What to Expect During Your Student’s First Year

By Ontario Tech University Modified on June 21, 2024
Tags : Campus Life | High School

Discover how you can support your student during this time of transition.

 What to Expect During Your Student’s First Year

The first year of university is a time of transition for most students and their families. They may be moving away from home for the first time, exploring various interests and activities, or simply adjusting to their new environment. Throughout this transition, the support of parents and families is a critical factor in student success. To help you support your student, we’re providing some common first-year experiences at Ontario Tech University.

Getting ready

Some students may be preparing to move away from home, relocating to a new country or establishing a new routine. For all students, this is a time of transition. This may also be a period of change for friends and family. Students may be:

  • Excited about the future and meeting new people: Ontario Tech has a large and diverse population which presents an excellent opportunity for students to make new friends.
  • Saying goodbye to friends: Your student may be moving away from friends. Long-distance friendships can begin to change as individuals continue to explore their values and refine their interpersonal skills.
  • Nervous about academic expectations: University is very different from high school. It’s common for students to experience larger classes, heavier workloads, and multiple demands. The transition to university includes many changes to the academic environment; it’s common for students to experience a decline in grades, especially during the initial adjustment period.
  • Navigating changing family dynamics: Whether a student is living at home or away from home, their university experience will have an impact on many aspects of their lives, including their daily and weekly schedules. Students may have classes later in the evenings on some days, or no classes at all on other days.

First semester

Starting their first semester at university is one of the biggest transitions students experience. They’re studying in much larger classes, being introduced to high-tech teaching methods, navigating new academic expectations, meeting new people, and learning to manage their schedules independently. This is an exciting time, but also a time filled with change. Students may be:

  • Experiencing homesickness: Students are often living away from home for the first time and sometimes living with new roommates. This transition can be difficult for students.
  • Feeling excited: The beginning of their university career presents countless opportunities for students to expand their knowledge, get involved and explore a new environment.
  • Feeling overwhelmed: University students are expected to balance increased responsibilities and expectations with greater freedom and choice.
  • Introduced to new cultures and diverse communities: Our university's growing number of international students adds a rich cultural texture to the campus community. Students can learn from other students who come from many different backgrounds.
  • Making new friends: Students are meeting many new people and may be able to connect more easily with others with similar personalities and interests.

Second semester

Students often return to university in the second semester with a better understanding of what to expect. Many of the themes and experiences outlined in the first-semester section may come up in the second semester. They’ll also likely begin to prepare for the upcoming summer and the academic year to follow; these times will arrive quickly! Students may be:

  • Anxious about doing well: As the academic year draws to a close, students may start to feel the pressure to maintain or increase their grades. A student's GPA is often linked to scholarship and co-op opportunities. It’s common for students to experience a decline in grades, especially during the initial adjustment period.
  • Excited to start new classes and implement new habits: Students are eager to implement what they learned in the first semester. The new semester can provide a fresh start.
  • Experiencing financial burdens and planning for next year: As the end of the academic year approaches, students' funds may be increasingly depleted, which may influence how their money is spent over the summer and in the next year.
  • Feeling the demands of multiple activities while preparing for exams: By the end of the school year, students have often become more involved on campus and may find it difficult to balance these activities with their studies as exams approach.
  • Looking forward to a break from academics: As the warm weather approaches, students may be excited about returning home or reuniting with friends. They are often looking forward to a break from their academics following exams and final projects.
  • Starting thinking about where to live next year: As friendships continue to develop and the academic year moves towards completion, your student may be making decisions about the following year and securing a place to live.
  • Thinking about summer employment and exploring internship possibilities: Many resources and events are available on campus during this time to assist your student in finding meaningful work experience.

Looking forward

Following the academic year, students are often adjusting to a new routine again. Their schedule may be changing with the demands of a new job, or they may be returning home. Your student has successfully completed their first year and this should be celebrated! Students may be:

  • Adjusting to a changing support network: As your student settles into their summer routine, the people they are spending time with may also change.
  • Choosing courses for the upcoming year: Course registration for the upcoming academic year happens during the summer. Students should be aware of these deadlines and what courses they need to take.
  • Contemplating elective courses: Some courses are required, but certain programs also offer a choice of elective courses where a student can explore other interests.
  • Developing a financial plan: The knowledge gained in their first year can be applied toward creating a budget for the upcoming academic year.
  • Exploring options with the Student Awards and Financial Aid office: There are many scholarships, grants, and bursaries available to students with varying criteria for eligibility.
  • Gathering all required documentation for the Ontario Student Assistance Program: Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible.
  • Planning for new living accommodations: There are a variety of accommodations available on and near campus. Students may be thinking about what they want and need to bring for September.
  • Reconnecting with old friends: Students may be returning home for the summer or reuniting with friends who have been away.
  • Starting summer jobs: Students often work during the summer months to fund their education. Schedules may change with the needs of a new job or increased hours at an existing one.
  • Taking summer courses: Students may take additional courses to reduce their course load in the future, or to make up for a course they missed.

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