How To Manage Back To School Stress

Despite the hours you’ve clocked in front of your laptop, television or cellphone this summer—the hours of welcome mind-numbing—September’s imminent approach mitigates their effect. Suddenly you wake from a blissful summer daze, which likely came over you about halfway through binging Netflix’s Glow, and are reminded of course selection, tuition fees and textbook rentals.

Worry not. It’s a normal part of academic life. In fact I often wonder why colleges and universities don’t schedule its approximate arrival in their respective academic calendars. Here’s my advice for harnessing-in back-to-school stress.

Back view portrait of a female student walking

Tackle back-to-school preparation in stages

Unlike assignments, you can’t start and finish back-to-school preparation in a single night. Even if you’re an online shopping whizz, who wants to pay for overnight delivery? Accept you can’t roll out of bed on the first day and walk into the lecture hall completely prepared. School supplies aside, there’s basic administrative deadlines for consideration. The Office of the Registrar is likely the only contact filling your school e-mail address’ inbox this summer. (So, yes, do check it.) Remain aware and, institutional deadlines aside, roughly schedule what, how and when you’ll prepare for the new semester the two weeks before the start of term. Do you new to load up on pens? Will you order your textbooks through Amazon instead of the bookstore this year? What about a tune-up on the bike you ride to and from campus each day?

Review your intended schedule and set goals

Like bad relationships of both the romantic and platonic varieties, it’s usually not until you’re in too deep, you realize the harmful nature of the commitment. Don’t let poor judgment lead to burnout halfway through the approaching term. Sure, sure, you’re organized, you’re hardworking, but, given the choice, do you really want a twelve-hour day every Monday and Wednesday? Depending on how much responsibility you have over your schedule, consider how manageable it is in real life versus on paper. And if the nature of your program offers less flexibility, don’t pile up on unnecessary outside commitments. As someone famous once said, “We fear the unknown.” When you have an understanding of your new term, you’re less likely to stress over it.

Give yourself over to the final days of freedom

After you’ve mulled over the impending term, let yourself return to summer. There’s no point filling the last weeks of August with induced stress. Leave that for the exam period. Stay up late, or go to bed early. Socialize as much as possible or hide in your bedroom and avoid humankind altogether. Such freedom is rarely available when class is back in session. Now while back-to-school stress is expected, it shouldn’t come in extreme doses. And, yes, given the right distractions, you should have the ability to still relax in your final weeks of summer. Manageable back-to-school stress is the price paid for the benefits post-secondary education gifts you: friendships, personal development and academic fulfillment. Should you question the existence of such gifts—or your justification for pursuing a diploma or degree in general—my snappy advice for stress management won’t suffice. Pose these questions to trustworthy family members, friends or a counselor. Nobody deserves to live under constant stress outside of or during the school year.

How To Survive A New Roommate

by Madeleine Brown

It can end friendships, start floods, or worse, deplete liquor stocks: a new roommate. They take sibling squabbles to a new level. And mom is no longer around to play referee. Yet the induction of a roommate is as much a required young adult growing pain as failed papers, burnt casseroles and awkward dates. (Hopefully you never experience all three in a single evening.) Whether your roommate turns into your best friend, worse enemy, or—often best of all—the one that’s never home, you needn’t allow them to decimate your daily routine. Here are my tips to survive not only their arrival, but moreover the duration of their stay.

Moving boxes in new apartment


As the experts say, it’s the key to any successful relationship. Establish lines of communication early. Create a Facebook page for your household to post bills, share holiday plans and “book” the living room for your Wednesday night group study sessions. Likewise ensure you have your new roommate’s e-mail address and phone number. You never know when an issue may require the formality of an e-mail or urgency of a phone call. However, don’t omit the best (yet most dreaded) form of communication: in-person conversation. In an ideal world, every set of roommates could dissect household matters in weekly meetings. You needn’t run your house like some government council though, just make the effort to bring up conflicts or needs in person as often as possible. Although it’s easy to throw down dirt via Facebook, remember your roommates know where you live.


Hopefully you’ve spent some time with your new roommate in advance of their move-in date. Whether you have or haven’t, socialize with them on a regular basis. Now your definition of “regular” can vary immensely. I’ve lived with roommates with whom our socializing amounted to shared a meal (and maybe a movie) at the end of each term. Conversely I’ve socialized with roommates on an almost daily basis in the form of bedroom floor lamentations. (I highly recommend during period of high stress.) However regular, let the “fun” aspect of your relationship develop naturally. Don’t draw up an over-packed social calendar or gift them endless friendship bracelets. Like most relationships, it’ll deepen on its own terms. So never force it. And who really wants to end up living with their best friend? …that’s an entire blog post in itself.


