Advice for new UBC students (general)

Posted on June 18, 2012 in ubc • 5 min read

As promised in my first blog post in my "Advice for new UBC students" series (previous post here), I'm going to stop focusing on Science so much and talk about stuff that's more applicable to all incoming UBC students. I'm not quite sure where to start though, so here's an unorganized list of everything that I can think of right now that's worth mentioning. Maybe I'll clean this up in the future.

There's actually a number of great blogs run by other UBC students out there on the web with lots of helpful info; my favourites include Carly's blog and idm04's blog, (among others). I guess it's inevitable that there's going to be some overlap, but I'll try to stick to stuff that's not already covered on other blogs.

1) UBC Grades Distribution webpage. A very powerful tool; use it to your advantage. e.g. you can use it to find subject/course/section averages, standard deviation, pass/failure rates, etc. Those who are obsessed with their GPA are going to be very well acquainted with this tool. ;)

​2) 1 hr classes = 50 mins in length; 1 hr 30 min classes = 1 hr 20 mins. You get 10 mins to get to your next class (assuming you have classes back-to-back), which is enough to get from say, Buchanan to Chem at a steady pace, but not from Buchanan to Forestry. Location is something you should definitely consider when creating a schedule with back-to-back classes. If you can't walk to class on time, you can rollerblade, skateboard, or bike instead; I ended up biking a lot in my 2nd term, since I made the mistake of having several back-to-back classes at Buchanan and ICICS.

​3) If you're going to bike, you should definitely know about UBC's bike shelters. There are 7 on campus at the moment, and it's a great secure place to lock up your bike if you're going to leave it on campus overnight. Access codes can be obtained for free at the AMS Bike Kitchen (at the SUB).

​4) And while we're talking about bikes and getting around, I might as well briefly touch upon public transit here in Vancouver. There's another blog out there which I think does a pretty good job: UBC 101 - Beginner Commuting

​5) Here's a handy MLA reference for your 1st year english courses, courtesy of the UBC Library. Your prof may or may not prefer a different style though, so do ask them first.

​6) In mid-to-late August, once your booklist comes out, you're going to have to start worrying about textbooks. Whether you choose to buy your textbooks a week before class, or during the first/second week of class, is your choice, and soon enough you'll develop some intuition on when to go out and purchase your textbooks (or whether you actually need the textbooks your prof says you need). I've had profs who have assigned readings from the textbook the very first day of class, leading me to go out on a wild chase for textbooks in a frenzy; I've also had classes where the required textbooks weren't used until halfway through the course, or only a small section of it was used that I could've easily just borrowed it from a friend and photocopied what I needed.

More importantly, where do you buy textbooks? The UBC Bookstore should be your last resort, because while it has everything you need (and brand new as well), it is always going to be the most expensive place for you to purchase your books. Again, I shall refer you to another blog for some suggestions on where to look for your books.

My advice? 1) Ask your friends/older siblings if they have the textbooks (even if it's an older edition) that you need. 2) (I've had several friends personally recommend Saveonbook to me, and I've bought/sold several books there as well). 3) Facebook groups for buying/selling textbooks, e.g. here, or here. 4) UBC Discount Bookstore in the Village. 5) If all else fails...then yes, grudgingly head to the UBC Bookstore.

​7) Bought an old I-clicker from somebody, and they neglected to mention that the ID code on the back has worn off (yeah, that's annoying)? No worries, you don't have to throw it out and buy a new one, just bring it to Chapman Learning Commons (3rd floor of Irving) and whoever is sitting at the Help Desk can retrieve it for you.

​8) No idea where "Irving" or any of your classes are held? Refer to UBC Maps (while you're at it, grab a paper copy too...I recall getting a copy while I went to Brock Hall to pay my fees, although I'm sure those maps are distributed elsewhere on campus as well). And if you don't know the building where one of your exams is being held at (when your first midterms/finals come along), do go there early so you don't panic too much if you happen to get lost. :P

​9) (Science specific) Co-op applications open up in term 2 of 1st year for CPSC (comp sci) and PHAS (physics/astronomy) students; everyone else has to wait for 2nd/3rd year before applying. Also note that it adds an extra year to your degree, and that your summer break will no longer be free (you'll likely be on a co-op work term). Still, most people who I've talked to heartily recommend doing co-op; I've just been accepted into CPSC co-op and my first work term starts in Jan 2013, so I'll reserve judgment 'til then. See Science co-op for more info.

​10) There are plenty of ways to earn money on campus, but one of the lesser known ways is to take quick paid surveys offered by Psych. I thought I'd bring this up, since I myself have only recently heard about this, and I'd thought it'd be worth a mention: Paid Psychology Studies at UBC

​11) Find a place where you can study while on campus; if you need suggestions, take a look at this. Lots of people think of Irving/Koerner whenever they need a place to study, but I prefer smaller, less populated locations. AFAIK, there's something like ~20 libraries ("library" is a generous term here; this includes various reading rooms spread around campus), so wander around a bit at the beginning of the term and find your own favourite places to study.

Note: Each of the SPAC coaches mention their favourity study locations on their profile; it might be worth checking out if you need some more suggestions.

That's it for now, I guess. I'm planning to do a write-up that's specific for incoming CPSC students (I have yet to find a blog that specifically addresses UBC CS students), so stay tuned! :)  Update: that CPSC-related write-up has now been posted!