Welcome First Year Students
Welcome to Boston University; we are excited for you to join our vibrant intellectual, social, and cultural community! Whether this is your first semester of college or you are transferring to BU from another college or university, your BU experience will challenge and inspire you in ways you may never have imagined.
As you navigate the transition to academic life at Boston University, the Educational Resource Center is here to help you succeed. Our programs will support you in developing vital academic and professional skills that will enhance your performance at BU and in your future careers.
For individualized support and mentorship, the ERC offers Academic Skills Advising where you can meet one-on-one with a professional staff member to hone your time management and study strategies, note taking and test taking skills. We also offer regular workshops to help you gear up for assignments and exams throughout the semester.
Our Peer Tutoring program supports students in a number of 100- and 200-level courses from across BU’s campus. The ERC’s Peer Tutors are experienced undergraduate students who are here to help and encourage you as you make the transition to academic life at BU. Our tutors have excelled in the courses they tutor and are eager to share their knowledge and experiences with you.
Our Language Link conversation groups are a great way to meet new people on campus while boosting your skills in a language that you studied in high school or that you miss speaking with family and friends. Language Link is a terrific way to prepare for your study abroad experience and for a lifetime of global engagement. We offer a number of languages, including Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, English, German, and more!
No matter which major you choose, writing will be a fundamental part of the curriculum. We believe that, with the right help, everyone can become a better writer! ERC Writing Assistance can assist you with all stages of the writing process, from brainstorming and outlining, to formatting citations and revising your argument. Even better, Writing Assistance will remain available to you after you graduate to help with personal statements, graduate school applications, etc.
We look forward to meeting you soon!
Frequently Asked Questions
About the ERC
Are ERC services available year around?
Are ERC services free?
Is there a limit on how many Writing Assistance, Peer Tutoring, or Language Link appointments I can make?
In addition to time management, what kinds of challenges do you suggest students come to the ERC with? Is there anything you think is best done by the student themselves?
Our work with students is collaborative! We depend on you to share your academic experiences, concerns, and goals. We then work with you to develop a personalized plan for academic success. You’ll leave your appointment with tangible strategies to use moving forward, but it’s up to you to develop these new skills into habits!
Are ERC appointments formal, or can I have a casual conversation with someone about questions or concerns I’m having?
Do you recommend using a paper planner or an online calendar?
How can I balance my coursework with volunteering, researching, and working?
For all students, we recommend marking time in your calendar for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, 3 meals per day, and regular exercise. These self-care strategies are essential for maintaining your physical and mental stamina. Additionally, for every credit hour you enroll in, we recommend scheduling 1.5-2 hours of study time per week. E.g. if you are taking 16 credits, this would mean 24-36 hours of study time per week. After putting classes, sleep, meals, exercise, and study time into your calendar, you will be able to see exactly how much “free time” you have and make thoughtful decisions about how you would like to use it.
If you are concerned about “fitting everything in,” we encourage you to book an Academic Skills Advising appointment where you can meet one-on-one with an ERC staff member. This will allow us to learn more about your unique goals and make personalized scheduling recommendations.
Do you have any advice on how to manage a sleep schedule? Is 7-8 hours of sleep per night actually feasible for a college student? I’ve heard many college students become accustomed to 3-5 of sleep to balance everything.
If you find yourself struggling to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, we recommend booking an Academic Skills Advising appointment to discuss strategies for optimizing your weekly schedule.
Notetaking & Study Strategies
What is the best time of day to study? How do I figure out the best times for myself?
Besides my residence hall, what are some other places to study around campus?
Is it better to handwrite class notes or type them?
Other researchers, however, have found no substantial difference in performance between students who take notes by hand or by computer. Instead, the factor that determines performance is whether or not students review their notes after class. And digital notes do have several advantages when it comes to reviewing! First, digital notes are searchable; second, they can be easily reorganized—characteristics that handwritten notes do not share. If you have a tablet, this can offer the best of both by allowing you to handwrite notes while still producing searchable, reorganizable text.
