Adjusting to university life: help for first-year students
The freedom and independence of university life can be exhilarating yet daunting for students after the organized structure of high school.
But for students feeling overwhelmed, there’s help. And it starts before classes.
Moving Forward is a summer transition program offered at St. George for students with learning disabilities that seeks to help them overcome such challenges managing workload, producing university quality work and adjusting to student life.
“This workshop introduces students to the differences in academic culture and expectations as well as how to successfully meet academic standards,” says Lake Porter, an adaptive technologist who helps run the program.
The five-day program and covers a wide range of topics such as: critical reading and writing, succeeding at university with a disability, adaptive technology and accessing support services. Such topics are also covered by the Summer Startup Program at University of Toronto Scarborough and the Summer Transition Program at University of Toronto Mississauga.
Orientation Week includes sessions aimed at helping all students feel comfortable on campus, addressing everything from academic concerns to where to find cheap snacks late at night. But for those seeking extra assistance making the transition from secondary to post-secondary education, there’s Kickstart.
The 10-day program acts as an alternative or supplement to the traditional college or faculty orientation – students can choose which events they want to attend.
“U of T is a very large institution,” says Jennifer Banh, who coordinates Kickstart. “And so Kickstart is an avenue to learn about it all at the very beginning.”
Kickstart offers sessions on note-taking strategies, workshops to prepare for university-level writing, networking opportunities with upper-year students and many tours.
“One of my goals for Kickstart is to provide (participants) with opportunities to build their skills and experience so that they feel ready to start their first year and their undergrad journey,” says Banh.
U of T also offers a program for students whose parents did not pursue post-secondary education, or have no experience at a Canadian university. First in the Family offers peer support and academic skills workshops to help ease the transition.
“Students first in their family may feel as if they have to manage everything by themselves,” says Roswell Spafford, a learning skills councillor with the program.
“The First in the Family program provides upper-level and graduate mentors, who are themselves the first in their families to attend university,” Spafford says. “The mentors understand what first-year students face and are trained to know how to assist them.”
Second-year student Ricky Rodrigues is a mentor for First in the Family arts students.
"As a first generation student, I know how difficult the transition into university life can be and how much easier it can be when you have people there to help you through the process," says Rodrigues.