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WOHC's Declassified Online University Survival Guide

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Written by Celina Tang and Paula Magbor

Edited by Jocelyn Tan and Kyla Finlayson

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that our lives have been deeply affected. At WOHC, we recognize the various challenges and adjustments to routines and habits that we will need to adapt to as students. These changes may seem daunting or overwhelming, especially if you are transitioning into university. To help mitigate these concerns, we have compiled a list of tips and resources for achieving success and staying healthy during this unique school year. We will be focusing on academics, social/involvement, and health/wellness.



Image by rhodesj via Flickr

1) Try out different resources.

As we've learned from our personal experiences with quarantine, going online has its benefits and drawbacks. Having online courses can help make your schedule more flexible. Still, without a time management system, it is easy to fall behind. Everyone's approach to studying and organizing can be a little different. Whether you're a digital guru or prefer good old pen and paper to plan, check out these resources to help boost your productivity this school year.


  • Anki - A learning software that uses spaced repetition to enhance study sessions. There are numerous YouTube videos with tutorials, tips, and tricks to get you started.

  • Quizlet - A helpful resource with different learning modes. Once you have your card sets ready, you can stick to the flashcard format or gamify your learning experience with other modes like matching or gravity.

  • Flashcards - Flashcards are great alternatives for tactile learners. You can also supplement them with an analog revision system to help you focus on trickier concepts.

Taking Notes

Whether you like digital notes, hand-written notes, or a blend of both, there are countless ways you can adapt your lecture note-taking style. If you have a laptop, iPad, or tablet, you can annotate lecture slides with PowerPoint or as a PDF with software like OneNote or Drawboard PDF (~$10 on the Microsoft Store). Alternatively, if you prefer writing physical notes, you can print out your lecture slides and write on them during lectures or have a dedicated notebook.

Whichever method you lean towards, do not be afraid to experiment and adapt your method. As you go through university, you will soon find your note-taking niche!


While your textbook or lecture notes are usually the best reflections of testable material, YouTube videos can help you better understand concepts. Here are a few channels we have found useful over the years: The Organic Chemistry Tutor, patrickJMT, Crash Course and Khan Academy

2) Stay organized.

Course Syllabi

Course syllabi are usually released anywhere from a few days to a week before the first day of class. They contain important information regarding course content and expectations, contact information for professors and TAs, as well as dates/times for assignments and exams.

We highly encourage you to:

  1. Thoroughly read each syllabus before the first day of class.

  2. Transfer all important dates/ times indicated on your syllabi to a calendar.

  3. Note professor/TA office hours and contact information.


Scheduling is important to help you stay on track throughout the year. When looking for a physical or digital planner/calendar, try to find one that has weekly and monthly overviews with the added flexibility to colour-code.

Some of our suggestions are:

  • Notion - free and downloadable option on desktop and phone

  • Google Calendar - free and downloadable option on desktop and phone

  • Physical Agenda - can be purchased in most stationery and department stores

3) Have a consistent routine.

Having a daily routine can help you get you into the right headspace for the day. Even if you are not physically going to lectures for the day, get ready as if you are. As tempting as it is to grab your laptop and watch lectures in your pyjamas in bed, you run the risk of dozing off. What was meant to be a power nap, can quickly turn into a 3-hour sleep (true story).

Here are some tips for creating your daily routine:

  1. Set an alarm to wake up at a consistent time every day.

  2. Create a morning routine to make you feel motivated to begin your day. This will look different from person-to-person, so find what works for you!

  3. Set realistic goals for what you want to accomplish each day. Whether you are working, going through lectures, or studying, make sure to take breaks in between and set aside time to wind down.

  4. Try not to skip meals. Your brain needs fuel to function! If you are on a meal plan, be sure to take the time to eat even on a busy schedule. If you are living off-campus and cooking every day is not an option, try meal prepping to save time and money.

  5. Make sleep a top priority. Many studies show that a good night's sleep is vital in maintaining emotional resilience.

4) Stay engaged and connected with professors and peers.

Use Owl Forums

OWL Forums are a great place to ask questions and get detailed responses from TAs, professors, and peers. Additionally, there is always a high chance that someone else has asked the same question that you have.

Go to Office Hours

TAs and professors have office hours that take place typically 1-2 times a week. During this time, students are welcome to go to their office (or dedicated Owl Tab for virtual office hours) and ask questions and/or listen to questions that other students have. Attending office hours is an excellent opportunity to get your questions answered while building a rapport with your TA or professor which is difficult to do during large lectures.

Email TAs/Professors

Should your course syllabi allow this, emailing your TAs/professors can be extremely helpful. Keep in mind, however, that depending on the course and professor, there may be certain preferences as to the type of questions that require emailing them directly. (Do not forget to use proper email etiquette!)

Study Groups

Try to make one friend in every class you have. It is significantly easier to approach large classes or professors in pairs or groups rather than tackling it by yourself. Having someone else that may be just as nervous/confused as you are makes overcoming the unfamiliarity of university academics more manageable.

With primarily online classes, having study groups via Zoom will give you an opportunity to meet new people and stay connected during these unprecedented times, but it will also encourage you to keep on top of the material. Other online platforms, like Facebook, are great for creating course group chats.



1) Stay connected with friends and family.

If quarantine has taught us anything, it is that staying connected with friends and family, while being apart, is not as difficult as it seems! Some of you are moving away from home for the first time. With that being said, we think it is really important to dedicate a night every week or two to connecting with friends and family back home.

Attached is a picture full of various online games to play that we found:

2) Join clubs and attend club events.

At Western there is bound to be a club for everyone and a list of them can be found here. We highly recommend that you join clubs that you are genuinely passionate about. It is easy to get entirely wrapped up in our academics, but making time to connect with others and explore interests can help you truly enjoy your undergraduate experience.

Whether you are interested in applying as an executive member or joining as a general member, participating in club activities gives you the opportunity to gain valuable skills while doing something you love. Depending on the club, you may or may not need to live in London during the school year to apply.

If you are entering your first year at Western, keep in mind that high school and university extracurricular activities can differ in the level of commitment. Participating in university clubs, particularly in executive roles, may be more time-demanding. Try not to spread yourself too thin by being selective about which clubs or groups you choose to join.

Moreover, many clubs and organizations at Western hold events/initiatives that are open to anyone, even if you are not a club member. Not only do these events allow you to network with knowledgeable individuals in a certain field of expertise, but you will be able to meet other like-minded people with similar interests. Many events are run by upper-year students with a plethora of experience and insight who are always open to giving advice to other students. There are also many fun events (with free food!) great for meeting new people and taking a break from studying.

Some common club events include:

  • Information sessions regarding modules or research opportunities

  • Resume and cover letter workshops

  • Case competitions (pssst keep an eye out on an upcoming one organized by WOHC!)

  • Wellness/de-stress events

  • Themed photo booths



Given the unique circumstances that the pandemic has created, it is even more imperative to reach out and take action towards caring for your health. Connecting with your peers, family, and friends as well as reach out to community support is essential for your overall well-being and academic success Your health should always take precedence. Fortunately, Western and the London community has many resources that can help.

Mental and Physical Wellness

Academic Wellness

Financial Wellness

Here is a more extensive list of Western's digital student experience this school year.

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