What first-year U of G students should know | Ontario Agricultural College

What first-year U of G students should know

Posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2023

Written by Pimpisa Prasitnaraphan

A woman wearing jeans, a brown shirt and a bakcback posing in front of a historic brick buidling on a bright summer day.

Are you trying to find an honest, truthful insight on how your first-year college experience will be like at the University of Guelph? 

I used to be in your place. I also did my research about the struggles and hardships previous U of G students faced before making decision for myself. However, it is very difficult to find the sincere insight shared by a current student. 

The tips I’m going to share with you will make you more aware of the potential issues you might face, and help you access all the benefits you are eligible to receive as a University of Guelph student.

1. Take Distance Education (DE) courses in first year

Initially, I was not a big fan of online classes. I always hated studying online. I felt like there was no connection between students if they were not forced to socialize by attending face-to-face lectures and seminars. However, I realized later on that the advantages of DE classes actually outweighed its disadvantages. 

By taking a DE course(s) during the semester, it allows you to adapt to the new environment and routine faster. Even though I was living on campus, taking some DE courses helped me focus better with my heavy course load. It gives you more control over your schedule too. 

DE courses give you more time to attend labs and in-person lectures for your other classes. Those spare extra hours can also be used for your part-time job, gym, extracurricular activities, or anything you like. Plus, the offline course structure allows you to work at your own pace. You won’t have to experience the professor rushing through the difficult content when the class time is almost up. Also, if you ever find it difficult to catch up with the professor’s teaching style, then DE option might be a good alternative for some of your courses! Another benefit is the final exams are taken online. 

I took DE for my HROB*2090 (Individuals and Groups in Organization) and MCS*2020 (Information Management) courses. The content for both is definitely doable without the need of extra help. However, you can always reach out to the professor whenever you need any clarification.  I am currently taking a DE course for my ACCT*2230 (Managerial Accounting) this semester and it was the best decision ever! I do not have to be outside in the snowy, cold winter weather to attend a lecture that will end at 9:50 pm.

2. Finish your meal plan before first year ends

This might be a weird take on meal plans, since I’ve heard many people finish them early in the semester. But, I was living in East Village Townhouses with a full kitchen during my first year and I cooked and ate my own food for many meals rather than buying every meal from the dining halls. After the winter semester of my first year, there was still some money left on my meal plan. 

That original plan was converted into a carryover plan when I moved out of residence. Sadly, the carryover plan doesn’t give you the same student discount you get when living on campus. Be sure to plan out your meal plan spending, so that you take advantage of it while the discounts still apply.  You’ll save more money that way. 

Picking the lighter meal plan instead of a normal one in your first year is also a good idea if you plan to make a lot of your meals. This is especially important if you will be living in East Residence and have access to a kitchen. Remember, you can always top up your meal plan later in the semester if you run out of money.

3. Search for off-campus housing in your second semester

I highly suggest finding your second year off-campus housing as early as possible. During my 2022-2023 school year, it was nearly impossible to get into university residence as a second-year student, especially if you’re not one of the cluster leaders or residence assistants. I was desperate after realizing that I was on the 500+ residence waiting list! As a result, I had to find my off-campus house last minute. I searched for months and finally signed my lease a month before the fall semester. 

Guelph’s housing situation is very competitive and the price increases because of the higher housing demand. I’ve heard of some students even offering down payments to get landlords to sign a lease with them as fast as possible.  It is really a competition that you don’t want to participate in. 

Some websites I used during my house hunting process were TheCannon, Places4Students, and University of Guelph Off Campus Rentals Facebook Group. The most popular place during my search was Edinburgh Village at Chancellor’s way. Here’s a hint: if you get to the top of their waiting list, then you might be able to get in. If not, I have to break it to you …. they will not call you back. However, there are many good locations out there, so keep on searching and make sure you read the lease terms carefully!

