Starting University: What to Expect and How You Can Prepare

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HomeBlogStarting University: What to Expect and How You Can Prepare
The shift from high school to university is an exciting time with newfound freedom yet also challenges. Uni is a whole new world compared to school, with less structure and guidance. If you're well-prepared for the big shift, you'll be better able to make the most of your time at uni and enjoy the process.

Join transition programs

One of the ways you can make the most of resources available to you is through transition programs. These are things like orientation week (O week), workshops on skills for studying, and mentor programs. These programs can provide you with valuable grounding in skills like note-taking, writing essays, and using the library. They can also help you understand what to expect at uni, how to get around campus, and who to ask for help and advice.
O week gives you an opportunity to meet people and get a head-start on navigating the campus and getting to know the facilities before the semester starts. It's also a good idea to talk to one of your uni's academic advisers, who can help you with study skills and time-management tips.

Learning at university

Learning at university is self-driven, so if you don't turn up to a lecture or tutorial, no one will be calling your parents. Unlike school, you won't be spoon-fed information, so you'll need to do the work yourself. Don't be afraid to speak up and ask for help from your tutors and lecturers. Find out their preferred contact hours and reach out with any questions.
Take charge of your own learning, and find out more about how classes in your course will be conducted. Often this will take the form of lectures and tutorials, but your course could also have laboratory sessions, fieldwork, placements or online classes. The most common two are:
  • Lectures - Lectures take place in large theatres and can be attended by hundreds of other students. They're usually not interactive, but they're essential to attend as the coursework is covered in them.
  • Tutorials - Tutorials tend to be more interactive, with face-to-face learning in small groups ranging from around 20 students. You'll have a chance to participate, ask questions, and do group work.
You can find out more information in the Course Planner specific to your uni.

Making the most of campus life

If you want to get the most out of campus life then you need to get involved. Be proactive about finding out where everything is located, making friends, and attending social events.
  • Friends and social activities - Uni can be a lonely place if you don't make an effort to put yourself out there. Keep track of social activities by joining clubs and checking bulletin boards. Chat with new people and get their details so you can set up your own study and social groups. Universities have all kinds of clubs and societies, so join some that match your hobbies and interests.
  • Campus, resources, and processes - Find out where everything is on campus so you can get around and get to class on time. Check out the Lost on Campus app to find out where the cafeterias and eateries are, along with libraries, lecture theatres, and tutorial rooms. You can also use Lost on Campus to chat to other students on your campus and ask questions anonymously. Don’t forget to find out key processes like special consideration, which you can apply for if you get sick during exam time, for example.
  • Schedule - It'll feel like you have a lot of free time between lectures and tutorials, but remember you'll be expected to do self-study. Schedule in study and reading time, and join some study groups so you can share ideas, tackle assignments, and gain new learning resources.

Navigating uni assessments

At uni, assessments and referencing will be different to what you're used to. You'll be among hundreds if not thousands of students in the same class and your lecturer or course leader will likely insist upon a given referencing style to make it easier to mark papers.
Pay attention to what they require in terms of formatting and referencing for your assignments. You might need to attach a cover sheet, complete with all the required information, to each assignment you submit. These details can seem minor, but some lecturers could mark you down if you don't comply.
Pay attention to deadlines as late submissions can have a high penalty and make sure you understand the procedures you’ll need to follow in case you need to apply for an extension or resit an exam due to illness or misadventure.

Prepare for stressful periods

Highlight the busiest weeks in your diary so you're prepared for these stressful periods. These times are likely to be around week six of each semester, when your many major assessments are due. If you've been studying steadily up to this point, you'll be fine. The weeks leading up to the exam period is also another stressful time, so stay organised and be ready to hit the textbooks.
Starting university is a new phase in your life, and it brings new challenges. Join the available transition programs like O week and study-skills workshops. Be proactive about your studies as well as social activities, and ensure you're complying with things like referencing styles. If you know what to expect and stay organised, you'll be better prepared to maximise your learning and enjoy uni life.

Finally, be money smart

You'll probably have a part-time job as you start uni, but not all super funds are built for students. As you're earning less than a full-time salary, the last thing you'll want is to pay hefty fees when you have a low super balance. Read more about what you need to know about superannuation as a student in our simple guide here.
To avoid your super being eaten up by fees, consider a for-students fund like Student Super. We offer zero fees for balances under $1,000 and our fund is tailored to the specific needs of uni students. Join us today.
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