While there are a lot of ways to get a good start to the year, it’s difficult to narrow down all the possible options to what you really need to focus on. There’s a lot going on during your first few weeks, but here’s our take on what you need to do to succeed.

#1 Get organized 
Getting organized at the start of the semester will be a worthwhile investment once classes and extracurriculars begin to pick up. If you haven’t already, consider picking up “The Almanac,” the free MSU planner that can be found outside of the MSU office and in the MSU Underground. Centralizing your school and extra-curricular commitments will help keep you on track and ensure you will not miss a deadline. Most importantly, don’t forget to book time for self-care!

#2 Budget for the year 
Another way to get organized is to plan out how you’re going to spend money this year by creating a simple budget of how much money you earn or have saved, and how much you can spend in different categories like textbooks or food. Getting an idea of how much money you have and are able to spend at the outset is important to stay on track in the long run.

#3 Discover your new home 
Two places near campus that come to mind:

Westdale — This charming area is, despite its name, east of campus. Hop on the east-running buses from Sterling (right near the Student Centre and Mills), and you’ll find Westdale.

University Plaza — A few minutes farther from campus than Westdale, this plaza contains most notably Bulk Barn, Dollarama, Metro and restaurants that accept student meal plan dollars such as East Side Mario’s. Getting there takes about 10 minutes on one of the west-running buses from Sterling or Main.

#4 Talk to strangers 
Whether at one of the spots listed above, in class, or in line for Tim Hortons, you can take the initiative to introduce yourself to the person next to you. This advice sounds obvious, but can be life-changing. There can be a social taboo against talking to people who you don’t know, and so it can take a great deal of courage, but keep in mind that most people are friendly. This tip is pretty versatile, and you can use it in any aspect of your life. You can try to initiate this process with your neighbours because being familiar can make telling them to be quiet at three a.m. easier. Try the same thing with one person in each of your classes, so you have someone to swap notes with when you get sick.

#5 Stay active
This can give you a boost of energy for and is the key to a balanced lifestyle. Luckily, here at McMaster there are countless opportunities for physical activity, namely the Pulse, our fitness center with all the equipment a standard gym has, plus a climbing wall, and drop-in instructional classes.

If the Pulse may not suit your interests, there’s no reason to worry. Your student card gives you access to pool and gymnasium drop-in times, as well as the indoor and outdoor track. Don’t forget about the wide array of instructional classes such as hip-hop dance, squash and yoga. There are also ways to stay active in the Hamilton community outside of McMaster too, such as Hamilton’s Bayfront Park, which offers bike rentals on weekends.

#6 Join clubs
While ClubsFest has passed, you can always check out the MSU Clubs Directory to see what groups are on campus. There really is something for everyone. Send the organizer an email and see how you can get involved. If you already signed up to a club’s mailing list, make it a goal to go to one of their meetings. It may be outside of your comfort zone, so consider bringing a friend. Clubs are a fantastic way to make new friends, pursue your individual passions and become more involved in the McMaster community.

#7 Try a positive attitude 
Look forward to this upcoming year at Mac with excitement and positivity — hype yourself up for success. Focus on the good things that happen and you’ll see solutions and opportunities. You can even look at stress in a positive light – a healthy amount of stress is your body’s way of raising you up to challenges. Surround yourself with people that encourage and support you.

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