A born and raised Edmontonian, I was an adventurous kid who loved climbing trees and riding my bike. Summer days we would ride our bikes and explore our neighbourhood until dark. I also loved swimming, so I tried race swimming and diving.
In high school I prioritized sports and friends over my grades. Like many students I was unmotivated, lacked study skills, and had no idea how my brain worked. A hard summer job planting trees told me labour was not the life I wanted.
My fourth year of high school was at the supportive learning environment of Centre High, where I figured out how I learn and gave me post-secondary options. I’ve learned my divergent thinking pattern is useful in creative fields, working with youth or children, and for innovative problem solving, but linear tasks like writing papers is difficult for me.
Having someone discuss your future after graduation can be helpful, whether it’s a family member, friend, teacher, or counsellor. They can help you figure out your options, set goals, and make plans. My mom worked in the field of advanced education for several years and was familiar with most post-secondary programs. She helped me find my direction and keep motivated. It was great to have someone I could turn to when I had questions. It was hard to take advice because I thought I knew everything. I’m thankful that my mom was patient and found the resources I needed. My mom reminded me I’m still learning and changing, I’m allowed to change my mind and try different things. She helped me get comfortable with not having a permanent post-secondary plan. I know now that I’m able to be flexible and open to opportunities as they arise.
My strength was arts, so I enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts program at MacEwan. That decision worked out I’m wrapping up my degree and I seriously love learning. I’ve gained access to an unlimited amount of information that has changed my opinions, I have evolved. It sounds nerdy, but it’s also amazing.
I’m soaking up every opportunity and experience school has to offer. What I’ll do once I graduate is still undecided. Grad school isn’t out of the question, but I’d like to either go into play therapy, become a Behaviour Analyst, or do an after degree in nursing. I’m not sure yet, I’m just trying to keep my options open as I explore.
Alberta ran this peer-developed program from 2007 until 2019. Ambassadors blogged and visited classrooms to inspire students to plan their post-secondary journey. These ambassadors are now in the workforce but their stories can still inspire continuous education.
University is not like the movies. Hollywood tends to portray university campuses as either one big semester-long frat party with romance blooming in every corridor, but that’s far from reality.
During my first year of university, I fought to keep the busy social life I’d built over my 2 gap years. It didn’t work. By second semester I realized I couldn’t waste an $800 course, I had to get better grades. I rarely go out with my friends because I can’t afford the cost or the hangovers. I have deadlines to meet and exams to study for, but I don’t miss going out. I’ve got a great group of study friends that keep me on track. My study group has also helped with my writing and editing making tedious tasks fun. The best advice I can give to find friends with similar study schedules, which also helps in case you miss a class.
I went from working full-time to being a full-time student. It’s amazing how quickly the money goes when you’re paying tuition and living expenses and only working ten hours a week. I still haven’t gotten the whole budget thing down but I’m working on it.
While university hasn’t quite lived up to my Hollywood expectations, it’s helping me become and independent adult. I’m getting better at saving and developing good habits, here are my survival tips:
- Ask questions
If you’re confused, chances are someone else feels the same way. Remember that your instructors want to see you succeed, so build relationships with them and seek out help when you need it.
- Make the first weeks count
In university you need to work harder for your marks than you did in grade school and time goes by fast. Don’t fall behind attending welcome events, find a balance.
- Use a planner
At the beginning of every semester go through all your syllabi (course descriptions and timelines) and write down every assignment deadline and exam date. Make sure to schedule classes, appointments, jobs and social events to fit everything in.
- Locate the Student Centre
The centres are information hubs about what is going on in your school and they might even have giveaway items or services that can help.
- If you’re failing, you have options
Keep track of your classes and do the math, contact student services to see about a tutor or consider withdrawing from the course instead. Havin a W (withdrawal) on your transcript is a lot better than an F (fail).
- Know the financial deadlines and what fees you don’t need
If you are still under your parent’s family plan for health insurance you don’t need to buy into the student plan. Know what you’re paying for and be organized so you don’t waste money. Also, know when tuition payments are due so you don’t miss any deadlines, you can’t attend class if fees aren’t paid.
- Check reviews of your instructors
Students evaluate their professors on Rate my Professor, you can use this information to select your classes based on a professor’s teaching style and expectations.
- Save money buy used books
You can often find first year class books check online at a fraction of the bookstore cost. I also recommend waiting until the first day of class to confirm exactly which books will be used. I’ve taken a few courses where a book listed on the syllabus ended up not being required. And if you find an older edition of a required book it might still work, sometimes the differences between the editions are only slight.
- Assigned readings help, so do them
Make sure you put in the time to do the work, readings, papers and projects reinforce everything your professor lectures about. They can also explain things in a different manner and are helpful when studying for your final exams.
Learn from other ambassadors or watch these videos:
Alberta Learning Information System (ALIS) resources:
Also visit your learning path to post-secondary.
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