Students high fiving over moving boxes

7 tips for university students moving away from home for the first time

January 12, 2022
Author: Preet Parmar

Don’t just survive, thrive!

One of the biggest things first-year university students experience right off the bat is a certain newfound freedom. It’s a freedom that largely presents itself in the form of more personal responsibility and less structure than what many are accustomed to in high school. This is especially true for those students moving away from home for the first time. There are no set study times, no required mealtimes and no one to tell you when to sleep or when to get up. At the same time, there is an increase in your academic workload, a greater need to multi-task and lots of new social opportunities and challenges. Here are some skills to work on that will help you develop your own internal structure and make the transition successfully.

Manage your time

Prepare a weekly schedule that includes time in class, studying, activities, work, meals and time with friends. Being a university student is like having a full-time job. Expect several hours of studying and preparation for each class.

Brush up on your study skills

Even some of the best high school students could use some work on their study skills. Knowing how to read a textbook, take notes in class, use the library and take multiple-choice tests are all areas that will help you be more successful in the classroom. There are lots of resources to help you prepare in advance for university-level academics on VIU’s Learning Matters website.

Keep stress levels manageable

Regular exercise, adequate rest, good nutrition, prayer and/or meditation are all suggested ways of engaging in self-care that reduces stress. Finding ways to increase your ability to cope will help you decrease the impact of various stressors that life can throw at you. Develop bedtimes based on physical need and health. Adequate sleep and a healthy diet can improve mood, athletic and classroom performance, and help manage stress. Exercise, relaxation and good hygiene are also important aspects of self-care. Check out my blog on practising self-care for some more tips.

Keep yourself in the black

If you’re living on your own for the first time, you’ll be encountering bills and expenses you’re not used to dealing with. It is important to have experience in independently handling money, balancing a bank account, using an ATM, reading a bank statement and learning to make responsible decisions about living on a budget. Not sure where to start? VIU’s Financial Aid and Awards department has a Budgeting Tips and Resources website to help.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

Speaking up for yourself in an assertive manner that is not aggressive nor passively allowing others to take advantage of you is an important skill to have. Assertiveness is helpful in roommate communication, study groups, teams and conflict resolution. In the classroom, it ensures you get your questions answered (and your classmates will thank you for being able to speak up because chances are they are wondering the same things!).

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

A big part of advocating for yourself is knowing when to ask for help. Your time in university is a time for learning new information, new life skills and a new way of relating to the world. Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength and integrity, not an admission of failure.

Practice honesty, integrity and perseverance

Learning to incorporate personal values and ethics into every aspect of life is a significant part of personal growth during the university experience. Part of the path of integrity is learning how to hang in there and stay committed to goals even when situations are challenging.


Preet Parmar is a second-generation Canadian with hometown roots in Vancouver, BC. She is currently a Bachelor of Arts, major in Psychology student at VIU and her long-term goal is to enter the legal profession.

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