When Mya Wilson, an English and psychology student at Vancouver Island University, first decided to go to university, she was a bit lost.
She didn’t know what a credit was, or what a major or minor was. Wilson also had no idea there were so many options to choose from in every program. Her parents had never gone to university – making her what is called a first-generation university student – and couldn’t help.
“I didn’t know what to expect and my parents couldn’t tell me what to expect,” says Wilson, a Ladysmith Secondary School graduate.
Luckily, VIU’s faculty and staff were there to support her through what can be a daunting process.
“VIU was really great with the whole enrolment process,” remembers Wilson. “I didn’t understand the steps, so I was glad when the university brought someone to my high school who walked us through the process. When I was considering transferring programs, from science to arts, I was able to talk to my professors about it and then make the switch with the help of VIU advisors.”
Her advice to other first-generation students?
“I had great support at home from my family, but even if you don’t have support at home, don’t let that hold you back – VIU has an incredible advising program and other services to support you, and it’s easy to access. Also, there are so many activities to get involved in on campus which really enrich the experience.”
Tina McComb, VIU’s director of enrolment management, believes one reason for these students’ success is that VIU has a welcoming, supportive community.
“Our campuses are relatively small and close-knit,” she says. “Faculty know their students by name and are there to support them throughout their educational journey.”
VIU also has a number of supports available to help students get a jumpstart on their post-secondary careers, says McComb.
For example, all incoming students have access to an online course that guides them through everything from registration, to connecting with an advisor, to getting ready for the first week. VIU also offers individual meetings with advisors, campus tours and webinars. There’s even a new students Facebook group that allows newbies to connect with one another and with student ambassadors to help get pressing questions answered.
Student orientation activities include extended campus tours offered throughout the summer and a number of other orientation events organized in the first weeks of September.
There are also a number of services available for indigenous students at Shq’apthut – VIU’s aboriginal gathering place. To help students adjust to university-level courses, the writing centre, math centre and foundations for success courses are available to all students, and VIU has a digital learning commons at http://learningmatters.viu.ca that has tips to help students ace their first year, from learning and research strategies to time management tips.
Jenn McGarrigle is a writer with VIU communications.