5 Strategies to Help Prepare for University

The change between high school and university is dramatic, no matter where you go to school. Many high school students feel a mix of excitement, stress, and fear in the months leading up to post-secondary.

Ease your anxiety by preparing for university with these five strategies:


Agendas help to keep you organized!

Get a calendar or an agenda and start using it, daily. Incorporate it into your daily routine. Check your calendar when you wake up and when you hit the hay. Add appointments, dates with friends, and upcoming trips or events.  That way, when you get your syllabuses for your classes you can easily enter that information into an existing calendar.

If you don’t like using the antiquated method of paper and pen, look into calendar apps for your  smart phone. The teachers at RRLS are fond of iCal and Google Calendar.


Read with a buddy!
Read with a buddy!

Keep your thought-box in tip-top condition by reading a lot – all summer. Definitely pick books that pique your interest, but remember to challenge yourself by reading books with some unfamiliar vocabulary — it’s good exercise for that brain!

If you are taking classes in the humanities, try to find last year’s reading list. Professors usually choose a lot of the same books from year to year, so check it out and get a head start! It’ll save you a lot of time during the school year and your future self will definitely thank you.


Don’t let those writing skills of yours wane over the summer break — you will need them when September comes, no matter what your discipline of study is. We encourage you to journal about anything that interests you, blog about new movies, apps, or games, or write short annotations or opinion pieces about articles you’ve read recently. If you’re feeling really ambitious, write essays!


Take a day and honestly reflect on what you want to get out of your university experience. Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Attainable,  Relevant, Time-bound) and that you set a plan for how to achieve them. A good goal might be to improve your study habits, but unless you know how to do that, it’ll be frustratingly unattainable.

Strengthen Skills 

Foster the necessary skills over the summer

Taking the summer to fine-tune and foster important academic skills is smart. When you get to university, professors will expect you to already know how to research and write papers without being provided with scaffolding or graphic organizers. If you feel your skills aren’t up to snuff, or if you feel instant anxiety when you hear the phrase, 2000 word essay, find a program that will help you foster your writing skills before the school year begins!

The Essay Coach is a fantastic, online essay writing course designed to strengthen your essay-writing skills.  You work with a certified teacher one-on-one and leave with new strategies, skills, resources to use in the future, and a finished, polished essay! We are also offering group classes this summer. Contact us for more information. 


Why DO We Add That ZERO?!

In our blog ‘Math: The Importance of Why’, we highlighted several math concepts that students often find puzzling. As promised, here is a closer look at one of those tricky ideas: place value, and ‘why we add the zero’ in multiplication multi-digit problems.

One of the reasons students find multiplication difficult is that they are memorizing procedure without actually understanding what the steps represent. Breaking down the ‘short cuts’ in the standard way most are taught multi-digit multiplication helps students understand the process, and lessen frustration for the many that need to know the ‘why’ behind what they are doing.

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Notice that we have colour coded the numbers to help students remember that the numbers represent a particular place value. As students learn the standard algorithm to solve this problem, have them write out what each step actually represents below, connecting the ‘short cut’ to the digits’ actual place value.

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picture 4By doing this, they are able to see that when they move on to the second step of the question (and into the tens column), they are no longer multiplying one digit numbers. Therefore, they will write  ‘2-zero’ on the second line because they now have 2 groups of ten and zero ones. This is where adding the zero comes from! Without blocking off the ones column with a zero, the answer to 20 x 1 in this question would look like ‘2’, since the 2 would be in the ones column.


picture 5Next, they will multiply 20 x 30, equaling 600, which we know has six groups of one hundred, zero tens, and zero ones. The short cut of course is to simply multiply 2 by 3, and write the 6 in the hundreds column. Then, have them add their products and solve for their final answer.


Here is an example of how one of our students solved this question:

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Having students develop this sort of procedural fluency enables them to understand the short cuts that they are taking when working with numbers and apply procedures more confidently and flexibly. Stay tuned for more answers to those tricky why questions!

For more information on how to support math fluency and understanding, or for one-to-one support in math, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at 416.925.1225 or visit www.ruthrumack.com.