Routines established in September can change come December. Don’t lock yourself into duties or policies. If you’d prefer to take on all the household cleaning rather than divide-up the load, do it. (What?! I like to clean.) If your roommate’s new boyfriend’s elongated stays challenge your initially flexible visitation policy, adjust it. And should such changes present further problems, change them again. Consider your own family. Your role likely shifted in nature over the course of your childhood and adolescence. And it’s likely only to shift more as you progress further into adulthood. The most successful communities acknowledge change as an opportunity for growth and development. And maybe you just don’t want to share milk anymore. So don’t!

Don’t Forget To Pack These 5 College Necessities

When it comes to moving into residence for the first time, ruminate on the following mantra: the first time is always the worse. Having lived it, I can attest to the truth behind that statement. In addition to the emotional nature of the situation (on both yours and likely your family’s parts), the practicality of separating a newly formed single household from an established one is complicated. Suddenly the shared hair dryer and mysteriously self-replacing supply of toilet paper must be considered. Here’s my list of often under-appreciated (and as a result often forgotten) college necessities. And, yes, don’t forget the toilet paper.

pack these 5 college necessities

Laundry supplies

75.4% of young adults attend college and university in order to learn how to do laundry. Okay, I quite possibly made up the percentage, but speaking from my own experience, I like to believe the cliché is true. Coming from a chore-less childhood, I moved away from home, completed my first load and packed my own lunch all for the first times in the span of a week. Along with a choice detergent, dryer sheets, laundry bag, hardcore stain remover and extra coat hangers to air-dry delicates, request basic laundry pointers from a parental unit prior to the big move.

Electronic device wipes

If you didn’t through high school, your life will now officially revolve around your laptop and cellphone. From entertainment to social life and the odd assignment, your devices serve as your home television, office and even personal chef.  So, take my advice and invest in a package of wipes specifically for devices. When your life goes up flames, a clean screen can ease the stress.

Portable drink containers

You’re likely to receive your share of free condoms, pamphlets, barbecues and, yes, water bottles over the course of frosh week. However, now a young adult, you’ll soon learn just because it’s free, don’t mean it’s good. Purchase a quality water bottle and thermos before the move. Most campuses are outfitted with fancy-smancy water fountains and most mornings you won’t wake early enough to finish your coffee at home.

Printer and ink

Don’t pretend you’ve outwitted “the man” by printing your assignments off of the library or student centre printers. It’s never—ever—worth it. Come 4 am, tired, alone and twenty words away from the assigned word count, you do not want to interact with the shared copy machine only to discover it won’t print your half-assed essay. Spend the money and buy a printer. While you’re still on mommy and daddy’s dime, also stock up on ink. Forget learning Santa Claus’ legitimacy, the actual cost of printer ink is the greatest disappointment of adult life.

Alarm clock

I know, you have a cellphone, I know. But let me ask you this: how charged is it right now? It’s probably dead, right? An alarm clock is an ultimately inexpensive investment that’ll save you charging anxiety down the road. It’s the magic of electricity, folks. Set your typical wake-up time—don’t forget to select AM instead of PM—and with the simple flick of a switch, you’ll never worry about making class again. Now whether or not you chose to hit the snooze button one time too many is on you.

Advice For Incoming Freshmen

by Madeleine Brown

Not to add to the pressure on incoming first-years, but I have yet to do anything as important in my life as starting university. Truly. However, I am not saying that either college or university are important. They’re not. It’s the circumstances that surround this moment in your life that hold importance. Whether you move onto residence or commute to campus from home, you’re about to embark on the first stage in your life where you have the opportunity to claim full ownership. 

To add to the abundance of advice you’re likely drowning in, here are three pieces of my own. Consider them, but understand I didn’t develop them (or at least become aware of my development of them) until the end of my university career. Who knows what advice you may doll out to someone in your position in three or four year’s time?

advice for incoming freshman

Expect nothing

Expectations are the bane of my existence. They overshadow experiences. It’s not until some time after the fact—usually when I’m organizing receipts during tax season—when I realize the importance of an experience and how it turned out nothing like my expectations. And thankfully so. (Sadly receipts are my form of adult scrapbooking.) Don’t expect a high grade on your first test, but likewise don’t expect a low one. Don’t expect to meet your best friend or soulmate, but don’t expect not to. You likely have a delightful imagination, but when it comes to real life let’s leave its course up to the world’s greatest creative genius, fate.

