10 secrets for a great first year 

Welcome Week reps join Prof Rosa Da Silva and Science Dean Maureen Macdonald as well as science society president outdoors during welcome week

Prof. Rosa da Silva, centre, and Faculty of Science Dean Maureen MacDonald, second right, shared some tips for first-years with first-years at Faculty Day during Welcome Week. Seen with them are Science Welcome Week planners Ava Colangelo, left, and Abby Nulle, as well as McMaster Science Society President Luca Bernardini, right.

“Professors are people too, and they want you to succeed.”
—Maureen MacDonald, Dean of Science

Getting a degree is a marathon, not a sprint — Maureen MacDonald should know. The Dean of the Faculty of Science is not only an academic superstar, she’s also a kinesiologist, runner and spin class instructor.  

If you didn’t make it to BSB Field for Faculty Day, here are some pro tips for first years from MacDonald and Rosa Da Silva, the Faculty of Science’s associate dean of undergraduate studies and all-star biology prof:  

  1. Pace yourself; your health is No. 1 

Your degree is a marathon, not a sprint. So figure out when to focus on your studies and when to recharge and get a good night’s sleep. Nothing is more important than your health and well-being. 

  1.  Profs are people too 

Yes, you’ll be taught by award-winning and world-renowned professors, but don’t be intimidated. They remember what it’s like to be an undergrad. Your profs want you to succeed and they take real pride in your achievements. They might be incredibly busy, but your professors will make time for you.    

  1.  Office hours, office hours, office hours

Professors love meeting with curious and engaged students. Your profs want to get to know you, so pay a visit during their office hours (find these on the course outline). This is your chance to meet 1:1, ask questions, dig deeper into class discussions, review assignments and get advice and feedback.  

  1. Time management (you knew this was coming) 

Budgeting money is crucial, and the same holds true for your time — there are only 24 hours in your day and you’re responsible for it now that you’re in university. Find a calendar system that works for you and stick with it. Go through your course outlines and load in all the key dates. 

  1. You can’t binge watch school

Even if you can watch lectures at home in your pajamas, go to class in person (Yes, you can wear PJs to class). Your professors work hard to deliver engaging and interactive lectures in person. The conversations before and after lectures are a bonus. Don’t try to binge watch lectures — instead, use the videos like study notes you can refer to after class.  

  1. Don’t spread yourself too thin

Don’t overcommit or give in to pressure to do everything. There will be lots of opportunities to get involved with clubs, societies, committees and intramural sports — it’s one of the perks of being a Mac student. It’s a great way to meet people and make lifelong friendships. But you can’t do all the things at the same time. Start by picking a couple of opportunities that most interest you.  

  1. Yes, you can do research

Did you know a lot of Mac professors welcome undergrads into their research groups? Even in first year, there will be some amazing research opportunities — McMaster is a student-centred and research-focused university. So drop in during your prof’s office hours and ask if you can get involved.  

  1. Ask for help, please 

Fact: Everyone struggles or feels overwhelmed at some point. Knowing you need help is a sign of strength, and there are entire teams of people at McMaster ready to help you. If you are struggling, please don’t wait. Check in with the Student Success Centre or Academic Advising.   

  1. Be yourself — everyone has a place here

Everyone is welcome at Mac. We hope you will be yourself and take pride in who you are. These next four years are an opportunity to explore your identity and sense of self. Seek out people who make you feel happy, good, proud and value you for who you are.  

  1. Don’t be a stranger

If you’re away from home, keep in touch with your family — they’re going to miss you terribly. If they send you a text message, don’t wait a week to reply with a single word or emoji. Call or Facetime after your first week of classes; maybe thank your family if their support and encouragement helped you get here.