Reflections from a third year student

Posted on Tuesday, March 29th, 2022

Navigating academics, work and social life while thinking about future careers can be challenging. For this blog post Hannah, a first year animal biology student, asks a third year animal biology some questions about their undergraduate experience so far.

"As you read through this heart felt and thoughtful advice offered to you by a peer, I hope you thought about what these answers mean to you. Some may be answers that resonate with you, some may be answers you may oppose, and some may be answers you can't wait to learn from. After reading each one of these questions and answers, I challenge you to think about how you might answer these questions, and who you might benefit from sharing them with. No one goes through their entire university experience alone, we are here to guide each other, help each other, and cheer each other on. 

I understand that not the entire audience who are taking the time to read this article is in the animal biology program here in Guelph, but this advice is not program-specific. This advice can be applied to any program, or at any point in your life. Self-reflection plays a very important role in your success." -Hannah 


What do you wish you could tell your first-year self?

There is so much I wish I could have known in first year, but I think the point is to experience what you will experience. My biggest motto is 'whatever happens, happens for a reason.' For me, first year was a crazy difficult transition from high school. I almost withdrew from my program, and I am so glad that I didn't. It's okay if you fail a few exams, or even a few classes. In the long run, believe me when I say it won't matter. I wish I hadn't been so hard on myself as a first year student. Your grades in first year won't make or break your future careers. Enjoy your first year as a university student, make new friends (seriously, talk to that person sitting alone next to you), and make the most of it!!

What is your best study tip for tests, midterms, or exams?

It took me my first two years of undergrad to try out different methods and find out what works for me. So, if you feel something isn't working, don't be afraid to try something new and find something that does work! Everyone has their own methods and what works for me, may not work for you.

I find that I have a different method for each type of class. For courses that are heavy in math such as calculus, chemistry, physics, or stats, I rely on doing as many practice questions as I can. On the other hand, courses with closed-book exams based mostly on memorization, I will take hand-written notes throughout the semester. I believe that hand-writing my notes made a huge difference in helping me remember content for these courses. Then, when it comes time to study, I will read through the notes and try to "teach" myself and explain the material as I go through.

In terms of tips for writing exams, my biggest tip will be for multiple-choice questions. I find those to be the trickiest for me because with all the options in front of me, I begin to second-guess myself. What one wonderful teacher taught me to do in high school that has helped me ever since is to cover the options and try to think of the answer solely based on the question. I know this won't be possible for all types of multiple-choice questions, but it has helped me for many of them. Once I circle an answer, as much as I want to, I never come back. More often than not, I end up changing my answer from right to wrong, so I try to believe in myself and be confident in my first gut answer.

How do you balance your academics, work, and social life?

Use your calendar!! It's crazy to think how important my calendar has become in my life. I make sure to schedule all classes, exams, assignment due dates, work shifts, etc. with appropriate reminders. That way, I can make sure that everything gets completed on time and nothing is missed. Sometimes, life gets so busy that I even schedule spending time with friends! AND THIS IS IMPORTANT! Remember to schedule breaks!

What would be your best advice for someone going into an important interview?

I would say preparation is key. I personally make a list of sample interview questions and practice answering them. I also make sure to use examples previous experiences that demonstrate qualities the interviewers are looking for. Is leadership important in this position? Then I make sure to talk about a time I demonstrated that.

How do you get involved on campus to benefit your future career?

I'm going to start off by saying getting involved is important but being able to say no is even more important. Only take on what you can handle and if you find that you have taken on too much, it's okay to take a step back. Your health is important above all else. I’ve learned this as I strive towards veterinary school or graduate school.

Some of the ways I like to spend my time are participating in College Royal, working as part of the Foal Watch team, and volunteering with different research laboratories. If research is something you're interested in, my biggest tip would be to search online about the different research happening at U of G and reach out to professors whose research interests you! A lot of the time they will be more than happy to help you volunteer in the lab or will even offer you a paid position. Another great place to find employment is on Experience Guelph. No matter where your passions lie, you're bound to find something that piques your interest on that website.


Conclusions from Hannah, first year animal biology student

I’d like to start off by saying that I haven't been at the University of Guelph long, 161 days to be exact, but who's counting! During this short amount of time, I have made friendships, connections, and bonds that I didn't even know were possible. The people I have met along the way so far are those who are teaching me, inspiring me, and molding my future! As a first year student my answers to these questions may be a little different, as may yours, but I am here to tell you that's a good thing. If each and every one of us were exactly the same, there would be no room for growth, or excitement, or unknown territory. Accepting advice from those with more experience is something we can all benefit from. 

I hope you enjoyed, learned from, and appreciated the advice given throughout this article.

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