A Guide to Preparing for Post-Secondary Education


Choosing Courses, Major and Minor

When choosing courses, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, what courses are required for you to take in order to meet the requirements for your major and minor?

Your major should be made on the basis of your interests and abilities as well as your career goals. Your major will be your specialized area, and your minor is your secondary field of study or specialization – you can also choose two majors, which will often require you to complete more courses. After you’ve identified all the courses that are required for you major and minor, you can also branch out and take other courses that interest you as your electives.

Remember that certain courses have prerequisites. For example, many second- and third-year courses will require you to take a first-year course first. If you find upper-year courses that you are interested in, you may have to complete your prerequisites during your first year.

Your first year is often a time to explore various fields. Therefore, it is best to choose courses during your first year of university that you are comfortable with and interested in. Take the time to explore different subjects. In most circumstances, you only need to declare your major and minor when going into your second year; however, do make sure this is the case by contacting the Registrar’s office at your university.

Tips for Choosing Courses

  • Set up an appointment to speak to an Academic Advisor about the possibility of you attending that particular University. They will help you along the way with course selection, the requirements to get into a particular degree or program and can answer your questions about scheduling your timetable.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a wide mix of courses – it’s the best way to learn what you’re interested in, and you’ll discover new interests.
  • Make sure you are interested in the material and try to stay away from courses that you may not comfortable with.
  • It’s not always wise to choose courses based on what your friends are taking since you might not enjoy the learning experience.
  • Learn what is required of you ahead of time by looking at the course outline on the syllabus and/or course description – does the course have a lot of readings? Will it have an exam? Does it require workshops or hands-on exercises? Prepare yourself ahead of time!
  • When in doubt, don’t be afraid to contact and ask the professor. Many professors will happily answer questions about a course, or may even let you sit in on the class before you decide to take it.


Dealing with Deadlines

Deadlines can be scary, especially as they creep closer and seem to overshadow everything. The single best way to deal with them is to simply start things early, and learn to prioritize your tasks – deal with the closest deadline first, so you’re constantly staying ahead of the due date. Purchase an agenda/calendar and make sure to memorize important dates. Always be sure to double check. The professors may or may not remind you about the up and coming deadlines so be sure you plan your life around those important dates.

Tips for Dealing with Deadlines

  • Sit down at the start of the semester (or even the start of every week) and write down everything you have due – class readings, , assignments, essays, exams, bills, meetings, etc. There’s nothing worse than blowing a deadline because you simply forgot about it.
  • Invest in an agenda or a calendar (or both). This can help you visualize your tasks and deadlines ahead of time; allowing you to plan ahead and keep you focused.
  • Try not leave large assignments for the last minute. Don’t panic. When a deadline looms, it can be terrifying – but the more stressed you get, the less efficient you’ll be. Relax, breathe, and take down your assignments one deadline at a time. Make sure you do not keep things until the last minute. Your work will be so much better if you get it started and done ahead of time. If you do find yourself working on something at the very last minute do not give up and just get it done.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, take a break. You will find that when you get back to your task, it will be easier to concentrate and focus after giving your brain a break. Physical exercise is a good one!
  • If it seems overwhelming, don’t be afraid to ask for an extension on your deadlines before the due date. Many professors are understanding, and will grant you a few days leeway if you’re really in a crunch.
  • Keep yourself organized and your work will be done efficiently.


Preparing for Essays and Assignments

Essays and assignments make up the brunt of your coursework, and it’s essential for you to stay on top of them. Be sure to plan ahead by reading through the syllabus or course schedule – you need to know exactly when everything is due, and what is required of you. After that, it’s just a matter of buckling down and getting to work, one assignment at a time.

It is also very important that you make sure that you have done extensive research before you start writing an essay. There are topic specialists at the library that can help you with your research – take advantage of this resource.

