Following on from comments such as here
, this collaborative FAQ-style thread might address some concerns. It is a work in progress and I'd like to ask on people from other degrees to chip in with their own experiences into the areas that need filling (post a reply).
Please note that this is a general
guide to just get a feel
for uni life. This isn't the be-all-and-end-all of every unit but just a simplification and generalisation of things. It is aimed at VCE students and given the forum member base we have, this will inherently have a Monash and UoM bias to it.
This post is subdivided into five sections for your convenience: "Transition from VCE and school", "Basic aspects of uni life", "Academic aspects of uni life", "Social aspects of uni life", and "Miscellaneous aspects of uni life". If you're looking for a key word, it may help to quote this post and then use your search function to find it, and then look it up on the more aesthetically pleasing and readable post.
Hopefully this covers everything you want to know before entering uni, but if you have additional questions, please don't be shy, just reply to this post with a question; chances are you won't be the only one with that question
How university worksTransition from VCE and schoolWhat if I got a high ATAR and a load of awards? Am I special and better than everyone else? Is talking about ATARs the norm of uni?
List of contributors: pi, b^3, epl, Shenz0r, laseredd, yearningforsimplicity, MJRomeo81, simpak, alondouek, El2012, Russ, DisaFear, furbob, SenriAkane, Phy124, ninwa, Kuchiki, scribble, Mr T-Rav, Stevensmay, EulerFan101, Darth_Pepe
I actually didn't get the ATAR I wanted and am not where I wanted to be. Are people going to judge me? Can I transfer to my #1 preference?
This is the best summary I have heard of ATARs and uni:
Your ATAR gives you keys, keys to open doors, doors that open into courses. Some people will get to choose from a wide range and variety of keys, but we all have at least one. Use that key to get into your course. Once you open the door into your course, do you keep the key? No why would you need it again? You have moved on.
Having said that, it's understandable that many of you will still care about ATARs and the like
and that's ok, but don't expect other people to feel the same way. Over time, you'll care and less and less. Having said that, there are mirrors in uni bathrooms if you want to talk to someone about your great scores in high school
Do I need to study over the summer break?
Sorry to hear that, but as above, no one cares about your ATAR! Consider it a fresh start on a clean slate
If you didn't get into your desired course as a result, work hard in first year to get good grades and you may be able to transfer. Transfer windows are generally available at the end of each semester, although the specifics of that are probably beyond the scope of this thread as each uni and course has different requirements and processes, but if you do well you'll make it easier for yourself.
VCE in my school was very competitive because of "rankings" and stuff, is that the same in uni?
We can divide summer breaks into either the break after VCE, or the break between uni years. In general, unless you're particularly nerdy or anxious about what's to come, there is no need to study during the holidays, especially not the break after VCE. However, some people do find it useful, especially in the weeks leading into semester, to do a bit of light reading or watching old lectures just to make sure they feel comfortable before they formally start. It's always important to make sure your holidays are actually holidays, ie. studying should be taking the back seat over catching up with mates, enjoying the sun, catching up on sleep, etc etc. Having a balance and making sure you're fresh and pumped for the year ahead is really important, so keep that in mind regardless of what you choose to do during the break!
I was tutored through VCE, can I get some tutoring here?
In general, that will not happen in uni. That's mainly because there aren't really "rankings" that can affect your grades. In uni, you get what you deserve and your marks just add up (with maybe a bit of Faculty scaling at the end of it) without other people's marks having an impact. Having said that, there are always be a few competitive people (or "gunners") everywhere who will fake modesty, lie about their progress in the course, make sure other people know they're smart or have pre-read, or even hide resources from everyone else. Best thing to do is to just avoid and ignore those people
I'm using to getting high 90+ grades in school, will I probably get the same in uni?
There are sometimes people who may run revision lectures and they may be worth going to but there is no additional "weekly tuition" anymore. That's all part of "independent learning" and growing up.
Is uni like school in any way?
Be ready for grades that were lower than your VCE ones. This is normal, especially for courses like Med or Law where it's very difficult to get 80+, let alone 90+ which is near impossible.
(exceptions to this: True Tears, simpak, stonecold, thushan, Hancock, EastsideR, b^3, dcc, REBORN, Shenz0r, amalgam, DisaFear, kamil, Ahmad, neobeo, LeviLamp - so many geniuses!)
What does "CSP" mean?
Really depends on your course and where you're from. If you were from a selective school or top-tier private school, it's likely you'll have lots of school peers in the same uni as you. This can either be comforting or it could be a nightmare depending on how school was for you. Some courses can also become very cliquey such as medicine or biomedicine where friendship groups are similar to school ones (can tend to be ethnically based too) and don't change too much over the duration of the course which can really resemble school in many regards (which I love as school was awesome for me).
The academia of uni is also very different. As we'll touch upon later in this thread, there aren't really "study designs", textbooks filled with practice questions, or years of practice exams. The study is different and the expectations are very different.
