Before starting university, I was terrified.
I heard so much about how difficult the transition from high school to university was, and the dip in academic success a lot of people experience during their first year or two of university.
I chose Queen’s as the next step in my academic journey because it had everything I wanted in a university. My program was highly regarded with a tight-knit student body, and the work-hard-play-hard attitude of the university promised me a well-balanced student life.
To prepare for this transition, I dove down a rabbit hole to learn how to succeed. With aspirations of going to medical school, I knew needed to maintain a high GPA, while building up my list of extra-curriculars to set myself apart from other applicants.
Now, in my third-year of Health Sciences, I can confidently say I can make a 30-minute video or write a 1500-word essay on the same topics I watched videos on three years ago. Throughout my degree thus far, I’ve learned a lot about stuff outside of health sciences, with a crucial skillset being the ability to meet both my academic and non-academic goals.
The most effective way to ensure you succeed is to approach school with a holistic mindset.
To me, this mindset is about focusing on your end goal while enjoying the journey through small steps. While your goal can range from getting a specific GPA to winning the title of your intermural division, you have to manage multiple goals, which is why goals are best pursued holistically.
The first step to growing a holistic mindset is to get academics under control in a sustainable way. Instead of cramming last minute—which I often did in first-year—keep up with academics as the semester progresses.
For me, this involves splitting up modules, lectures, and assignments into small sections so I have time in my day to balance school with my other priorities. By looking ahead at least one week, I can prioritize getting things done early to prevent stress on the due date.
In my daily schedule, I set out to review 10 lecture slides and do a small chunk of each assignment due the following week. This approach not only improves my retention of course material, but prevents burnout.
Now that we have taken care of the academic side, it’s time to implement the personal aspect of the holistic mindset. This is everything outside of school that brings you joy and helps you get to your final destination.
Seeking out extracurriculars you enjoy contributes to your growth. As a Health Sciences student, volunteering at a hospital for pre-medicine students aligns with my career goals and helps me get a jump start on something I’m passionate about.
Extracurriculars increase social connectedness. Friends are a key part of the university experience and having them with you will improve your mental health significantly.
Ensure you allocate time for hobbies, such as going to the gym, playing sports, going out and enjoying nightlife, or catching up with friends and family. It’s important to fill your days with stuff that’s separate from work and school to serve as a way to help you de-stress from your day.
Hobbies not only increase social connectedness, but they also help you stay in touch with your support system. My support system was crucial when I went through difficult times and offered me a necessary shoulder to lean on.
Finally, to truly embrace the holistic mindset, you should embrace taking the time to turn your brain off and do nothing.
For me, this is a crucial step. It allows my mind to take a break and recharge, which helps me work more efficiently. Try implementing this “brain downtime” during your study breaks and see if it increases your productivity.
School, work, clubs, and socializing is a lot to schedule into one day, especially when you’re a terrified first year. As someone who’s been through this, don’t stress. Formulate your plan for the week using a holistic mindset, and take it day by day, week by week, consistently reflecting on your mental and physical health.
This mindset and approach changed everything for me, I truly hope that it does the same for any of you reading this who decide to give it a try.
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