Tips for Dealing with Essays and Assignments

  • Be sure to carefully read the requirements before starting an essay or assignment – you’ll only waste your time if you dive into it before understanding what’s expected of you. If you’re confused, clarify with the professor.
  • Make use of the university’s resources. Often they will have centres that help you prepare for your assignments. For example, you can get tips on how to do research, how to write a successful paper, how to reference a document in an assignment, etc.
  • Learn from your mistakes – carefully go over all marked work, and figure out where you went wrong and what you lost marks on. You can always learn how to do better, and apply that knowledge to your next assignment.
  • Make sure that you get all assignments done on time.
  • Take note of how many sources you are required to use for your reference/bibliography.
  • Make sure that you reference credible sources such as peer-reviewed journal articles, books, government documents, websites, etc. Learn from the research staff/resources offered at the library on how to find credible journal articles since it can be tricky at first.
  • Always begin your essays/assignments by brainstorming ideas and then prepare an outline prior to writing.
  • If you are not sure how to begin writing your essay/assignment – just start writing whatever comes to mind… you’ll feel much better. You can always change it afterwards.
  • Always proofread more than once and if possible have someone read your essay/assignment as well.


Cultural Differences

There are so many different cultures in universities. Students and professors come from all over the world to attend university and some may feel alienated and/or isolated. If you feel this way, do not worry since you are not alone. University is meant to create a sense of independence within yourself and that is something that you have to acknowledge and embrace.


  • Ensure that you are aware of the requirements that are expected of you for each course.
  • Read the syllabus very carefully at the beginning of your course.
  • Meet with the professor/instructor or their teaching assistants if you have any questions about the curriculum.


  • Be prepared to enter an environment similar to a different culture.
  • Do not be intimidated by big classes – simply understand that you are there to learn and enjoy the time that you are there for. Generally after the first year your class sizes will decrease.
  • Have a sense of independence and confidence when you walk into a room filled with hundreds of students because you are there to learn and that is fundamental to your success.
  • Get engaged in the lectures by doing the readings and taking notes on paper or on your laptop if you have one.
  • Make a friend or two that you can sit beside every class. Exchange contact information with them so you can be study partners and/or exchange notes. University has its own culture and it is your duty as a student to learn your environment and surroundings by understanding how the system works.
  • Once you learn the culture and system of university it will become much easier, all it takes is time, patience, a positive attitude and adjusting to your new surroundings.

Tips for Dealing with Cultural Differences

  • Always be prepared to learn about different cultures.
  • Do not judge others – learn from others and exchange points of views.
  • Be prepared to share your own culture in order to expand the understanding of others.
  • Be proud of who you are and where you come from.


General Tips for Getting Through University

  • Work/life balance is key to surviving and thriving in university. As important as it is to work hard, you also have to take time for yourself. Remember to eat right, be active, sleep well and socialize with friends. This will keep you balanced and happy.
  • At times university can be overwhelming. Try to keep the big picture in mind, and remember your end goal – why are you in school, or in your program? Where will it take you? Remember, university is your best path to that destination.
  • You will be your own worst enemy if you do not believe in yourself. Self-confidence is important in order to succeed during your university career.
  • Be prepared to learn a lot and quickly. With time and practice you will notice a change and start getting better. Be patient and believe in yourself.
  • Attend all classes when possible.
  • Make sure to do all of your weekly readings in preparation for each class – you will get so much more out of your learning experience. You will also be able to contribute to class discussions, which will expand your learning experience.
  • Do not be intimidated to ask your professors or instructors questions – they are being paid to ensure that you learn and succeed.
  • Always follow your heart, question everything and do not worry about conforming to society’s expectations. Take the opportunities of university to grow your mind, think critically and develop interpersonal and social skills.
  • Discovering your life purpose is a journey, and you don’t know where you’re going until you get there. Therefore, embrace every moment and experience!
  • Post secondary education is the best gift you can give to yourself so keep your eye on the prize and do well.
  • Remember, it is only a short lived experience (with many ups and downs); however, it will bring much long-term gains and benefits!!!