In summary, everyone will have a different answer to this question, but in the end, it doesn't really matter if uni was the same or markedly different to school as long as you have a good time and get what you want out of it. Keep reading this thread to get a better idea of the differences!
I don't really understand "HECS"?
CSP is "Commonwealth Supported Place", which means the government will pay for part of the subject fees, normally bringing the cost to you down to around $1000 per subject. If you are full fee, then as the name suggests you pay the full cost without any subsidy by the government. There is quite a large difference, around a few thousand dollars per subject.
I've heard I need something called a "TFN" to go into uni?Should I take my parents along to uni info, enrollment and orientation days?
Best place to start is reading through http://studyassist.gov.au/sites/studyassist/helppayingmyfees/hecs-help
. It's pretty comprehensive and should answer all your questions
In short, HECS-HELP (if eligible) means that instead of paying for your CSP subjects upfront the government pays for them. You only need to start making compulsory repayments when you start earning over a certain amount per year, I think around 53k. When this happens, you will be paying more tax than normally as this is where the repayments are taken from.
Basic aspects of uni lifeWhat is a "jaffy"?
No, don't be that guy. This is your start to independence, not theirs. Additionally, it also looks really sad and lame.
I'm having trouble understanding the terminology my cool uni friends use, any help here?
That's what you will be when you are in your first year of uni. The Aussie version of "freshmen" and it stands for "just another f***ing first year". Enjoy the tag and get used to it, it's rarely said to mean anything sinister is just part-and-parcel of jaffy life
What is "O-week"?
Some basic terms that will probably help to be familiar with:
• Course - the individual subjects you study
• Major - a collection of subjects in an area of study e.g. 'physics'. There may be compulsory subjects to complete, and also some minimum number of subjects you must complete in this area of study, usually around 8, across your entire degree to satisfy a major.
• Minor - a smaller collection of subjects in some area of study, usually about 4 subjects worth.
• Unit - Each subject is assigned some value of unit points (usually 6). Your degree will mandate that you complete some number of units (usually 24 per semester).
• Core unit - A subject that is needed to complete your degree. A core subject usually needs to be taken at a specified time within your degree, as it is often a prerequisite for more advanced subjects.
• Elective unit - Self explanatory, not needed to complete the degree.
The details for the above for you depends on what you want to to, see your desired uni's handbook, eg:
• Monash - http://monash.edu.au/pubs/handbooks/
• UoM (which stands for "University of Melbourne" btw) - https://handbook.unimelb.edu.au/faces/htdocs/user/search/SimpleSearch.jsp
• ANU - https://studyat.anu.edu.au/
What sort of things do I need in a typical uni day?
"O-week" stands for "orientation week" and is a week run by the university and the student association before semester 1. Each uni does things differently, but in general they all encompass:
- Enrollments: getting your ID cards (you get one shot to take a photo and they're damn expensive to replace if you lose it or want another one!), getting an intro tour, getting an intro lecture or two from your Faculty (Faculty-dependent), etc. There will be heaps of staff to help you get things done, so don't worry if you feel lost at first, no one gets left behind!
- Clubs: each club will have their own stall or area somewhere on campus, you can sign up for them, get their free stuff, buy tickets for events (such as camps!) in advance, etc. I'd highly recommend signing up to a few clubs
- Free alcohol: there should be lots of alcohol, this is probably the most important aspect of O-week!
- Parties: plenty, not held during the day but usually after hours, always good fun
- Newspaper subscriptions: you can get a yearly subscription for a heavily discounted rate as a student
- Free food: should be plenty, if not from specific clubs, then they'll be BBQs are the such running all day every day
All-in-all, a top week and always a good opportunity to meet people and have a great time.
Will most people have a laptop and/or tablet?
Typically a uni student would carry a back-pack (or similar) containing:
- Laptop (with charger)/tablet (with charger)/book for notes and the like
- Lunch (uni food can be costly at times) and water-bottle (lots of places to refill)
- Pens and pencils (I carry 1 pencil and eraser)
- Unit guides and/or lecture notes if they are hard-copy
- Lab-coat, stethoscopes, etc for special pracs and whatnot on the day
- Umbrella (especially in Melbourne
(- Textbooks: personally I have them on my laptop and can borrow them if I want hard copies, I don't like a heavy bag)
You don't really need much else and it doesn't differ much from school except that you don't get a "locker" to store your stuff so keep what you carry to a practical weight.
What can I find at my library?
Yes, they are incredibly useful for storing lecture notes/slides, having a portable access to many textbooks, accessing the internet wifi, etc etc. If you're going to have one, best to have one that isn't larger than 13'' and isn't too heavy. The rest of the specs will depend on what you want to do with it (eg. some light gaming, programming, graphical design, you're a hipster and/or technologically inept and hence like Macs, etc.), just remember that for uni purposes portability is the key and should be your top priority.
