The world of post-secondary to which you’re heading is nothing like high school. Not to say that’s a terrible thing. You’ll love some aspects of it: Pub nights, waking up late, choosing courses you actually like, no more detentions, more pub nights. Others not so much: Long lineups at bookstores, hearing the guy in the rez room next to you getting his freak on while you try to sync up Dark Side Of The Moon with The Wizard Of Oz, those newly minted social activists who are always in your face to sign some kind of petition, or using a meal card to purchase what can be described as food in only the most liberal definition.

But for better or worse, dear frosh-to-be, understand that in a few months you’ll be a small fish in a huge pond: No principals or teachers will chase you around to make sure you attend class or do assignments. You’ll be on your own, and the more you prepare over the summer, the easier life will be.

The first thing you’ll notice is that school just got a lot bigger. Some colleges and universities have campuses that span miles and have student populations in the tens of thousands. Finding your way around on the first day won’t be easy, and it may behoove you to do some scouting around over the summer if you’re able.

“A lot of high school students get overwhelmed,” says Dave Scrivener, anthropology student and vice-president of the University of Toronto Student Union. “You’re heading to an organization with thousands of people. If I had it back, I would have spent more time getting to know the campus.”

You’ll also need money, and lots of it. Scrivener says a degree in the liberal arts would cost approximately $6,000 or more per year. Factor in cost of residence (if you’re in one), books, meal plan, supplies and pub night fun money, and you’re looking at least $20,000, according to his estimate. If the help you’re getting from your parents is limited, the summer is the time to make some serious cash. You certainly won’t get more help from the government, Scrivener assures.

“Students are also looking at an increase of 4.5 per cent or more in expenses next year,” says Scrivener. “They should be getting any financial help that they can and that can include scholarships and bursaries. The government is slowly pulling out of public institutions, and the costs get passed along to the students.”

Most importantly, you shouldn’t forget to have fun, and a great way to do that is to get involved and meet people says Mike Duncan, president of the Alma Mater Society at the University of British Columbia. You may not be a joiner, but he says making the effort can enhance your post-secondary experience and future career.

“We have over 300 clubs here. It’s fundamental to get involved in something,” he says.

“That’s how you meet older students who can help you. They’ve been there, too. Once you start to know people, finding the answer becomes easier, and it helps you succeed in your career.”

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