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The transition from high school to university is significant, and there is certainly no shortage of literature on the Internet that is abundant with tips on how to succeed. However, that literature is often ambiguous and applies to a lot of different schools. If you’re about to start your first year at York as a psychology major, or have already completed a year and are still looking for advice, this article is for you!

1. You are responsible for knowing the prerequisites

Please take this point seriously, as you could avoid learning the lesson the hard way! York allows you to sign up for courses even if you don’t have the prerequisite. However, once the semester begins, the office starts going through and making sure that every single student has the prerequisites they need to be in all their classes. This means that if you don’t check to make sure you have the prereqs yourself, you could be booted out of the class even a month and a half in!

2. Most of the first and second-year courses will have two midterms and a final

In most high schools, the methods of evaluation are very different from university. Teachers often give assignments and smaller tests/quizzes to ensure that their students are keeping up with the material so they are not overwhelmed when the exam comes. This stops in university! First and second-year classes usually have anywhere between a hundred to two hundred students in them, so profs and TAs usually don’t have the time to go through and correct two hundred assignments that are only worth 5%. The take-home?  You are now responsible for keeping up with your studying so you’re not overwhelmed with the amount of material when that first midterm comes!

3. Sign up for classes early!

York has the biggest psychology program in Canada, which is fantastic – especially considering the number of psych courses they offer. However, York is also a huge school with a huge number of psych students, so registration for classes (especially required classes like intro psych and stats for psych) fills up incredibly quickly! Do yourself a favour – find out the date registration opens for you and register for all your classes ASAP! That way, even if you change your mind about some of the classes you want to take, you’ll at least get into the classes that you really need to get under your belt.

4. Your second year is the perfect time to start getting lab experience

Whether or not you want to go on to get a master’s in psychology will affect this, but getting into a lab as early as your second year can only help you. You’ll have something to add to your resume, a person to go to for a reference letter, and you’ll also get exposure to the different fields of psychology. Another plus? Working in a lab can also be a lot of fun – if you do your research and find the right lab for you, the shifts you spend in the lab might even be the highlight of your week!

5. Remember that you have plenty of time to drop a class if it doesn’t work out

As mentioned earlier, York has the biggest psych program in Canada and a ridiculous number of really interesting classes. Something that a lot of first and second years don’t realize is that you actually have longer than you think to drop a class without a W appearing on your transcript – it’ll be like you never took it! So if a class looks particularly interesting to you (but you’ve heard it can be difficult), give it a shot – often, the classes you find most interesting, regardless of their difficulty, are the classes you do best in!


You’ll most likely find there is a running theme throughout this blog, and that is to be organized and to not procrastinate! These skills will not only be immeasurably helpful in university, but will also help you when you leave the world of school and enter the world of work.


Lia Reed

Lia hopes to get her PhD in Clinical Psychology, so she'll be in school for a long time! Aside from that, she loves playing with her cat and tutoring (so she gets at least some human interaction!).