Academic aspects of uni lifeAre textbooks necessary?
A uni Library should be able to offer, at the minimum:
- Borrowing (a mix of normal and short-term) of prescribed and recommended textbooks
- Internet access via wifi (the whole uni will have this access!)*
- Power plugs
- Study areas (mix of silent individual areas, group study rooms, and louder open areas)
- Databases for journals and other resources (via an ezproxy of some sort)
- Computer sections with computers to use
- Printing (black and white, and colour, and A4/A3 page sizes) facilities (be wary of costs)
- Scanning facilities
- Photocopying facilities (be wary of costs)
- Staff who can help with any of the above
Typically unis will have multiple libraries over multiple campuses and typically books can be returned to any of them. Libraries may be organised by subject matter.
*one wifi network called "eduroam" can actually be accessed between many different unis all around the world which is incredibly handy!
What is a lecture? Are they recorded?
Really depends on the unit. Best bet is to get opinions from those who have done the unit (eg. look through Monash University - Subject reviews & ratings
or University of Melbourne - Subject Reviews & Ratings
etc.) or ask your tutor or lecturer. Usually you won't
need every textbook on your list, and those you will need will probably be from your prescribed list and not the recommended/optional list.
Remember that libraries will have copies of textbooks too for you to borrow and some may be found in dubious areas of the internet
If you are keen on purchasing textbooks, uni bookshops are usually HEAVILY OVER-PRICED so unless you're particularly wealthy best to either buy second-hand from past students or to hit the internet by either visiting a price-comparison site like http://www.thebooklist.com.au/search
and working from there or to buying from a well-respected site like http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/
(a bit cheaper than its US version) which has free-shipping anywhere.
What is a tutorial?
Essentially, a lecture is a presentation by a lecturer/professor on a given topic. It takes place in a lecture theater (or lecture hall) with your peers (number could be as large as 400 or so), as below, whereby a lecturer presents the topic usually using a powerpoint presentation that is shown overhead on either one or two projector screens. Lecturers may interact with the presentation by drawing on it (using a tablet), highlighting and so forth. Furthermore, lecturers may also have polls included hat students can answer either using special devices, SMS or online polling.
Occasionally, lecturers will also provide overhead slides, however the use of these is obviously diminishing as time goes on. Some lecturers use these to complement a powerpoint presentation, and as they don't become recorded they provide an advantage to the audience that actually bothers to rock up.
Depending on the subject/unit, lectures may be audio recorded, video recorded, both or neither. These recording are available for free download from the university portal (or similar). Check with your uni handbook (or similar) or get in touch with your unit coordinator to find out more.
Your typical lecture theatre:
Or in reality...
Commonly students take notes via handwritten means, computer or tablet. This is made possible with small tables attached to each of the seats in the lecture theater and the fact that most subjects would post the lecture slide content either on their portal or have them available for purchase. Depending on the uni and theater, power plugs may or may not be available.
Typically lectures last for around 1 hour (depending on the unit some may be more), and in my experience lecturers are happy to answer questions at the end (within reason) and during the lecture itself (see below flow-chart). Most lecturers would respond to emails but probably not Facebook friend requests or to become a LinkedIn connection
As we'll touch on later, each lecture may have a set of objectives and all objectives should be able to be found in the handbook for that lecture on on the lecture slides itself. Not all units have this unlike in VCE where every subject does. Count yourself lucky if you get one.
Tutorials can be wide and varied depending on the course (this is where I need people from other degrees to share knowledge!). Some may resemble high-school classroom atmospheres, others may have hundreds of students in a large hall-type room.
Medicine units (pre-clinical) (Monash-based perspective)
Tutes are led by qualified doctors (usually) or other health professionals (sometimes) and tute groups are usually in groups of ~15. Usually either the tutor guides students towards a particular task while acting as a facilitator (Problem Based Learning tutes, "syndicate" tutes) or the tutor acts as a teacher and teaches some new (and usually practical) content (clinical skills tutes, epidemiology tutes, health promotion tutes, etc.). Tutes have a set of objectives that students can check and usually last from 2-3 hours in length.
Medicine units (clinical) (Monash-based perspective)
These vary from hospital to hospital, but the essence of all the tutes is similar. Tutes are led by consultants (but sometimes registrars too), in small groups depending on your site. Tute types include (for example) bedside tutes, PBLs, specialty tutes, etc. Each tute runs in a different way depending on how the consultant wants to run them and may or may not involve taking a history and performing an examination on a patient in front of the tutor and the group.
Engineering (Monash-based perspective)
Basically you’ll have set questions each week, for some units these may be worth marks towards your final result, so at the end of the tute you’d have to hand them in and get them back the next week. These can be small or quite large, anywhere from 20 students to over 100 students, with to 3 or 4 tutors (and sometimes the lecturer too). As a result it can be hard to get help sometimes. They’re typically held in a tute room or the engineering hall, but can be held in lectures in some case (although if they are then you probably won’t have to hand them in). However in some tutes, you may be in smaller groups taught by senior students instead of having a "qualified" tutor. It really depends on the unit and stage of your degree.
