Back to School Basics

How to survive Year One at the U of W


“Back-to-school” has a different meaning for awkwardly blooming adults than it does for runny-nosed kids who just can’t wait for recess. Backpacks are no longer armed with freshly sharpened pencil crayons and scented markers. Instead they’re stuffed with overpriced textbooks, a bottle of Advil and a frayed phone charger. The bus to school is no longer yellow, but, usually, it’s just as smelly. So it goes. 

Even so, there’s always a harmony to the hum of excitement on the first day of the fall semester. September is when the student body presents its annual choir concert of sorts, sung by nervous freshmen (the overly excited sopranos) and the overworked undergrads entering their final year (whose disgruntled moaning provides the bass), with all the others providing the vocals in between. 

Incoming freshmen are perhaps the most in need of guidance as they begin their fine, fine liberal arts education - especially those who moved to Winnipeg for schooling. For you, the newest batch of uneasy underclassmen, here are a few tips to ensure your academic and emotional survival in your first year. 

Tip #1: Befriend your neighbour in class. It’s good to have someone to text at 1:00 a.m. when you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s also nice to have a new friend to send Shrek memes to. 

Tip #2: Look at your syllabus. Seriously. Don’t you dare raise your hand and ask when an assignment is due or how long the paper will be. It is in your syllabus. 

Tip #3: Whatever you’re writing, it should be double-spaced and in 12-point Times New Roman, unless you are otherwise told. Actually, you know where this is stated plain and clear? Your beautifully detailed syllabus. 

Tip #4: Play a sport. Though the University of Winnipeg’s offerings for intramural sports are slim, you can always register as an individual or as a team in the Winnipeg Rec League in a number of sports. It’s different than high school, and nobody will be mad if you can’t throw a dodgeball very hard. Sports are an easy way to schedule in social time, fun exercise and a break for your brain. 

Tip #5: If you loathe sports, join a student club. Whether you want to become a billionaire, take photographs or incite a revolution, there’s a group that caters to any number of your oddly specific tastes. For a full list of active student groups, visit 

Tip #6: You’re probably going to make some financial sacrifices, but never, ever cut corners in your toilet paper selection. It isn’t worth it. If there’s one place to splurge, it’s on two-ply. Always. Forever. 

Tip #7: Speak up in class. Your professor will like you if you save them from the awkward silence of an unanswered question. Likewise, if you’re a talker, feel free to shut up and let others speak, too. 

Tip #8: You absolutely cannot survive off of pizza. Eat a damn banana every now and then. 

University has legitimate potential to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your young life, so do your homework, grab a drink with your classmates and never expect one-ply to be enough. 

Shanae will actually burst into tears if you ask a question that’s already answered in your syllabus. 

Published in Volume 71, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 8, 2016)

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