Ultimately though, the key to notetaking success is not the tools you have but how you use them. Regularly reviewing your notes and quizzing yourself on their content is one of the most powerful study habits you can use!
Learn more about notetaking and study strategies by attending one of our “Study Smarter, Not Harder” workshops.
How do I know what to focus on when taking lecture notes?
When deciding what to write down, listen for visual or verbal cues about what is important. If the professor draws something on the board or uses a laser pointer to highlight something, you want to capture what they are saying in your notes. Also, be aware of how much class time or the number of slides a professor devotes to each point; this can help you determine the relative importance of information. If a professor repeats a point or slows down, they may be trying to emphasize a key point.
Some professors will begin their lectures by summarizing what they taught in the previous class; others will end class with a summary of the material they covered that day. These summaries can help you decide what to write down during class and what to review after class.
Are lectures at BU recorded? If not, should I record them myself?
Whether or not your professor records class, it is essential to obtain instructor permission if you would like to record class yourself. Massachusetts is a “two party consent to record state,” which means you need your instructor’s explicit permission, preferably in writing, before recording a class or lecture.
Ultimately though, audio recordings are not the best way to take class notes! Just like transcribing every word of a lecture in your class notes won’t help you process the information, relistening to a complete lecture will not necessarily help you absorb the information into your long-term memory.
Instead, condensing the information presented and actively engaging with it through self-testing is the best way to study. You can learn more about effective notetaking and study strategies by attending one of our “Study Smarter, Not Harder” workshops.
What kinds of resources are there for auditory learners?
After you have completed a reading for class or attended a lecture, you can record yourself giving a quick summary of the reading or lecture from memory. This strategy will reinforce your learning, improve your recall, and condense the information into a format that will be easy for you to revisit later.
Lecture, Discussion, and Office Hours
What is a discussion section? Who leads these classes?
Will attendance and participation be factored into my grades at BU?
What are office hours and why are they important?
It’s important to build professional relationships with your professors from your first year at BU. There will be many occasions during your undergraduate career when you will need to ask professors for letters of recommendations, and it is difficult for a professor to write you a substantive letter if they have never spoken with you one-on-one!
What if I have another class during one of my professors’ office hours?
If you have a conflict with your professor’s regular office hours, email your professor to ask whether it would be possible to meet at a different time. It’s a good idea to indicate what you would like to discuss and to propose 3-4 alternative times that would work with your schedule. This makes it easier for your professor to identify a time that will work well for both of you.
Course Info & Grades
How do I find out which books or other materials I will need for my classes?
At BU is there a website that allows students to check grades, submit assignments, and see everything that’s due for a course?
Keep in mind that some schools at BU use other learning management systems such as Sakai and edX.
Other Recommendations & Resources
What do you suggest doing over the summer for incoming first year students?
If I find that I’m feeling overwhelmed during my first semester at BU, who should I go to? My advisor or the ERC? Anyone else?
If you have concerns about the content of a specific course, ERC Peer Tutors offer support for a number of 100 and 200-level courses. Also, it’s a good idea to stay in communication with your Teaching Fellows and professors and visit their office hours regularly. Often, professors can give you guidance about what to focus on in their courses, so that you can feel less overwhelmed.
If you would like to take a holistic look at your weekly schedule or work on a particular study skill, such as note taking or reading strategies, an Academic Skills Advising appointment at the ERC is an excellent place to start. Our professional staff will learn more about your unique situation and make recommendations to support your success.
If feelings of stress and overwhelm persist, you may want to consider scheduling a free, confidential appointment with Behavioral Medicine. The counselors there can help you develop a plan that supports your wellbeing and success.
Do you have any specific advice for people with test anxiety?
Some strategies that can help you reduce test anxiety are engaging in self-care, practicing relaxation techniques (progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, breathing exercises, meditation exercises, etc.), and simulating the test taking environment. It’s also important to establish connections with your instructors to determine what the format of the test will be and to find out what chapters/ topics you’ll be tested on. During the test, engage in breathing exercises, avoid thoughts about the past and future, and keep realistic expectations.
What is your advice for preventing academic burnout?
What other resources and offices at BU would you recommend to first year students?