Establish routine

Unless you had an nontraditional upbringing, chances are your routine has remained unchanged for eighteen odd years. It’s about to explode into one thousand-some pieces. Some weekdays you won’t have classes, some you may only have one starting at 2 pm and others you may have an overwhelming amount. You may adopt an unbearable two-hour commute to and from school or you may have to schedule dinner yourself at your cafeteria. Whether you thrive on a routine or not, at least reflect on the basic parameters of your new one. Perhaps write it out in diagram form, color-coding based on the nature of the obligation, or speak it out with friends or family. And returning to controlling expectations: don’t expect to master your schedule during your first month.

Enjoy independence

Or if you prefer more banal forms of advice: have fun(!!!). And, no, I don’t mean out-drink your roommate or hook-up with your neighbor across the hall. Enjoy the freedom (in whatever degree) you’ve been gifted. College and universities are worlds onto themselves, aiming to make their resources as accessible as possible. So attend office hours—even just to attest to their existence to your peers—lose your breath at a spin class at the campus gym or sign-up for a questionable, poorly organized club. Like the independence you honed in order to make those decisions, you can just as easily choose to never make the same ones again.

How To Build A Better: Burger

by David Kitai

There is little in the world as innately satisfying as a good hamburger. When the bun, meat and toppings are perfectly balanced, a burger can deliver a pure shot of pleasure. However, while it might be the quickest way to instant stomach satisfaction, when made wrong it has the potential to yield truly disappointing results. Follow my tips and find yourself eating the perfect burgers all-year round (on your cheat days of course).

how to build a better burger

A burger is nothing without the right bun

The right bun could mean a two slices of fluffy white Wonder Bread, but as charming as they are, I think we can do better. (The bun should actually taste like something.) If you like a rich burger, consider brioche. My personal preference is a variety made with a mixture of white and whole-wheat flour and sourdough starter. Sourdough-driven bakeries often carry several great bun options. When the bun is fresh with a lightly crispy crust and soft, flavourful crumb, you know you’re in for a good burger.

Don’t oversauce

Too many burgers—otherwise perfect—suffer from an anxious cook laying down four or five different sauces. I don’t care how much you love your dill aioli, it’s doesn’t pair with banana ketchup and peach chutney. Pick one or two sauces for your burger, matching flavours you know work well together. Sauce should be applied conservatively with wetter sauces, like ketchup and mustard, applied to the bottom bun where they will touch the patty. Mayonnaise-based sauces can be spread on the base of the top bun since they won’t soak veggie toppings like their wetter counterparts.

Keep your veggies seasonal

A sandy, watery, out-of-season tomato wrecks a burger. Come wintertime, why not replace them with a few slices of pickled beetroot? You’ll be surprised by how beautifully they fit in your burger. Wintergreens like kale, chard and collards can serve as cold-weather substitutes for lettuce (especially if you give them a quick wilt in a pan). Onions and mushrooms are best when cooked and, if desirable, with a bit of bacon.

Meat isn’t all about fat

But it’s a little bit about fat. The best way to guarantee a better burger is to make your own patty from ground beef. I aim for approximately 15 to 20 percent fat seasoned only with salt and pepper. If you like the fast food-style burger, make a few small ¼ lb-patties pounded thin. If you want something medium-rare, shape a thick ⅓ lb-patty per serving. Most importantly—and perhaps controversially—don’t cook your burger on a grill. Use a cast-iron pan or flattop. The juicy fat will refract back up to the burger, multiplying the flavour and tenderness, rather than dripping off to burn away between the grill slats.

Toast your buns and assemble with care

You might do everything right only to have your burger fall apart en route to your mouth. It’s likely attributed to over stacking and a cold, untoasted bun. Consider too your plate as a whole. Classic as fries may be on a hot summer’s day a juicy burger needs a refreshing side. Opt for grilled asparagus and zucchini topped with a little lemon juice and zest and melted butter, or a green salad with roast corn.

3 Quiet Study Spots That Aren’t The Library

by Madeleine Brown

In September and January tumbleweeds practically blow through the desolate stacks of college and university libraries. Skip forward a few months and library study space is as competitive as the rental market. Even if you manage to scoop up a spare seat as its former occupant runs screaming into the bathroom, chances are the dejected atmosphere will kill what little confidence remains. So I say keep your sanity in check and study elsewhere. Every campus has its own unique nooks and crannies—you can picture them now, huh? Here are three alternative on-campus study spots to get you through exam season.

places to study that aren't the library

A Guide To Studying For The Easily Distracted

“When it comes to—”

Let me just check Facebook, I think someone sent me a message…

Nevermind. No message.

“As I was saying, when it comes to—”

I’m going to change this playlist—too fast-paced.

“So when it comes to—”

Now this playlist’s too slow. One second.

