Hated first year uni? I feel you, dawg.

I hated first year uni. Well, it wasn’t pure hatred, but there were definitely things I wanted to be different.

I’d changed degrees twice by the end of first year, no word of a lie. By the time I walked into my first lecture of second year, I was in my third degree. There were no starry eyes and too big smiles at the end of my first year, put it that way.

Mostly, when you’re feeling super negative about something, it can be hard to be objective about it. Now, everybody’s situation is different, so this advice won’t be too specific. But I am going to lay out your options and hopefully make it easier for you to think things through.


Is it the degree? Change it. 

Internal transfers are actually a pretty simple process. It varies slightly depending on the institution, but generally you just put in an application to change degrees (usually downloadable from your uni’s website) and then wait to see if you got in. If you do, you talk to your new Faculty and start arranging your classes.

Logistically, it’s a simple process.

Psychologically, perhaps a more difficult one. Often, changing degrees may add an additional semester (or two!) to your total time spent at uni, which can be a confronting prospect, particularly when you haven’t really enjoyed uni up to this point.

There’s also the (frankly ridiculous) illusion of “losing time”. For people who went straight from high-school to uni, the mentality of ‘falling behind’ the time that ‘everyone else’ will be graduating can bring about some anxiety. It’s unfortunate. So many things get left behind in high-school. Outright bullying, uncomfortable social circles, excessive rules – they all get left behind, but for some reason we persist with the very high-school idea that our path needs to be similar to everyone else’s.


If that’s your concern, free yourself. Firstly, it’s much better to ‘waste’ a year because you changed degrees than waste three years doing a degree you don’t like, or waste thirty years in a career you hate. Secondly, and I promise you this with every fibre of my being, your life isn’t going to progress along a mostly comfortable, linear path. Eventually, circumstances will force you to deviate, and you’ll be forced into making change anyway.

Make the change now, while it’s still of your choosing. I did – twice – and it all worked out in the end.

hated first year uni

Is it the uni? Change it. 

Sometimes, it’s not the degree, but the institution. Different institutions are very different. Some may place a particular emphasis on work experience, whilst others may place a particular emphasis on academia. There’s a chance the social scene around your uni is really different to your preferences, or maybe you just hate commuting and want something closer.

Maybe it’s just the vibe.

There’s plenty of reasons that your initial institution just may not be your thang, and that’s fine. Change it! If you like your degree but hated first year uni, studying the same material somewhere else really could make a difference. It’s a little bit more difficult to change – for example, you may have to apply through VTAC or UAC (or whatever relevant admissions centre in the state you’re choosing), but you can often contact the uni yourself and apply to them directly if you’ve missed key dates.

You might lose credit for a unit or two, but there’s a good chance your new institution gives you full credit for everything you’ve done so far, which is a nice little victory.

It’s potentially even more confronting than changing degrees, because you’ll have a complete change of travel, scenery, and people. But maybe, if you hated first year uni, that’s exactly what you need.


Is it uni in general? Your current circumstances? Defer. 

This may sound like a pretty radical suggestion, but as far as risk-reward goes, it might be pretty favourable.

If you think about it, there’s very little risk in deferring. You’ll keep your place in your degree. You’ll still be able to transfer to a different degree if you decide that’s what you need, and while you figure it out, you aren’t paying any fees. Honestly, it’s a pretty safe option.

It also gives you a year to do whatever you want. To earn money, to explore other areas of learning, to travel, to grow. Perhaps your life is just a bit hectic right now. If so, a lot can change in twelve months, and you might be in a much better frame of mind and circumstance to study this time next year than you are right now. Hell, in a year, you could save like $15k then blow it all on a six month trip overseas.

At the end of the year, you’ll have a better idea of what it is you truly want. You might even realise that the reason you hated first year uni is because uni plain and simply isn’t for you, in which case you can look at trade options or just join the workforce and progress your career without tertiary education. Pretty good options, really, if uni truly isn’t for you.

hated first year uni

Maybe you just need to stay the course – things get better.  

So far in this article, there have been a lot of options to ‘change’, but it’s important to remember that sometimes choosing to stay right where you are can work out, too.

A lot of people hate first year uni, but a lot of that is just adjusting to the change. You went to school for thirteen years, then all of a sudden you’re thrust into something that’s kinda like school, because it’s educational, but in actuality is completely different from school, with a hugely different routine, style of learning, and social arena.

Simply staying put could fix a lot of these issues: things get more familiar, and your own confidence can make a lot of difference to your level of overall satisfaction. I personally feel like second and third year units are more interesting, and usually as you progress through your degree you get a wider variety of choice as to what you study, now that you can move beyond the ‘intro’ subjects.

As you yourself change, you’ll find so does your university experience. Almost everyone I know hated first year uni, or at least liked first year the least, and would attest to the years getting better and better as they go on, as you get better as a student, and as your interests develop and become more specifically catered for.

Good luck, fam – I hope things get better! Enjoy your break, you earned it!

And remember – whilst ATAR Notes has a lot to do with high-school stuff, you can find heaps of uni-specific resources at Uni Notes!