A Summer to Remember

Are you looking forward to summer yet?  At the time of writing this, I don’t know if there will still be snow on the ground, or if it will have melted and you’re beginning to get a feel of spring!  A summer well spent for me, is getting in a lot of time outdoors, going barefoot, visiting friends, making some money, and by the end of it all, getting stoked to come back to school in September.  This article will talk about three keys to having a great summer that will lead to a great second year at university. 

The job search 

Most people need summer jobs, if not also part time jobs during the school year.  Many of you, I’m sure, are returning to your old jobs of grocery store cashiers, summer camp counsellors, and local restaurant servers.  If you have a position that you enjoyed and would like to have you back, then that’s awesome, you’re all set!  Many of you though, I’m sure, don’t already have a job lined up at home or are hoping to find a new job that caters a little bit more towards your career aspirations.  If that’s the case, take some time now or in the coming weeks to begin applying for jobs.  Employers are always looking for summer students, but they’ll typically fill those roles before the summer actually starts.  You don’t want to find yourself scrambling for a job at the beginning of summer and possibly going weeks without any income.  University is expensive, and whether you’re paying your own way, your parents are paying, or somewhere in between, a little extra money can go a long way.  You’d be surprised how much more money you can make in four months of full-time work as opposed to the two months you got in high school summers.  Twice as much -- you’ll make twice as much.  I know that math is obvious but $5,000 to $10,000 is a big difference! 

Class selection 

Sometime in July, you will be assigned a date and time to select your classes for the upcoming school year.  It is recommended that you select your classes as soon as you are allowed to.  Though there is typically always room for you in your required classes, spots in electives typically fill up, especially the ones with a reputation of being easy.  If you’re hoping to get in an easy elective to ease the load of your heavy compulsory credits, your best chance of doing so is registering for classes the minute your sign-up appointment comes around.  Now how do you even decide which courses you want to take?  I’ll break that down into steps below. 

  1. Exploring your required courses.  Online, you can find your specific program’s progression requirements.  There will be the courses or course options that you are required to take before graduation, and they’ll be broken down into years.  You can just scroll to second year required courses and follow the directions there.  Each semester of a course is worth 0.5 of a credit and your required courses will typically take up 3.0 to 4.5 of the full 5.0 credits (more for Eng or accelerated degrees).  The rest of your credits are to be filled with electives.  Even if your program only has 3.0 compulsory credits, there will very likely be more classes to choose from than you will actually take.  Take time before your registration date to explore Western’s academic calendar (class descriptions) and look into classes that can count for compulsory credits. 
  2. Exploring electives.  Electives are classes that you take that are required simply as credits, not as specific courses towards your degree.  When selecting electives, you should select ones you are interested in but that also won’t be too big of a time commitment or too hard to achieve good grades in.  It is also important to consider your Breadth Requirements and Essay credits when selecting electives.  No matter your program, you are required 1.0 credits in each of the three categories.  This ensures Western graduates are more well-rounded because they have taken courses in the science, humanities, and language.  Each student is also required to have 2.0 essay credits by the time they graduate.  This often doesn’t need to be paid close attention to because many of the upper year courses you will take are already essay credits.  Some programs are also very essay credit-heavy.  When exploring electives on the academic calendar, don’t completely neglect your Breadth Requirements and Essay credits, but also don’t stress about getting them all completed in second year, because you still have two more years after that to pick away at them.  Make sure you find far more elective courses you would be interested in taking that you actually have room for because many of them will be full when it comes time for you to register. 
  3. Drafting your schedule.  A couple days before your registration date, visit dratfmyschedule.uwo.ca.  Draft My Schedule is an incredibly useful tool that allows you to select courses and see how they fit together on a weekly schedule.  The site also tells you if classes have already filled up and if you have any scheduling conflicts.  You can draft multiple schedules and mix and match courses you’d like to take.  Remember, though, that Draft My Schedule isn’t updated as frequently as Student Centre (student.uwo.ca) and that information on the site shouldn’t be taken as 100% true.  For the most reliable information on the status of courses and your eligibility in them, you should consult Student Centre.
  4. Enrolling in courses.  On the day of your registration, visit your Student Centre and fill your course enrolment worksheet will the courses you want to take.  In the enrolment process, you have to save to your enrolment worksheet AND enroll in the class.  There are two steps and people all-too-often forget the second step.  I would recommend enrolling in classes as you go, instead of filling in your entire worksheet and enrolling in the all the classes at once.  The reason for this is other people are signing up for classes at the same time as you and your spot isn’t reserved until you enroll in that class.  Enroll in your most important classes first to increase your chances of getting the schedule you wanted. 
  5. Tweaking your schedule.  You can make add/drop courses up until even after classes have started!  So if you change your mind on a course, or your friend tells you about a course that you didn’t know about and you think you might find it really interesting, you can always go back later and update your schedule. 

Having fun 

Summer, as much as it is about working and preparing for the next school year, it is also important to unwind, take part in a hobby, and let your mind relax after the mentally strenuous year you just had at university.  There is little merit in pursuing academic endeavors 12 months of the year for four years straight.  You will be able to focus even better in your second year if you gave your brain a rest over the summer. 

I hope you enjoy your first 4 month summer ever and return to campus in the fall with a renewed enthusiasm and drive to excel in second year.