6 Tips for First Year Students: Treat Your First Year at School Like a Job

6 Tips for First Year Students: Treat Your First Year at School Like a Job

Big Ideas

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September 14 2016
Big Ideas
Author: Dan Nicholson

First of all, congratulations on your first year at college or university! As you begin to fill your minds with knowledge, we know you’ll have a lot to offer to any organization (non-profit, private, public, agency, etc.) when you graduate. However, one of the biggest threats to a first year student is the freedom of choice.

10 years ago, I started my first year at university and I was NOT prepared. The teaching styles of the professors were vastly different, the residences had parties nearly every night, and the campus was full of activities and clubs to join. For the unprepared, this is a combination for failure.
Why am I writing about this now? Because after working on many different projects within a multitude of industries, I’ve decided to head back to school and learn more about what truly inspires me: Statistics. Here are six quick tips for being successful in your first year at school, so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

“A magician who knows 200 tricks is an amateur. A magician who knows six tricks well is a professional.”
– Cary Schwartzman


1. Be Disciplined with Your Time

There is going to be a lot of “extra-circular” activities competing for your attention. This isn’t any different than it is in the working world. Proper time management is a strong asset for being successful. As a first year student, being able to schedule time to do your homework (and follow through) will allow you to be prepared to participate and make it easy to apply the knowledge.

Similarly, in your career, being able to read over a project brief before a meeting will allow you participate within the meeting and bring fresh ideas to the table. In Marketing and Advertising industry, clients are paying for your ideas. Coming to the table with a blank stare on your face is a quick way to be fired.

If you can’t manage your time, then I doubt your manager’s going to want you managing a project.


2. Look and Act Professional

The sad truth is that people judge other people even before they open their mouths. What you wear not only affects the impression someone will have of you, it can also affect you emotionally. Take the half hour to put on something nice before your class. Your professors (and managers) will have more respect for you if you’re dressed to impress.

“Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”
- Marty Fisher


3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Professors want to see their students succeed. Managers want to see their understudies succeed. Never assume you know what you’re doing. Here at Sherpa, we have a rule: Spend 15 minutes searching the internet for the answer. If you come up empty-handed, ask somebody. There’s nothing worse than having to spend two hours redoing your work when you could have spent five minutes asking someone a question.

In my first year, I was absolutely terrified to ask the professor (or TA) a question as I was just one student in a sea of 200. However, that student who raises their hand not only displays confidence, but will also make a name for themselves. If you’re still working on your confidence, make use of the professor’s office hours.

In today’s world of accessibility, every professor and manager has an email address and an open door policy. Use it wisely.


4. Take Responsibility for Your Actions

During this year’s Your First Year Orientation presentation, the university’s President made a strong point to first year students that I couldn’t believe she had to say”, “Don’t have your parents call the school or your professors on your behalf.” If you’re sick and need to miss class, let your professor know that you will not be able to make it and get the notes from a fellow student (remember: time management).

Return those notes by the next class and make sure you keep their papers in the condition in which you received them. Nobody’s going to help you out if you hand them back coffee-stained, crumpled papers. You spend 40 hours a week with your coworkers and building trust with these people is how work gets done. Not taking responsibilities for your actions is a good way to move down the corporate ladder FAST. According to our principal, Marty Fisher, introspection is one of the most powerful qualities in any human being.

Even if it’s not your fault, assume that it is. Find the points where you could have helped out and learn from them.


5. Get Involved in Positive Extra-Curricular Activities

If you’ve got the last four points down to a science (and only if you feel truly prepared) then you’re ready to take on extra-curricular activities. Being able to take on a side project looks great on a resume and can be very fulfilling. Find a group or club (that’s not your weekly beer pong game) that speaks to your values and beliefs.

By volunteering your time to a community effort or joining a local networking group, you will join like-minded individuals who will provide a positive impact on your personal growth and help establish your personal brand which could help you in furthering your career. 

Just because the work doesn’t pay doesn’t mean you’re not getting paid in other ways.


6. Great Performance = Great Rewards

We all know how jobs work; if you excel at your role, you’re going to be given more responsibilities, which leads to promotions, which leads to pay increases. This is the same method for schooling as well. The better your grades means better access to bursaries and scholarships. By keeping up a strong GPA, you can get out of school with less debt and be positioned as a better candidate when you leave school.

Which doctor would you rather go see? The one who exceled at the top of their class or the one who just barely passed?

Here at Sherpa, we’re all about Technology-Driven Marketing Solutions, which means that every employee is constantly learning new things. So even though you may be just on the tip of your learning career, by following these tips throughout your entire school year we know you’ll be prepared for the workforce ahead. Good luck tributes.

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