4 Legit Back to School Tips

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School is almost back in session, and you’ll soon be bombarded with a series of back-to-school tips and tricks by everyone from your mom to Buzzfeed. You probably already know the clichés, like “don’t buy your textbooks until a few weeks into class.” You’ve likely also heard the gentler ones, like “your health matters more than anything else.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these, and you’d be wise to heed them. But what these eloquent sayings possess in sage-like wisdom, they lack in harsh, straight-up realism. As a recent graduate, I can at least say for myself that what I wanted when I went back to school were practical skills, sans the idealism. So, if you’re like me, take my experience and make it your gain. Here are 4 back-to-school tips that took me a whole degree to learn:


  1. Map Out Your Finances Now… Not Later –

    • There’s a veritable panoply of budgeting resources out there which all seek to tell you how to best manage your finances while in school. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of them will not work for you, as your needs will almost invariably differ from those of the author – and from the fantastical life they lead. For instance, most food guides claim that you will be able to sustain yourself on a $300/month diet. That works out to about one special sushi roll per day. That may be enough for some, but not for everybody. Moreover, most young scholars fair to note delicacies like coffee and ice cream when taking account of their daily consumption habits. The result is that many students break their overly-idealistic budgets early on, and only re-evaluate them when the cash runs dry. This is why it is imperative that you map out your finances sooner, rather than later. Experiment to figure out your current eating habits, and determine what can and cannot be cut out come school time. If you’ll need a part-time job, start looking now, before all the good jobs get swept away with the Autumn leaves. Midterm season is not the right time to be stressing out over your bills, so make sure that you don’t have to.
  2. Get To Know Your Instructors’ Expectations in September… Not November 

    • Your professors and Das are swamped year-round. Their inboxes are habitually littered with hundreds of emails, and when the November rush kicks in, their offices will be littered with a comparable number of students. At that point, they’ll quite reasonably be fatigued, and thus unable to give you the time and attention that you require to ace your most important assignments. This is why September is the perfect time to go to their office hours and discuss their expectations. I’ve heard countless professors bemoan how lonely they are during their early-year office hours. This is when they are their freshest, and most accessible, so get to them then, and not later.
  3. Start New Habits at the Beginning of the Semester… Not In the Middle of It 

    • Want to learn a new language, get in shape, join a club, or volunteer during the school year? If so, you’ll want to get started in September. Ask any university veteran. Come midterm season for motivation will plummet, and convincing yourself to maintain your existing habits – let one new ones – will be next to impossible. That is why it is important to instill any desired habits right at the get go, and to maintain them until the going gets tough. This is the only way to make sure that they are sustainable. Take exercise as an example. Getting fit is hard, and the aches and pains of day one take a long time to subside. As your muscles continue to ache into week two, it becomes increasingly hard to muster the energy to head back to the gym. But by week four, it becomes a part of your routine, and for many it even becomes cathartic. Would you rather have aches while studying for your midterms, or a handy method of stress relief?
  4. Make Social Interactions Planned Additions to Your Schedule… Not Ad Hoc Ones 

    • “There goes your social life,” or so says the traditional university narrative. Oftentimes students behave as though their social lives must disappear if they are to succeed. This is neither necessary, nor realistic. Maintaining strong social ties is one of the most powerful ways to support one’s mental health. This is why, despite the persistent narrative that students have no social lives, we still frequently find them out at the bar the night before an exam. Is this a sign of flippant hypocrisy? Well, no. It’s a sign that they need to relieve some stress. You, too, will likely require at least some time to socialize during the school year, and instead of denying it, you should plan for it. That way you are prepared, and have contingencies in place to make sure that you also have time to complete your assignments.


School is rough.  At times so rough that for al your planning, the plan falls apart. Trust me, my tips and tricks arose precisely from my failures to cope with the vagaries of the school year. They are my recognition that life can be messy, and ought to be planned for accordingly. But, given that they were derived solely from my experiences, I surely left something out. Do you disagree with any of my tips? Do you have any of your own? If so, make sure to comment below, or to tweet us @UBCLearn, so that we can keep the conversation going and make sure that the newest cohort of students is as prepared as possible!

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