First-generation students share their top tips for making the most of university life

Zoya Tahir and Lakeisha Ferreira
Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 3:21pm
Blake Eligh

Zoya Tahir and Lakeisha Ferreira are the first in their families to go to university in Canada. As part of the First in the Family at UTM program, they share the tips that helped them find success  at UTM. (Read more about Zoya and Lakeisha's experiences here.)

Join a transition program: UTM offers all kinds of great programs to help you settle in to university life. At UTMFYE or First in the Family at UTM programs, you’ll find answers to your questions, great advice and a fun way to connect with other students.

Take a tour: A general tour will help you find your way around campus, but did you know that librarians can help you cite your sources, and friendly athletic staff can show you how to use the machines? Make sure to tour the library, RAWC athletic centre, Health & Counselling Centre and more to find out how to make the most of activities and resources that are available to you.

Join a study group: Working with classmates is a great way to make friends on campus, and will help you keep up with your course work.

Apply for a scholarship: You might be surprised about the number of scholarships and grants you qualify for. Talk to someone in the Registrar's office to find out what's available, and how you can apply.

Take advantage of all services on campus: As Ferreira notes, “You pay for it, so make sure you use all the resources available to you.” Take the time to know all the service that your university provides—they are there to benefit you and ensure your success.  

Ask for help: University life can be a tricky place to figure out on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – check in with a Campus Experience Coach, learn how to manage your assignments with UTMOne, get expert advice at the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre or check out the virtual resources like these First Year Calculus videos.

Get involved: When you join different clubs, groups or organizations on campus you get to meet many different people and build valuable connections that really help in the long run. Join a club, attend a pub event, start a book club—if you look, you’ll find opportunities and new friends waiting for you. 

Ask questions: “As scary it may seem to ask the questions that others may already have the answer to, it is important to speak up if you don’t understand,” says Tahir. There may be others in the same position as you who seek the same answers. 

Try to find yourself: “Many students, especially in their first year, believe they know who they are and who they want to become,” Ferreira notes. However this usually changes when you reach your final year. You will be exposed to different opportunities that will help you grow as an individual you need to venture to the unknown within yourself even if it may make you feel uncomfortable. No one said that it would be an easy process, but it will be rewarding in the end.

Dedicate some time to you: As a first-generation student, sometimes you get so lost in balancing the stress of school and expectations at home that you forget about yourself. Don't just try to find time—make time to do something you like to do, whether it is reading a book for a couple of hours or taking a walk outside. The break will refresh you and help you stay focused when it counts.