TIP: Enjoy every second of living on residence in first year. Don’t take the opportunity to live in residence for granted. Once you move out, it will start to hit you when you realized that you can’t easily walk back to your room to take a nap in between classes e or visit your friend’s room at any time. Make sure to check out all the O-week events. Join the Pep Rally! You’ll make lots of friends there. Residence staff and the Interhall Council organize fun events make sure to leave your room and join those. Don’t make the same mistake as me and only studying like crazy in your bedroom at night. 

4. Find part-time jobs on Experience Guelph that are convenient for first year life

A brick wall with Univeirtsy of Guelph letters beside a gryphon statue.

If you are looking for work during the semester, you should consider the on-campus part-time jobs found on experienceguelph.ca. It is very convenient to walk to  work and the schedule for work is also typically more flexible. University employers know that the main priority for students is their studies, so they will try to fit minimum hours within your schedule so that you won’t have the problem of not being able to catch up with your classes. You also don’t have to waste your time on transportation if you live in residence. 

Another benefit about working on campus is that you can socialize and make connections with university staff members and other people who are working behind the scenes. It amazes me to see how the things we encounter as first-year students were created like housing or hospitality. There are many positions on Experience Guelph. The best time to look and apply is at the beginning of the semester. There’s a larger variety of jobs to choose from. If I knew that this website was this easy to navigate, I would have applied for on-campus part-time jobs my first semester. Sadly, that’s not the case for me. But, I applied later in winter and got an offer for my current position as a content creator for the OAC communication team through Experience Guelph! 

5. Failing a first-year exam is not the end of the world

Students with computers in their lap sitting in the balcony of an old lecture hall.

If you are a first-year student who is worrying about your grades and academic performance, let me tell you, don’t worry. You are on the right track. University-level education is definitely not easy. You will have to struggle your way through and might fail some exams or courses along the way, but it is totally fine. You have to remind yourself that you’re not alone. People that perform poorly usually don’t post about it, but they do exist. Every one of us has a different foundation in a subject. You are also still new to the style of teaching and evaluations. First year is the perfect time for you to learn how to study more effectively. 

I still remember how bad I felt after failing one of my first-year chemistry midterms because I had never failed a single test throughout high school. I failed another midterm in my second year, and it still struck me the same way it did in my first year. Sometimes, it will feel like you tried your best, but the outcome says otherwise. Just don’t give up. Ask for help instead. List all the help available to you and focus on the method you think is the best help you could get. Here are some additional resources: Supported Learning Groups (SLGs), Academic Action Program, and academic advisors. Your academic advisors include program counsellor and faculty advisor. These resources are meant to be there to help us out. Try to compete with yourself rather with than someone else in your class. If you have lost your motivation, go talk to someone about the problem. It will make you feel better. Many people will be happy to help you out!

6. Join clubs and associations to meet people 

Three students posing in front of an old church.

Many people think that partying is the best way to socialize in your first year, but I would say I disagree with that idea. I felt that it is much harder to make connections with strangers who came from different backgrounds and have different goals/interests. I’d have fun meeting them, but those friendships don’t stick around in the long run. Getting to know people who are members of a club/association that you are interested in, means that you are more likely to meet someone who you can relate to easily and learn from. It’s a great way to meet people studying similar topics that that is older and has more experience. 

University provides such a good opportunity to be surrounded by people who inspire you or can be a role model.  Since I’m enrolled in a co-op program, the senior students in the Food Science Club have given me so much insight about their work terms at different companies. I was able to make friends with so many people from my year and upper years who are also interested in food and the food industry. Join whatever group that interests you. You might meet a friend for life there!

There are more than 100 clubs on Gryphlife and CSA websites. If none matches your interest, you can also create another one and receiver funding.

There are so many things that I regret not doing in my first year back in Fall 2021. I hope you can learn from my experience and not make the same mistakes as I did.

About the blogger: Pimpisa is a second-year international student in the food industry management program at the University of Guelph. She always tries her best to get out of her comfort zone and gain new experiences. Nothing can excite her more than having an overpacked schedule as she gets involved in different communities.

In this series of blog posts, OAC students take us through some of the ups and downs of their journeys at the University of Guelph.

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