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October 23, 2019, 11:28:45 pm

Author Topic: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni  (Read 4253 times)  Share 

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Joseph41

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Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« on: November 28, 2017, 11:33:57 am »
+25
Considering a lot of you will be starting first-year uni next year, I figured it might be good to have a thread like this, where current uni students can talk about what they've learnt. :) Basically, this thread is for anyone to give advice to first-year uni students - stuff you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself at the beginning of your first year.

I'll start!

#1: If you find it hard at the start, it often gets better
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Trust me when I say that very many people struggle with the transition from school to uni. It's super understandable, too; for ~13 years, you've been at school, with structured classes, teachers who know you, routine. Then, you're sort of thrown into what will probably be a bigger campus, with more (and new) people, different procedures and class styles, and with lot of new terminology to learn. For those reasons, the initial period can be pretty tricky.

It'll change from person to person, of course. Some students will adjust really well - the uni lifestyle suits them. For others, it'll take a little longer. I wasn't much of a uni fan for at least my first semester - and probably more broadly my first year. I was very close to dropping out because, plainly, I just wasn't enjoying it. But I think a big part of that was the lack of familiarity. I was used to high school assessments, six (and later four) periods a day, bells, designated lunch times - shit like that. It's just not like that at uni, and at first, I found that threatening.

I'm very, very, very glad I didn't drop out, and stuck with it for a little longer. Gradually, I became more familiar with what was happening, got more involved as a result, and subsequently enjoyed the whole process a whole lot more. I ended up having four years at uni, and I intend to go back in the future. So my advice to myself would be something along the lines of: stick it out - it'll get easier.

#2: Grades and shit are useful, but perhaps not most useful
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I worked hard at uni, and was pretty particular about my grades. It was actually the root of a lot of anxiety, which wasn't a good thing overall.

Don't get me wrong, uni grades can be important. For example, if you're hoping to snare a place at a prestigious law firm or as a doctor, your marks will very likely be taken into account. And I'm certainly not suggesting they don't matter at all; that would just be flat-out contradictory of me haha.

What I am saying is that they're not necessarily the most important part of university life. In hindsight, I think I would have been more involved in uni in general - so like, clubs, making new friends, leadership and volunteering. The extracurriculars really help you develop, and also encourage you to be more engaged with the whole process. Even if my marks suffered a little, I don't think my job prospects would have. In fact, they may have even been enhanced. These days, you don't get a job by having a degree; you get a job by being suited to the role. Being suited to the role will probably involve things like initiative, independence, communication skills - things you'll very likely develop through extracurricular activities.

Again, I'm certainly not saying grades don't matter. I worked really hard at maintaining a decent GPA, and I'm proud of what I achieved. My advice to myself, though, would be to push yourself outside your comfort zone a little, and experience all of uni - not just the academic side.

#3: It's probably worth making some connections
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Good for career, sure, but more pertinently, just good socially.

I made very few friends through uni; often, I actively avoided interacting with others. I'm probably proof that you can go through uni without doing much socially and still benefit greatly from the experience, but like, uni's (potentially) such a great time to make new friendships and connections. If you don't know anybody going to the same uni as you, or doing the same course as you, making friends will likely help in the long-run. You can share experiences, and lean on one another when things get tough.

#4: Learning how to reference is important - do it early
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You can lose many a mark through incorrect or inconsistent referencing, so it's important to know how to do it properly. If nothing else, accurate referencing should go some way to protecting you against plagiarism concerns, which is another consideration.

Different schools, different faculties and different unis will have different preferences for referencing style - it might even change unit to unit. Be mindful of which referencing style you're meant to be using; your uni library might very well have a guide for each style. I made the referencing guidelines my homepage for a while haha - that helped me, I think.

It might also be worth learning how to use referencing (Endnote or similar) early on. I actually never learnt, and did all of my references manually (anal),
but that's certainly not the most efficient use of time. So my advice: learn how to reference, and learn how to reference early.

#5: Use the first few weeks to explore
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Check out where your lectures/tutes/labs/whatever else will be, find some good coffee, work out where the libraries are. Uni campuses are often quite large; even in my fourth year, I didn't have much of an idea where I was going sometimes haha. To avoid being late to class in your first few weeks, though, you might like to scope it out prior.

