An open letter to first-year students

Dear first-year students,

You don’t know me, but I know you. No, I’m not a creepy stalker. I’m a senior student who once stood where you are now, and I know exactly what you will be facing over the next four years of your university career.

The path ahead of you is full of many pitfalls, and as someone who has fallen into most of them, let me give you some advice on how to avoid them.

You’ve probably already heard about one of the major hazards of first year: the freshmen fifteen. This refers to the fifteen pounds of weight that most students gain in their first year of school, usually due to stress-eating and lack of exercise. As someone who put on a freshman fifty (yes, fifty — curse you Dominos late night delivery), I can assure you may fall victim as well.

The best advice I can give you is this: be aware of why you’re eating. Are you hungry or just stressed out? Mindful eating can make the difference in the fight against the freshman fifteen. I can’t stress how important it is to avoid eating late at night. Eating after 7 p.m. is one of the worst things you can do because that food will just sit with you until morning.

Finally, know when to stop eating. University is a hectic time, but try your best to slow down and enjoy your meal. This will give you more satisfaction and help prevent over-eating. And remember, just because you have the Aramark unlimited meal plan doesn’t mean you should eat every item on the menu (it’s already hard enough on your body having to eat one).

If you find yourself getting stressed, choose exercise over food. Consistent exercise will keep you relaxed, focused and will burn off the inevitable pizza weight. But the best part about exercise is that it will lead to better night sleeps, which is something most university students take for granted.

If there is one thing that you take from this letter, let it be how important a good night’s sleep is. Though most students wear their all-nighters as a badge of honour, that is perhaps the most backwards misconception students have. All-nighters might seem like a promising idea when faced with a deadline, but a much better idea is preparing assignments as far in advance as you can. In the short-term, all-nighters lead to sub-par work. In the long term, they lead to a poor sleep-cycle, stress and a reduced ability to focus. Obviously there will be late nights out with friends, and plenty of drinking, but don’t make staying up late a habit.

My last piece of caution for you is this: you aren’t in high school any more. University professors won’t treat you like a child, so you shouldn’t think of yourself as one. You are officially an adult, whether you like it or not, and you are now responsible for your own education. That being said, there are countless resources here to help with nearly every problem you might encounter, and while the professors won’t hold your hand like high school teachers, nearly all of them are willing to help if you reach out to them.

I know it seems like I’ve described a nightmare year, but there are so many good things about first year. University will be one of the best times of your life, and first year is where you lay the foundation for your time here.

So, take this advice as you will, and hopefully you will survive not only your first year, but the rest of university as well.

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