Commerce/Business units (Monash-based perspective)
Tutorials (normally 1 hour long) for comm/business units are generally one week behind lectures, regardless if your tutorial is before or after your lecture. This is essentially where the previous week's content is discussed based on set tutorial questions or there is general discussion had about certain concepts. Tutorials provide students with the opportunity to ask questions, clarify their understanding, and are more of a classroom-size. You may also have to submit assignments to your tutors, such as reports or essays.
Law units (Monash-based perspective)
Most of the earlier year units will have compulsory tutorials which make up 10% of your final mark. Later units may not have tutorials at all, or only have optional ones. Even though they don't count for marks I would still attend them because they provide valuable revision for the exam.
You will receive a tutorial book at the start of semester, which contains various problem questions in a similar style to what you will receive on the exam (often they are past exam questions), corresponding to the topics you will study each week. Basically, in class you learn the theory, and in tutorials you learn how to apply it. You are expected to attempt the question before coming to the tutorial, because 1) you won't get any marks unless you participate by volunteering your answers, and 2) some tutors have been known to throw out students who haven't prepared beforehand.
Here is an example of a property A tutorial question. In week 3 you study leases and licences, and the tutorial book for that week contains 4 questions relating to leases and licences. This is one of those questions:
(From 2008 exam)
Frank is the registered proprietor of a caravan/residential park which he runs as a business. He lives in a house in the park, which is on the same registered title as the park. At the back of the house, but forming part of the house, is an apartment. The apartment has its own exterior entrance and a door with a lock which separates it from the rest of the house. To help with his finances, Frank entered into a written occupation agreement for 4 years with his friend Larry. Larry was to live in the apartment for 4 years and pay Frank $100 per week plus the expenses of maintaining the garden. Frank and Larry have an amicable relationship. Larry often enters the apartment from the house to which he has a key and does not bother to lock the door that separates the apartment from the house. He is also happy for Frank to use the computer in the apartment provided he checks first. Frank often uses the refrigerator in Larry’s apartment to store his beer.
Larry would like to know whether:
(a) he has the right to remain in the apartment if Frank sells the property to a new owner, and
(b) he can maintain a trespass action against a third party if that person comes into the apartment without his consent?
Languages units (Monash-based perspective)
Language tutorials are very much like school classes where you may have to read texts out loud and be given weekly/fortnightly quizzes on grammar, vocab etc. Most of the tutes go through grammar, topics you're learning, vocabulary and guidelines on assessments. Sometimes there's group work (like oral presentations in partners) or class discussions where you may need to solve or discuss a topic in a group. You'd be likely to make lots of friends as you'd be stuck together for at least 2 semesters (unless its a one-off elective)
Maths units (UoM-based and Monash-based separate perspectives)
• UoM: You are given problems that you have to work through, and it usually helps to work in small groups for the sake of learning and efficiency. Some rooms have walls that students can write on (whiteboard walls) and tutors will walk around to see progress and help you out. Some assignments may be handed in during tutes.
• Monash: You'll be in a room of about 8-14 other students, working on a problem set which will cover the topics that were discussed in the previous week of lectures. These tutorials generally last from 1.5-2 hours. The tutor will generally go through some of the theory as a refresher, and may do a few problems to help you get the basics under your belt. You can talk with the people beside you, its not a test. The tutor is also available to answer any queries. Also, you will usually hand in assignments in the tute, and complete tests (if applicable) in the tute. Tute attendance, whilst not compulsory, may provide advantages if you're close to failing.
Chemistry units (UoM-based and Monash-based separate perspectives)
• UoM: Differ quite a bit from first year to second year etc. The focus of the tutorial is going through questions. For example, during first year they sort of give you like 5 minutes to go through a question before the tutor goes through it with the whole class. whilst for second year it's more like the tutor pretty much goes through everything from the moment the class begins. They are definitely helpful and there are opportunities to ask questions during / at the end of the tute or alternatively make an appointment with your tutor. The tutors may change for different topics (or areas of the course). In terms of class size there's about 20-25 students and they often give a few options for which time/date suits you. If you have the chance it's worth going through the questions before the tutorial.
• Monash: These usually contain more people (~70 people were enrolled in my session) but not many people show up (~maybe 15-20), as they aren't compulsory. These tutorials generally last an hour. There were two different styles of tutorials for chemistry: one involved the lecturer going through questions on a board, and the other involved tutors roaming the room, answering questions that people may have. Tute questions are usually taken from past exams,so they can be a good indicator of what to expect on the exam.
