call them to learn more about the academic support they can provide for you, whether it may be requiring notetaking services, needing to use the Student Access Van to travel around campus or other accommodations. AccessAbility Services is here to provide you with the support you need throughout your time at university, so don't be afraid!

10. Like these pages on Facebook to be updated on fun, ongoing events!

Jamie Su

Do you love dogs and get stressed easily? Luckily for you, the University of Waterloo has plenty of dog therapy events before midterms and finals to ease students of their stress and worries. There are also many other cool events to check out, including semi-formals, coffee houses, Bomber events and much more! Academic events are no exception, especially if you need help with resume critiquing for a leadership position or co-op placement. Like The Bombshelter Pub, Federation of Students — FEDS, Feds Clubs,  University of Waterloo Residence Council on Facebook to be updated on such events occurring! You're also bound to find more pages to like when your friends click that they're "interested" in attending specific events hosted by clubs or associations.

11. Join the used textbook Facebook groups to save money.

John-Mark Kuznietsov via Unsplash

We all know that college tuition is outrageously expensive. In order to save money and have fewer expenses, many students purchase used textbooks and resell them after the term is over. Although some of the textbooks may not be the newest edition, sometimes they're not necessary because the chapters may be in a different order and the textbook may contain different images and visuals. However, overall, the content is still the same. 

One tip you should keep in mind is to wait until the first day of class for your professor to go through the course outline. If they say you need the newest edition, you'd most likely have to buy it from the bookstore or someone who has the latest edition, but if they mention that older editions are acceptable, you can consider buying some used textbooks on University of  Waterloo Textbook Exchange [OFFICIAL]UW Textbook Exchange or from Feds Used Books and find the place or person with the best deal. 

12. Buy or sell miscellaneous items on some Facebook groups.

freestocks.org via Unsplash

If you love shopping for makeup and clothes but hate crying over an empty wallet, UW Women's Swap & Sale has students who sell sanitized, used makeup and brand new makeup, as well as used and brand new clothes for cheaper prices. You can also sell your own clothes, accessories and whatnot to clear your wardrobe space of things you don't use anymore and earn some money for it too.

Other pages where you can buy or sell other miscellaneous items such as a furniture, cooking utensils and mini fridges are Free or Cheap Kitchener and Free & For Sale. You can also purchase or sell clothes on those pages, find good deals for items and save a ton of money. As university students, we're more conscious of how we spend and how to save to cut our university costs, and this is one way of doing so.

13. Join the student housing Facebook groups to sublet or find sublets.

Crew via Unsplash

It's always important to look at housing the term before you need it to find a good location with the amenities and price that you are searching for if you're considering living off campus during your first year, or even in your second year. If you've signed a one-year contract and want to sublet your place when you're on your co-operative term, join UW/WLU 4 Month Subletting and Student Housing in Waterloo on Facebook to post pictures and information about your apartment or find students looking for the amenities and price range that you're offering. You can also find cheap sublets in Waterloo that are less expensive than some student housing company rental contracts.

14. Join the Facebook carpool group to travel home faster.

Riku Lu via Unsplash

Do you want to avoid a long GO bus ride home or to Waterloo that'll take hours compared to a shorter car drive? Then check out University of Waterloo Rideshare and University of Waterloo Carpool. These Facebook groups contain posts with dates, pick up and drop off locations, timings for pickups and affordable prices per seat in each car. Alternatively, if you have your full G license, you can post on these carpooling groups to earn a little cash if you're going back to your hometown or traveling back to Waterloo. You're saving money and time while carpooling, which gives you another way to cut back on your costs.

15. Find leadership opportunities and paid positions on LEADS or on Facebook.

It can be difficult finding volunteering and leadership opportunities to enhance your resume experiences, but don't panic! There are various opportunities posted that you can sign up for! Some pages you may want to look at are Volunteer Opportunities — (share or find) on Facebook and Waterloo's LEADS. All you have to do is scroll through the Facebook volunteering page to find a position that you're interested in. Often posted on the page are school clubs seeking new people to join their team of executives, which you should definitely try to apply for if you're looking for leadership roles and your passions and values align with the clubs'.

Alternatively, LEADS, run by the University of Waterloo, contains a list of events and workshops you can attend, and both paid and unpaid jobs that you can apply for on the website, including Open House volunteering (which is a PAID position). Don't be worried about not being able to find any leadership roles to build up your resume because there are plenty of resources online that can help you find many potential positions!

16. Go to The Writing and Communication Centre and Centre for Career Action.

The Univerity of Waterloo provides useful resources that help you during your academic journey. Two of them include the Writing and Communication Centre and Centre for Career Action. If you need help with paraphrasing, receiving feedback for the speech you wrote, suggestions on how to edit or enhance clarity in the presentation you created or even want to learn how to effectively write a research essay or scientific report, the Writing and Communication Centre provides plenty of useful resources. You can book an appointment, drop-in or attend workshops to learn strategies on how to further improve your communication skills verbally and through your written works. There's no harm in getting extra help because, in the long run, this will help you improve your individual skills and improve your grades! 

Secondly, the Centre for Career Action also provides workshops, appointment bookings and resources to help you with achieving future career goals, like when you need help preparing for graduate school, professional school or find strategies to search for jobs. The Centre for Career Action also gives you the chance to practice your interview skills at mock interviews and get your resumes and cover letters critiqued! Don't forget to take advantage of these resources provided because they're both free and beneficial to your academic career.

17. Find a tutor for a particular subject on Tutor Connect.

Alejandro Escamilla via Unsplash

Hopefully, attending your lectures, reading the course material, asking questions at tutorials, going to help sessions, drop-in tutoring in residence and seeking help from your professor can help you succeed and understand the material. However, if, for example, none of those methods is working for you and you're still struggling to understand the material that you're learning, perhaps you may want to look for a tutor to help you during one-on-one sessions. 

Tutor Connect, created by the Student Success Office, is a site where you can find student tutors offering tutoring services for different subjects. You can look up the specific course you need help in, the price range you're willing to pay for and the current year specific tutors are in. From there, you can then contact the student if you seek more information and are interested in scheduling sessions with them.

Although this may be a lot of information to take in, you can always bookmark this page to refer to for your reference! Hopefully this guide will be of use to you in some way when you're seeking help throughout your time at university. Even though this guide may not consist of every single tip that can be offered to incoming freshmen, along the way, you'll find many helpful upper years who will gladly provide with guidance and advice and slowly get used to the hectic university life. Good luck during first year, Warriors! I hope that all of you will survive freshman year and have a smooth-sailing transition from high school to university.

Lead Image Credit: Joshua Kwok

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Jamie Su - University of Waterloo

Jamie is a second year student at the University of Waterloo majoring in Honours Arts. She spends most of her time reading, writing, fangirling over fictional characters, sleeping, and watching romcoms and coming-of-age films. Jamie gets distracted easily when she sees any kind of dog walking down the street, but she never minds.

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