Alumni Tips for Preparing for University
Erin McDonald and Yvette Livingston

                                               A Fireside Chat from last year.

Each year, just after our Grade 12 students have completed their university applications, we invite our most recent graduating class back to Southridge to provide students with advice about the post-secondary transitions. Usually, this tradition is hosted in the Senior School library, in an intimate fireside setting, giving the event its name, The Fireside Chats. Now in its ninth year, both alumni and students appreciate this special event. Our alumni enjoy the chance to come back to campus and reconnect with faculty and friends, and our students look forward to the opportunity to ask direct questions to alumni about their experiences after graduation.

Just recently, we had 14 alumni join us for the Fireside Chats: Virtual Edition. While it was not the same as the in-person event, this new version allowed students to see the inside of a university dorm room, check out the “real” technology supporting post-secondary class delivery, and discuss the challenges of transitioning into post-secondary during a pandemic.

As Grade 12 students start to worry about their post-secondary futures, this annual event is a good reminder that they are well prepared to tackle their first-year of university and that they are well supported by a network of alumni who want to continue to see them succeed after leaving Southridge!

Tips and Advice from the Grad Class of 2020

                                   One of this year's Fireside Chats: Virtual Edition

  • Textbooks - don’t rush to buy them. Wait, read the course syllabus (outline) carefully, and attend a few classes before deciding whether you need to spend the money. Alternatively, look online for second-hand or online versions.
  • Budget carefully - do your budgets in Career Education and take note of food plan costs and what’s included. Look for cheaper flights (red eye or early morning) for trips home. For labs, you get the bare minimum of equipment - it’s not fully provided for you any longer - you need to know costs.
  • Talk to senior students in your program or faculty. Find out tips regarding courses/profs, choosing majors, etc.
  • Establish a solid system for note taking - some hot tips include the old-fashioned handwritten kind, an iPad, or a “Rocketbook”.
  • Take your time making your final choice about where to go especially if you have multiple offers. Do your research. Find out what the plan is for the university to return to in-person classes. Choose your university based on what you love. You may have to pay non-refundable deposits but in the long-run it will enable you to have more time for decisions. Watch for deadlines for accepting your offer - especially for Ontario universities!
  • Don’t choose early morning classes if you can help it! If your course is full and you get put on waitlists, hang in there as you will often get your choices even if you are way down on the waitlist.
  • Keep organized - deadlines are deadlines. There are penalties for handing work in late and the penalties grow the longer work is past the due date.
  • Get to know your professors (even when classes are asynchronous). Go to their office hours, ask for help, and if you are going to be late with an assignment due to extenuating circumstances, talk to them about it ahead of time.
  • Taking five courses per semester (10 per year) is normal/manageable. Taking more than that is difficult, and less than 5 may mean you need to take a course in spring/summer to allow you to be promoted to second year and be ready to choose your major.
  • Write your AP exams and take your post-secondary credits if you get a 4 or 5.
  • Knowing proper citation formatting is crucial - we have been taught it well at Southridge so practice and use it as it will help increase your marks on essays/assignments.
  • Talk to your parents - keep them in the loop!
  • Stay well physically and mentally even if you are doing online courses and you are at home - make your health a priority.
  • Be reassured that you have been well-prepared for university. The discipline and the Southridge requirements for academics, athletics, service, and community service prepares you well for managing the demands of post-secondary life.

Contributed by Erin McDonald, Alumni Relations and Yvette Livingston, Secondary Guidance and Career Education