Physics units (ANU-based perspective)
There were three different streams for tutorials: standard tutorials that would work through worksheets, exam-focused tutorials where you'd look a bit more closely at exam technique, and 'ninja tutorials' where it would focus on pretty interesting questions to think about in small groups and then try and approximate an answer to. Regardless of stream, there would be some kind of skill that they'd be trying to teach you.
Biology units (UoM-based perspective)
The tutor has a specific agenda and covers specific topics. Normally this is usually just a review of the lecture content, going over tricky concepts and seeing whether or not the students can recall the information presented to them in lectures. Particularly in the genetics component of biology, tutorials will be more focused on skills. The tutors will run through methods of setting up and completing questions. They will sometimes do this in other ares, but mainly that's for genetics. In essence though, the tutes at UniMelb were just sitting around doing worksheets with 5 minutes of the tutor hastily running through answers.
These tutes are largely useless though
Psychology units (UoM-based perspective)
Tutes run for about 2 hours and have ~25 students per tute. In tutes, it is common to have group discussion of questions, discuss the criteria for upcoming assignments and lab reports, watch relevant videos (DVDs from the library) relating to our topics and learn how to use the SPSS data program for manipulating statistics in psych, among a wide range of topics.
Arts units (ANU-based and UoM-based mixed perspective)
Small tutes of ~15 people and a duration of 1-2 hours depending on the unit. Each tute would really just be discussion focused around that weeks reading and lectures. The tutor would direct the conversation and interesting ideas would end up being discussed.
What are labs or pracs?
Make a request in this thread!
Labs or pracs can be wide and varied depending on the course (this is where I also need people from other degrees to share knowledge!).
Medicine units (pre-clinical) (Monash-based perspective)
Pracs will be in large groups (usually ~160 students) and you'll break up into small groups from there. Typical pracs include histology (looking at dyed specimens under microscopes) and pracs on body systems (say a cardio prac to test for certain values). Some pracs require volunteers to do some activity or to be measured, but you're not hurt in any way and in some regards learn more from being the guinea pig.
Labs medical students do are largely based around cadaver dissections. They may be a bit unsettling at first, but most people get desensitised to the whole thing in about 5 minutes or less. Good for learning and good to see if you are a budding surgeon at heart.
Usually lab-coats and gloves are required for all of the above..
Engineering (Monash-based perspective)
• Pracs - These will probably not be every week, but again will depend on the unit. You could have say only 3 labs a semester that you have to write a big report up for or you might have one every second week. These will be worth marks towards your end mark. Depending on the lab and unit, you might have to come back at a later date after doing some calculations to show that what you set out to do actually works.
• Computer Labs - These typically are making use of MATLAB or CAD programs. So you’d come to the lab, work through the question list or instructions for that week to either make a program to do what you’re asked to or to model a part in Solidworks or whichever CAD program or software relates to that unit. These again will be marked, with the tutors going through your code or model at the end of the lab when you’re finished.
• Engineering Group Projects - Basically in groups, you will have a task to design something according to a design brief, and a date on which you test what you’ve made. At the end of it all you’ll need a report to document the project (some can be fairly long, a friends group had 60 or so pages for their Warman Group Project Report). Again these will be worth marks and will require you to be able to communicate effectively with your peers, as well as knowing your material.
Commerce/Business units (Monash-based perspective)
For business statistics subjects, you will have computer labs that are typically 90 minutes long, though you may finish the work in as little as 30 minutes or less, at which point you can just leave. Basically, you walk into the room, sit down at a computer, open the Excel file with the week's questions, and get to work. Some of the weeks (around half, in my experience) will be "submission weeks," where you have to submit your finished work online by the end of the lab to get it graded. If it's not a submission week, you can just save your work when you're done and then leave, though nobody's going to check your work so you can basically leave whenever you want (a lot of people choose not to show up at all on non-submission weeks). There is a lab supervisor to help you if you have any problems/questions, but otherwise, they're not very involved. Don't expect to make many friends during this class; people generally just get in and out as soon as possible.
Chemistry units (UoM-based and Monash-based separate perspectives)
• UoM: Some pracs are done individually, and some are done in pairs. Normally there are ~60 people in one practical session, but you'll all be split up into smaller groups depending on what practical you're doing (people throughout the lab will be doing different pracs). It's not that much of a step up from Year 12 chemistry to begin with (of course as you progress this changes obviously) but you'll have to write up your practical reports during the prac itself.
• Monash: These are usually 4 hours long and have anywhere between 20-50+ people, depending on the unit and the year level. These sessions usually require labcoats and safety goggles (some units just require the safety goggles). In first year chemistry, you will work in pairs. However, you may be required to do a presentation on a specific prac, which will consist of larger groups. In second year chemistry, there will be times you have to work alone, so don't always rely on your partner to do the hard work! You will need some basic lab skills. Experiments will be conducted as per the lab manual, with a demonstrator to explain all the steps at the start, and help you during the prac if necessary. Pracs will relate to topics covered in lectures and relevance as such will become more apparent as years progress. Labs often require you to complete a proforma (work-sheet type thing) or a lab report (depends on the unit) which is due on the day of your next lab session. Lab components are usually hurdles, meaning they need to be passed to pass the unit. There are usually pre-lab questions that must be completed before the lab session - they are signed by the demonstrator before the lab, and count for marks. In second year labs, you will need to fill in Safety & Hazard forms before the lab - these must be signed by the demonstrator as well.