“SO, when it comes to—”

Oh! I nearly forgot to e-mail Tam. Give me a sec.


how to study for the easily distracted


Every time, I sit down to write—anything—this is my standard thought process. It varies very little from my standard study process. Task me with studying and stick me behind a computer screen or between the sides of a library cubicle and my attention becomes manic. I never once managed an all-nighter over the course of my undergraduate degree. Aside from my preferred early bedtime, I simply don’t have the focus to remain in one spot with my attention on one task for more than forty-five minutes to an hour—let alone six.Rather than force myself to adhere to traditional study strategies, I shaped a set of my own that matches the limits of my attention span.

Be warned: preparation, organization and (shocker) studying are still required.

If you’d prefer to leave it all to the last minute and not study, you can. And you’ll have the added enjoyable worry of whether or not you’ll understand the questions on the exam let alone any solutions.

Now in order to begin studying, ensure that you have all the necessary material.

Do you own all the books or course texts? Do you have the notes from each lecture, tutorial or seminar? And perhaps the corresponding PowerPoint?

Once you’ve collected all these resources, approximately, three weeks prior to your exam or test, build a study schedule.

Within each course, your instructor likely broke the course material down into units, which then each culminated in a test. And if that’s not the case, the material could similarly be broken down by lecture. Depending on how many units you count, assign one more to each day of your schedule. End each period in which you make it through all the units with a review of say the first three. Eventually, you’ll cover several units’ worth of material in a single day rather than just one. You may also choose on such days to schedule a review of the test that culminated a series of units. Here’s an example of such a schedule from my third-year French course:

how to study for the easily distracted

While, it sounds daunting, here’s why it isn’t: you’re simply reading the material on its assigned date.

And, to clarify, depending on the nature of the material, it’s a thorough read of the material—not skimming, but by no means drilling either. Who has the attention span for that?! Know your limits and make your units—the amount of material you cover on each day—as small as necessary in order for you to properly review them. Perhaps your schedule needs to start a week earlier? You’re regularly immersing yourself in the material in small spurts, so that come exam day it’s no longer foreign to you, but part of you.

Now that you’ve broken down the course into bits—bits that your easily distracted mind can more easily digest—break down your study approach in the same manner.

Read one day. Complete exercises another. Study in a group or recruit a roommate to test you on the third. Maybe create a set of cue cards you can either stick on your bedroom mirror or glance over on the commute home. Finally, if time permits, supplement your study materials with more “practical” alternatives. For example, for my second-year dinosaurs and the history of life course, I spent an afternoon at the museum using my notes to identify the skeletons of actual dinosaurs. While I’ve since lost all that knowledge, I never felt so empowered. Allow your distraction to feed your creativity. There is no correct way to study, there’s only the way you can study.

My first school lunch

 by Josh Racho

In kindergarten, my beloved Ninja Turtles lunchbox and in particular its contents consistently made my classmates laugh.

How did my lunch differ from the other kindergarteners?

For starters, I always had a peanut butter and honey sandwich on the nuttiest of breads possible. I figured if birds ate nuts and seeds then they had to be good, right? Next up, I ate celery sticks topped with Cheez Whiz. Not that I would ever consider Cheez Whiz an item to keep in the house anymore, but at the time for some reason there was nothing I enjoyed more. Then I always had one giant carrot that had been washed and left in its full form. I had a moderate obsession with the Looney Tunes and, well, Bugs Bunny always had a carrot. I probably asked the teacher, “What’s up, Doc?” a thousand times. Poor Mrs. Maric… Finally, my all-time favourite snack at lunchtime was lemon wedges. No one understood me. My teacher even had a meeting with my parents to ensure that everything was fine at home and I did in fact just have an atypical palate for my age

How to restock your pantry and refrigerator after a summer away

by Emily Davies

September offers a fresh start filled with new opportunities. It’s the time of year when we say goodbye to sun-kissed skin and sandals and say hello to fall scarves and the new semester. September also provides us a fresh start in terms of our diet; we move from abundant supplies of sweet fruits to comforting root vegetables. But, how can we prepare ourselves for all these seasonal changes and methodically replenish the barren cupboards of our residence dorm room or off-campus abode after a summer away? 

Navigating the university food system

by Danielle Del Vicario

We’re well into the school year and you’re getting used to university life: the campus, the lectures, and the people. You’ve even figured out that you don’t have to raise your hand to go pee. Sadly though, you’re may still completely confused by the food system. When are meal times? Where and what do you eat? The smorgasbord of cakes is calling, but a fear of the “freshman fifteen” pushes you to the salad bar.

Want to eat well while rocking your new food environment? Follow this six-step guide.