Navigating University Life and Maximizing the Undergrad Student Experience

September 05, 2023

As the new academic year begins, new and returning students are gearing up for another semester of learning and growth. 

Sarah Lison, an experienced advisor in the Faculty of Education, has some valuable insights and tips to help you make the most of your university experience. From mastering time management to taking care of yourself, building strong peer connections, and getting involved in campus activities, Sarah's recommendations are here to guide you in transitioning smoothly into university life.

Q: What advice do you have for students to make the most of their first semester?

A: As you step into this new chapter of your educational journey, look for ways to kindle your passion for learning. Education is a dynamic field that requires ongoing reflection and development. You will have a lot of new experiences in your first semester; approach these with open-minded curiosity. I encourage you to build and nurture your network of fellow teachers and learners. Your peers provide invaluable sources of support, inspiration, and collaboration. Connect with like-minded individuals who share your passions. 

Additionally, connect with your instructors outside of class time. Take advantage of office hours or reach out via email to ask questions, seek guidance, and engage in meaningful conversations. Building a strong rapport with your instructors can provide valuable mentorship opportunities and deepen your understanding of the subject matter. Connecting with them can enhance your overall learning experience. And remember, if you are ever uncertain about navigating through your postsecondary experience, your advisors are always here to help you find your way!

Q: Are there any tools or techniques to help students stay on top of their studies? 

A: Remember the rule of thumb for time management: For every unit of coursework you take, you are spending one hour in the classroom and two to three hours on studying and assignments per week. With this formula in mind, you can make sure you have enough time in your weekly schedule to attend to your studies while balancing any personal, professional, and extra-curricular pursuits. A planner or digital calendar can help a lot with time management. 

I also recommend an exercise I call “Making Time": Take an average week and figure out what you do every day to add up to twenty-four hours. Then, add in the time you will need for schooling and see where you will need to adjust; whether it is a little less TV time or moving some work shifts around to make sure you have time to study every evening. 

You are welcome to contact me if you would like a worksheet for this exercise! 

Q: How can students balance taking care of themselves with juggling school, work, and social life?

A: When building your schedule, make sure you are also budgeting your time for your social life, hobbies, healthy habits, and other forms of self-care. This includes sleep! All-nighters are not going to be the best way to learn, and you do not want to be yawning your way through your classes. 

I recommend all students also complete the course Bouncing Forward. This self-guided online course will provide you with the tools you need to develop resiliency and adapt to all the changes new students experience.

Q: Are there any peer mentoring programs or support networks available for students?

A: The Education Student Association is your student union and is a wonderful way to connect with your peers. Consider joining, so you can be a part of the undergraduate student voice in the Faculty! They also put on social events throughout the year, from bubble tea and colouring de-stress sessions to fancy formal galas.

Q: Where can students go for help and support?

A: SFU has so many centers, offices, and events to support students that it can sometimes be hard to know where to go with what questions. Your advisors are a good place to start if you are not sure. We are always available by email, and through Advisor Link, students are also able to book appointments in person, by phone, or by email. 

Q: How can students get involved in events across campuses?

A: Whether you can join us or not, SFU has a whole month of events to welcome you to campus. From pancake breakfasts to workshops on effective study habits, you are sure to find ways to get involved on all three SFU campuses.

I especially recommend checking out Club Days from September 12 – September 14 to find like-minded students to connect with, and even pick up a new hobby!

Whether you are a new student or returning one, make the most of your time, connect with peers, and explore all that university life offers. 

Connect with our Education advisors for personalized guidance and support. To find out about advisor hours, ways to get in touch, and additional details, visit for more details