Physics units (ANU-based perspective)
Pre-lab worksheet online (generally a video and a couple of questions), which would cover the necessary theory or skills (e.g. how some particular instrument works, stuff to do with uncertainties/statistics, using python to plot stuff) which needs to be done beforehand. During the lab you'd work through the sheet given, taking all the measurements/whatever needed and answering the questions. Sometimes you'd work in pairs for taking measurements etc, but you'd do your own writing up of stuff (since that's what you'd get marked on).
Biology units (UoM-based perspective)
A lot of variety but in many regards fairly similar to VCE Biology practicals, with added time pressure. You actually do multiple "activities" in a single practical session, so you may be testing a few enzymes, and then you'll be dissecting something while you wait for the results from your enzyme test. Pre-practical and post-practical tests may be done online, and all count towards your practical mark. As you move up the uni ladder, you'll start doing subjects that focus more on specific fields, such as anatomy, microbiology, physiology. In subjects like anatomy, you'll be expecting cadaver dissections, whereas in microbiology you'll probably grow cultures of microorganisms. Some pracs are individually done, some are done in pairs, some require your whole table.
Psychology units (UoM-based perspective)
Labs are 2 hours in length and have a frequency of around every couple of weeks or weekly depending on the unit. A fair bit of the lab work relates to certain assignments for the unit and lab reports are fairly commonplace to follow.
Computer Science and IT (La Trobe-based perspective)
Labs complement lectures. Typically you are given a problem sheet in your lab class and you work through it alone or in pairs (pair programming). The labs aren't designed to be finished within your two hour time slot and you should attempt the questions at home first and then use your allocated lab time to discuss things with your tutor to maximise what you gain out of them. If you're taking an object oriented programming subject, expect to be working in a unix console environment.
Astronomy (Monash-based perspective)
These are usually 2 hours long and have between 8-12 people. These labs are really interesting because you do a variety of activities! For example for first year and towards the start, you will learn the basics of reading star charts and the terminology behind them. Then, other activities arise, such as constructing your own spectrometer, using telescopes to spy on the Menzies building (and burn stuff with the sun!), computer-related activities related to calculation of orbits/etc and lots of other cool stuff! There were also role playing activities, where you get to plan your crusade to a planet with a fixed budget with a group of people. There were a fair bunch of the 'calculation labs' but really, it ties in so well with the content in lectures that it is somewhat enjoyable (when it makes sense).
When I'm in a lecture/tute/prac, will it only be people from my course there?
Make a request in this thread!
What is this "independent learning" I hear a lot about? My VCE units had "study designs", is this the same in uni?
Depends on the unit.
For example, there are some units that people from all sorts of degrees can take (don't require pre-reqs and the such), whilst there are others that only certain students can take (eg. any MBBS unit). Even in a specialised Law unit you may have people doing Law, or Comm/Law, or Arts/Law and so forth, so not exactly solely your one cohort.
How do I take notes during a lecture?
Essentially, what you learn at uni comes down to what you want to learn. Being proactive and not afraid to ask questions (as long as you don't become "that kid" who is a nuisance) is the key to getting things out of lectures and tutes. There is literally an infinite of things to learn and uni is the best place to start learning about where your passions lie.
Whilst some units will have a clear list of objectives to cover for exams (similar to a VCE "study design" but less detailed), others unfortunately won't. This is why it's so important to attend lectures and tutes to make sure you know exactly what content is being taught because otherwise you might miss out because that bit of material may not be mentioned at any other time. Having said that, if you're keen, there is no reason to not extend yourself beyond the coursework if you wish to. Most lecturers would be happy to answer a few queries from keen learners too (although there is the occasional lazy one you'll encounter). What makes this difficult for some is the lack of questions.
Unlike VCE where you could learn by doing say 50 questions out of an exercise of Maths Quest, the vast majority of uni textbooks are not like that. They have a LOT more theory and very few questions in proportion to what you're used to. Some have no questions at all and the units may have no official past practice papers for the exams either meaning that the first questions you could encounter may be from the actual exam (however if you do get past papers, they are honestly your best friend!). This is something you've got to accept and move on from.
Furthermore, independence means more responsibility. If there is an assignment due, no-one will remind you about it. The Faculties couldn't care less if you handed it on-time or a week late, but expect penalties in the latter. It's up to you to keep track of where you're going and to not fall behind.
There's no one method to adapt to this new style of learning. Some students take a few days, others a semester or two. It's part of the package with uni and I'm kind of glad there isn't a "formula" for this transition, everyone has their own unique journey through learning which is great. May sound daunting, but if you've chosen the right degree, it should be fun too!
