Free software, where to get help and new ways to socialize: A step-by-step guide to the first weeks of the Fall term

September 8, 2020 | Campus Life
Whether your first day of classes involved grabbing a backpack and heading to campus (more on the whole transit thing later) or hiking up your sweatpants and signing in online – welcome to the Fall semester!

Yes, as you’ve heard many (many) times before, this term is going to look different. If you’re on campus for a class, to visit the library or for any other reason, you’ll notice lots of new measures in place to keep our MacEwan community safe.

But just like any other semester, there’s a bunch of stuff you can do during the first weeks of classes that can make your whole semester better. Here’s a quick walkthrough so you don’t miss anything.

1. The logistics stuff: ID cards, lockers and transit

If you don’t already have an ID card (or if you need a replacement), you can request one online – and even supply your own photo. Here’s how. You’ll get an email with pickup instructions when it’s ready.

Remember that lockers aren’t available this term, so if you’re coming to campus you’re going to have to plan to keep everything in your backpack.

And if you need to get to campus regularly and plan to use ETS this semester, make sure to check out the latest information from SAMU on discounted options that are available to students until the U-Pass program returns.

2. The technical stuff: How to get apps – and all kinds of support – online

If you’ve got password problems or can’t figure out how to access apps, Technology Support can help. Before you reach out, take a look at these answers to the four most common questions Tech Support staff are asked. It includes how to get Microsoft Office 365 and a whole range of virtual apps, everything from Adobe Photoshop to QuickBooks. New this semester, students can also get a Grammarly Premium account for free, courtesy of the university’s Student Technology Fund. Watch your email this week for details.

If you do need help from a real person, the AskTechSupport live chat is a great way to go. (The library also offers support via live chat, and the Academic Advising Centre is planning to have live chat available in early October.)

3. The people stuff: Study groups, volunteering and socializing

Finding your people is definitely a bit more challenging with most courses being delivered online, but lots of creative ways to make connections are starting to come together.

In September, we usually celebrate the start of a new academic year with our downtown post-secondary neighbours. We can't line up for hot dogs, but we can still get together. On September 11, we’ll kick off an online Downtown Campus Block Party with contests, discounts, walking tours and local music. Check out the line-up.

If you’re starting your first year, check out the First-Year Student Facebook Group – lots of students are already setting up chat rooms and study groups for specific courses.

Student groups are a great way to meet like-minded people. MacEwan's more than 80 student groups are already meeting online, planning game and social nights, and organizing speaker series events and conferences. If you're not sure which group is for you, plan to hop onto Zoom between September 14 and 25 for SAMU's Student Groups Digital Expo

Volunteering is another way to connect with other students and the community. Make sure to check out the university’s iVolunteer site for opportunities and plan to check out Virtual Volunteer Week from September 28 to October 2 – you’ll be able to meet organizations looking for volunteers on Zoom and ask questions to see what’s right for you. Visit MacEwanLife to register.

And if you’re up for a new challenge, consider signing up for the new Emerging Leaders program. It’s open to students in any year and any program, and you’ll learn important skills like active listening and public speaking.

4. The classroom stuff: Advisors, profs, tutors and librarians you should talk to

There are lots of things you can do outside the classroom that will help you inside the classroom. Checking in with an advisor is always a good idea. If you’re a first-year student, the Academic Advising Centre is a great resource.

Also make sure to check out the new Academic Progress tile in myStudentSystem to see your progress toward your certificate, diploma or degree.

You’re going to hear this a lot, but it’s always a good idea to talk to your prof. If that sounds scary, these five ways to break the ice can help. 

Another good person to know is your subject librarian. There’s one for every single program MacEwan offers, and they’re a great resource when it comes to figuring out where to start researching your papers – and you can reach them by email, phone or ask to book a virtual appointment.

Not only can the tutors in Writing and Learning Services help you hand in a great paper, they can also make sure you know how to avoid making academic mistakes like plagiarism and incorrect citations. You can submit papers for online feedback or arrange a video chat appointment with a tutor.

5. The keeping-it-all-together stuff

University life can get stressful at the best of times. Throw a pandemic into the mix and it’s even more important to know how to take care of yourself and where to get support.

Even if you don’t need help right now, it’s worth taking a minute to check out MacEwan’s mental health resources – including video and telephone counselling that’s free for students.

Watch for our Peer Health Education Team. They’re working on a series of wellness videos that will be available online later this term.

And remember to check out our sport and wellness centre – it's open and ready to help you take care of your physical health too.

6. The money stuff

Don’t forget that tuition is due September 30. If you already have comparable health and dental coverage through another provider, you can save by opting out of SAMU’s health and dental plan by September 30.

And speaking of extra funds, there are thousands of dollars up for grabs in the form of scholarships, awards and bursaries. Make sure to keep an eye on myStudentSystem to see when awards you may be eligible for open for application.

And if you need a hand figuring out student loans or finding ways to balance your budget, talk to a financial aid advisor.


Want more tips and info? If you’re a first-year student (and even if you’re not), there’s a ton of good information on the New Student Orientation website, and the First-Year Student Facebook Group can also be helpful.


We’re here for you: MacEwan begins a new academic year

A message from Dr. Annette Trimbee

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