Freshman 15

Like all first years, I suffered from the freshman 15. No, I didn’t gain 15 pounds, but rather I learned 15 things that could help someone transition into university or even current students who suffer from various things like a tight budget. So, let’s begin


To be honest, I didn’t really face many obstacles in high school, but at university, I got my first taste. I remember doing terrible on my midterms, getting rejected from several clubs and struggling with some course material. In those moments I could have let that affect me and prevent me from progressing or I could simply “get over it”. I chose the latter and decided to work smarter and everything was A-Okay.


I have a love-hate relationship with grades. I do think they are important but at the same time, I don’t pay much attention to them. No doubt I would love to get 90s in courses, but that is not what I use as motivation. By keeping the mindset that I want to study so I can learn more or apply this in real life helped me get over the dullness of some courses. Turns out, the good grades followed, and I saw improvement in my engagement in lectures.

Seek help

At university, you’re surrounded by professors, students and TAs who have a tremendous amount of experience in their fields, courses, and interests. If you are interested in something, struggling with material or simply want to see what it’s like to be in their shoes, just ask. Most likely they will be happy to help you as they did with me.


This one is quite important, especially for me. I need some spice in my life, and love to watch mob/mafia TV-shows & movies, as well I enjoy watching a lot of sports and do other things like volunteer at my Mandir (Temple). When transitioning into university, I thought the next five years of my life would literally be plain and be packed with work and assignments. However, it doesn’t have to be, if I learned how to maintain balance.

Active learning

This is not something I technically realized in university, as I did this in high school as well. In university, however, it became my go-to learning method. In a week, one course has about 3-hours’ worth of lecture time. For someone who hates writing notes, that’s a whole lot of them. When it came time to preparing for midterms or exams, I didn’t rely on my notes much. I literally would throw myself into problems and assignments, and if there was something I didn’t understand, only then I would go back to my notes. This helped me better understand the course material and helped me save time.

Eating well

When it comes to my diet, I like to think of myself as a machine. I need fuel and there are different types of fuel out there. To perform my best, I chose to give myself the best fuel and avoided the other crappy ones. By eating a cleaner diet, I saved myself from feeling fatigued and guilty throughout the day. I still ate nachos, pizza, and other such precious foods, just less frequently.


There are tons of benefits to exercising, and you don’t need me to prove them to you. But as a student, I use exercise like playing basketball or working out to help me with my academics and mental health. Before midterms and exams, I like to play basketball or do some form of exercise to help me calm down and get my mind off school. This helped me go into these situations more focused and stress-free.

Visual learner

As an Accounting and Financial Management student, I need to understand and know many processes and systems. To help me better understand and digest these systems, I created visual flowcharts and diagrams of the concepts. I also made cheat sheets even if the exam didn’t require it and used them to prepare for it.

Finding experts

Everyone is good at something, and I know that there are some things I am not good at, AKA Stats. So, I decided to find people who were better and more comfortable with it and used their help to understand the material. This helped me understand the concepts in a simple and quicker way.

Teach to learn

This point relates to my previous one, as when I returned the favor, I was developing a better understanding of it. I knew that I really knew a topic if I could comfortably explain and teach it to someone else. Sometimes I used my younger sister who is in grade 9 and I did my best to explain to her first-year finance concepts.


Unlike high school, you are solely responsible for your own development as a student. The professors can only do so much given the size of lectures and faculty. To prepare better, you need to go out of your way and do the readings in advance, refer to it later, google things you don’t understand and create your own review material.

Saving money

University is expensive and like most students my pockets are tight. I became more thoughtful when it came to my spending and even budgeted my expenses. For example, after purchasing coffee from the fancy university cafes, I switched to timmies. Even then, spending $1.80 on a medium black seemed unreasonable so I decided to make my own coffee from home or save my coffee budget for extreme cases only.

A place for everyone

First thing I noticed on campus was that there is a place for everyone. No matter what your hobbies or passions are, there is a club or a group of people like you. Find them, connect with them and become better with them.

A bit by bit

University assignments are difficult and time-consuming. Instead of saving them for the day before or the week off, I started to chop at it bit by bit. I started them early and worked at it a question at a time. This allowed me to finish it in advance, compare my answers with my peers and then hand in the best and most correction version of it.

A visual planner

Here is a glimpse of how I use Google calendar to stay organised

I think I fell in love with Google calendars, especially the desktop version. I love how it so crisp and clean and allowed me to schedule and plan my weeks in advance. Also, it gave me space on the same screen to make to-do lists and notes. The ability to color code my lectures, tutorials, study sessions and more just made me further like the software.

To the people going into university, be excited and ready to learn. Being a student can be difficult, but remember with good practices in place it can be fun. Also, to the students who are in the process of crushing exams, know that you’re getting closer and closer to your goals and aspiration. In short, remember to improvise, adapt and overcome.

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About the author

Jalp Shah

Hi, I'm Jalp Shah, an aspiring blogger with an obsession of learning anything I can get my hands on. This blog is dedicated to sharing my thoughts and projects with the rest of the world!

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