Are there study groups?
Attend lectures and see what works for you
Some people like to annotate printed/electronic lecture slides, some like to write/type as much of what the lecturer says and displays, some already pre-make lecture notes and add to them during the lecture, some people just like the listen intently, some people never rock up at all and wing it, etc etc. It's really individualistic, and like the answer to the above question, there's no correct answer or formula.
So how do I study for the exams and the course in general?
Usually not officially, however there are some official jaffy study groups organised by some Faculties of some unis.
A lot of the more common units will have a student-run Facebook study group where people help each other out and post questions etc. If you're lucky, some students from previous years may drop in to lend a hand, but this is usually pretty rare so you work with your own cohort. From these groups there may be physical group study, but this really depends on the group and if you find people you can study with.
What is SWOTVAC?
Exam at university are quite different from those in VCE, in that they are significantly more dependent on independent learning abilities as aforementioned. You're unlikely to be given many practice exams for a subject and be thankful if you get any but don't expect them do get to be either complete or have solutions - though this depends on the course coordinator and subject to an extent.
Given that exams are based on lectures and readings, it's often useful to summarise the lectures and readings until the content is well understood. Usually (especially for sciences), the exam questions are very similar to those given in tutorials and other exercises throughout the semester. It's a good idea to be able to do these questions and questions like them independently, with a sound knowledge of the theory behind it. Ideally how you study in uni would follow on from your good study habits of VCE (notes, cue-cards, etc.).
Some people also find it useful to study in groups (see above question on study groups), where people can pose questions to each other and discuss the subject material. Personally I find it best to study in groups of no more than 3.
Because of the difference between the learning styles required for VCE exams and uni exams, you may initially find it difficult to find a means of independent study. This can be frustrating at firs especially when each unit you have may require a different study method, but it's important not to be disheartened, as you'll eventually find a mode of study that works for you. It's just another part of the university learning experience.
Will there be revision lectures like in VCE?
The exam period which occurs at the end of every semester and a period where most student learn the coursework of all their units. Usually accompanied by massive stress and sleep deprivation (well, you already get sleep deprivation throughout the semester...it's just a lot worse). You won't be attending regular classes during this period, although usually tutors and lecturers will be accessible during this time. You can see an example of SWOTVAC drama here.
How do I make a timetable and what is it?
Sometimes. Some tutors or student clubs may run revision lectures for their students Uusally they're free or they incur student club membership costs. However, this is not the norm and you'd be foolish to not take the opportunity and go if they exist for you!
What's all this talk about "Census Date"?
This is one question you have to wait to be in uni before you find out how, as each uni has its own system for timetabling.
However, the timetable will give you your weekly guide to what you will be doing for the semester. For some units some things may be auto-allocated (you can't choose to have that activity at any other time+date) and others you may have a preference.
A few basic tips to keep in mind:
• No-one likes 8 am starts
• Pick tutes later in the week for classes that require you to submit tute work (assignments and so forth)
• Don't leave it until the last minute
• Check your unit handbook and use it when timetabling and planning your course, make sure you timetable units that will help you to get to where you want to go
• Days off are always good
• Don't be afraid to ask for help if you have no idea what's going on
How will I be graded in uni, will I get a Uni-ATAR to show my proud mummy and daddy?
Basically, it's the last day where you can withdraw from a subject you chose (when timetabling) without incurring a financial liability. Can't stand a subject? GTFO before census date. It's that simple.
What is a "GPA"?
No there is no Uni-ATAR
Basically each uni has it's own system, the system for Monash and UoM are as below (some units may get scaled up too!):
Monash grading system
|NP||Near Pass (no longer valid at Monash)||45-49||0.7|
|WN||Withdrawn Fail (where you have withdrawn from a unit after the cut-off date)||0|
|SFR||Satisfied Faculty Requirements|
UoM grading system
|H2A||Second Class Honours Division A||75-79|
|H2B||Second Class Honours Division B||70-74|
|H3||Third Class Honours||65-69|
|N||Fail||0-49||No credit points are awarded.|
|CMP||Completed||Pass (no mark awarded). Only used for subjects marked on a pass/fail basis.|
|CNT||Continuing||Used for subjects that run over more than one teaching period, and the subject has not been completed.|
|CTC||Continuing – Completed||Used for each teaching period (except for the final teaching period) where a student has been enrolled in and passed a continuing subject. The final mark and grade awarded for the subject will be entered against the final teaching period of enrolment in the continuing subject.|
|CNF||Continuing - |
|Used for each teaching period (except for the final teaching period) where a student has been enrolled in and failed a continuing subject. The final mark and grade awarded for the subject will be entered against the final teaching period of enrolment in the continuing subject.|
|FL||Fail||Fail (no mark awarded) Only used for subjects marked on a pass/fail basis.|
|NH||Not Completed/Fail||0-49||Used when a student fails as they have not satisfactorily completed all prescribed (hurdle) requirements and would otherwise have passed the subject. A mark of 0-49% will appear on the transcript.|
|WD||Withdrawn||Withdrawn from a subject after the time for making subject changes without penalty has passed (after census date).|
|NA||Not Assessed||Used for subjects that are non-assessable, such as Community Access Program audit studies.|
These grades determine things like Honours, higher education and so forth, as well as being pretty important in employment.
