Academics 101

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An overview for 1st-year students


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How to have a positive experience and get good grades

Welcome to Queen’s! Congratulations on making the leap from High School to University. This primer will give you an overview of some of the new approaches and ways of thinking that successful students use at Queen’s. The strategies you used at high school worked in that situation, but most students discover that university is a different ball game, with new expectations, demands and pitfalls.

Adapting to the educational style of university can be easier if you have an idea of what to expect, and what is expected of you. Some aspects of university stand out, like the fast pace of learning new material, and the complexity and volume of material to be learned. Other significant features of university education are the high degree of independence you need to manage your learning, your social life, and your routines while away from home.


The First Six Weeks: 'A how-to' manualI. New academic expectationsII. New skillsIII. New independenceIV. Additional information

The first six weeks of university: A ‘how-to’ manual


Download a PDF version of Academics 101


Week One

  • Take Success at university is up to you.
  • Start the year off right: figure out where your classes are, and go!
  • Don’t wait: Buy all your textbooks and course
  • You will get a syllabus for each class. Read it! Keep it somewhere you will reference
  • Transfer important dates and deadlines from the syllabus for each course to your term
  • If your courses have a Moodle site, log in and check it
  • Work will start right away; complete your assignments for each course to make sure you keep up (e.g. readings, problem sets).
  • That time between your classes? That isn’t time off – it’s work
  • Estimate how much time you will need to devote to each course, and make a weekly schedule that includes time for work, extra-curricular activities, fun, and


Week Two

  • Make sure to check your @queensu e-mail account – this is how the university stays in touch with you
  • Visit your professors’ office hours to introduce yourself
  • Introduce yourself to other students in your classes
  • Find a study space that works for you
  • Review your weekly schedule: Is it working? Are there things that should be changed?
  • Are there courses you need to add or drop? The last day of the second week of term is the final day to add courses, or to drop courses without financial or academic penalty
  • Unsure of the academic expectations? Attend a Learning Strategies workshop, or sign up for an individual consult with a Learning Strategies Advisor
  • Look into ways to get involved on campus
  • Be open to new experiences, but stay connected with family and friends back home as well


Week Three

  • Even though your professors may not be taking attendance, attend lectures! You will be glad you did when midterms
  • Form study groups with your
  • Continue to keep up with your
  • That time between your classes? Use it for school
  • If you are stuck with something, get help: approach your professor, your TA, or make an appointment with SASS.


Week Four

  • Midterms will be starting before you know it!
  • You may have several assignments and exams on the horizon – start planning early! Try the Assignment Calculator.
  • Writing assignments due? Make an appointment with the Writing Centre


Week Five

  • By mid-October, preparing for and writing midterms is usually the main priority
  • Create a balanced study schedule that allows you to be well-prepared for exams while still having time for sleep, fun, relaxation, and taking care of your health

Week Six

  • Congrats on finishing your first six weeks!
  • Reflect on your experience so far: What is working? What isn’t? Are things going the way you had hoped?
  • Are you staying motivated? It is never too early visit Career Services and start thinking about long-term
  • Maintain your health The first six weeks of university can be hectic, and you may be feeling like you are ‘not yourself’ if your sleeping, eating, and exercise routines are off.

I.   New academic expectations

1. What’s new and different for you?
2. How are courses taught?
3. What do ‘efficient learners’ do at university?
How can YOU learn well?
Why is it helpful to separate your learning from your studying?
In what ways are you expected to think at university?

II.   New skills

1. Managing your time and your self
2. Effective reading
3. Tests and exams

III.   New independence

1. Balancing academics and life
2. How can you cope if you feel overwhelmed?

IV.  Additional information

1. University-level writing
2. What is plagiarism?
3. Computers
4. Working in groups
5. Services for students with disabilities
6. Services for international students



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