What is a "WAM"?
GPA (Grade Point Average) represents your academic marks at university. It may be important for getting admission into post-graduate degrees, Honours programs, internships, etc. Different unis utilise different arbitrary GPA scales.
What is "underloading" and "overloading"?
WAM (Weighted Average Mark) is the average mark you achieve across all completed units in a course. It may be important for getting admission into post-graduate degrees, Honours programs, internships, Faculty awards, etc.http://www.monash.edu.au/exams/wam.html
Social aspects of uni lifeI don't think I'll know anyone coming into uni, how can I socialise and meet new people? What parties and camps are there?
Underloading: to enroll in less than the standard number of units (eg. less than 4) in each semester.
Overloading: to enroll in more than the standard number of units (eg. more than 4) in each semester.
Each uni will have their own criteria regarding the specifics, for example http://www.monash.edu.au/enrolments/study-load.html
Uni doesn't have a uniform, does it matter what I wear?
There are heaps of ways to meet new people!
Each uni will have a multitude of student-run clubs, sports, volunteering and so-forth. Most have a free/cheap joining fee and are always keen on new members during O-week. Clubs range from faculty clubs (eg. med soc, engineering, law, etc.) to Quidditch clubs to anime clubs to ethnicity clubs (eg. Sri Lankan, Greek, etc.) to religious clubs (eg. Hindu, Jewish, etc.) to Debating to Amnesty International to LAN gamer clubs to... You get the idea
of clubs and at least one for everyone.
Furthermore, there are a LOT of parties and a LOT of opportunites to get sloshed/wasted. Hopefully you've all got some mates who throw parties for birthdays and whatnot, but if you don't for whatever reason, there are plenty of AXPs (After eXam Parties) to get involved in. Some are run by individual clubs (as AXPs or more formal Balls), others by student unions. As aforementioned, O-week also provides the opportunity for a few parties too. Additionally, each major faculty club (and also some cultural clubs) also tends to have a student-run camp, those are lots of fun too and a great way to meet new people over a *lot* of alcohol, nudity, and banter. What happens on camp stays on camp... Except for STIs
If the drunken rowdy social scene isn't for you, that's also fine! Most people end up meeting other people in tutes, labs, group projects/assignments, and lectures. Those are great ways to meet academically like-minded peers and to make new friendships.
With so many events and opportunities, most people tend to make lots of new friends. Get involved and you won't be left out.
I have a part-time job, is uni manageable with a job?
Not really, people wear whatever they want (from very formal clothes that law students think they have to wear to trackies/shorts for the whole year that eng students wear, wide range) and no one really cares. Be practical and don't wear anything offensive. Try and refrain from wearing your old school gear much (obviously don't wear the actual uniform, I'm talking more graduation hoodies and things), it gets quite tacky after the first semester of first year.
I don't work, where can I get discounts or freebies?
Of course! Many people manage both to great success. The key is having a balance and knowing when things are becoming too much for you. Be realistic with your hours and when you work, you don't want to be missing tutes or lectures that aren't recorded, you don't want to be working every day of SWOTVAC, etc. If you be smart with it, you should be fine. Having a flexible boss helps though
Just on money, do many people in uni have debit cards and the like?
Lots of places! First of all, many freebies to be had at O-week (my personal supplies of 2013 below)
Furthermore, signing up to clubs, the student union and organisations such as Student Edge (free medium drink if you spend $3 or more at Maccas, get on it) give you more discounts, so much so that you could buy food only from discounts whilst at uni. To add to that, there are so many club barbecues and so many free snags to go around. Nothing like watching an Asian guy pretending he's Jewish for a free snag, absolutely classic.
What is this "stalkerspace" I hear about on Facebook from my cool uni friends?Miscellaneous aspects of uni lifeI hear a lot about student union elections, any advice?
Yes nearly everyone does. Uni's have plenty of ATMs so getting cash is easy, many uni's have special student deals so Google away to find your best deal.
I hear a lot about these "socialists", any advice?
Yep, stay well away from them. Also don't bother applying if you're not an Arts/Law/Comm student, no chance of a win
Finally, I've heard that Monash students are cooler and better than UoM students in every possible way. Any truth to this?
Yep the Socialist Alternative groups/cults, stay well away from them.
Take them on in verbal jousting if you're crazy, join them if you're bat-shit insane
That is entirely true. #monashmasterrace
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