My advice? Consider the first few weeks as a bit of a tester. You probably won't have (m)any assignments, so it's a good time to just... explore!

Over to you, pals. :D
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2017, 11:55:28 am »
+13
Speaking of #3, try to make at least one friend per class. This is probably super obvious, but I didnít in my first semester, and I saw the difference it made in my second semester.

Talk to at least one person in each class, and add them on Facebook. It is so, so helpful if you miss a class, or youíre confused about an assignment, and you can talk to someone about it, catch up on what you missed, etc. Alternatively, you can collectively suffer together. ;)

I made very few friends through uni; often, I actively avoided interacting with others.
This is also me, but Iím working on it. My advice is to approach everyone, and everything, with an open mind and an open heart. You really never know who you might meet, who you might end up best friends with, or what youíll end up liking.

K888

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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2017, 12:24:17 pm »
+10
Would have loved having this thread at the start of this year haha. Huuuuuge +1 to the referencing. I know at Monash, the library run sessions that teach you how to use particular referencing systems, so if you're nervous about doing referencing without guidance - maybe give that a shot! Otherwise, make sure you have the how-to guide downloaded. :) Often referencing is worth a reasonable amount of marks in your assignment, so it can be easy marks to pick up as long as you do it properly.

Social stuff
- Stick yourself out there and interact with people - everyone else is starting over, too, so they also need to find friends! Don't be afraid to start talking to the person sitting next to you in a lecture, or the people who you're discussing questions with in a tute. Even if they don't become super close friends, they're faces to say hi to when you pass them at uni! :)

- Relating to the first point - persist with interacting! I'd say I didn't make close friends until semester 2, so I'm really glad I kept on talking to people and all that! It takes times for friendships to form, so don't be disheartened if someone you've known for 6 weeks isn't as close of a friend as someone you've been friends with since year 7.

- Stay in contact with people from high school (or rather, the people that you want to stay in contact with!) - if they're going to your uni, great! But if they're not going to your uni, actively try to catch up once a month or something similar.

- Don't be disheartened if people you thought were your friends in high school stop talking to you. There's plenty of people who are only your friends because you see them 5 days a week. And people also change when they start uni! One door shuts, another door opens - I was a bit sad that there were people I thought were pretty good friends that just sort of stopped talking to me, but in return I've now become friends with people I went to high school with who I didn't really connect with at school. :)

Work stuff
- With noone there to remind you of due dates anymore, make sure you're aware of when things are due well in advance. Maybe stick some A3 calendars on your wall where you can write stuff down.

- You'll probably have to spend a bit of time figuring out how to independently learn, because you get spoonfed a lot in high school. So don't be afraid to try some different systems, and don't be disheartened if it takes you a bit of time to find out what works best for you.

- Not understanding the content straight away is okay and very common! In uni, you're getting huge info dumps in lectures, whereas in high school you had someone walk you through the content over say, the course of a week or something. You'll have to get used to doing more work outside of uni (which I found hard to adjust to, given the fact I'd spent years at high school doing all my work in class so I didn't have any homework haha), too.

- Being behind is also okay. Maybe if you have a really light workload, it'll be easy to stay up to date, but I can guarantee you just about everyone will be behind in your course at some stage.

- If you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask questions, because noone's going to come up to you and check that you're understanding the content. But, make sure you have specific questions - you can't just get the lecturer to explain the whole thing again haha. Come to them (or email them) with your question, where you've looked already, and perhaps with some ideas. They'll appreciate your effort, and also, (probably depending on the faculty) a lot of lecturers/tutors won't answer a question until you've done research yourself.

- You probably won't have to buy many of your prescribed textbooks. The uni library will probably have heaps of copies, and if the newer editions are only 7 day loans, just borrow an older edition that you'll be able to have on loan potentially indefinitely. If you're going to buy textbooks - wait till you're a few weeks into semester to see what you're actually going to need. Lecturers will probably mention whether you actually need to buy it or not, and you'll also be able to ask older students who have done the unit.

- When you're doing referencing for your assignment, do it as you go along, and not at the end. You'll be less likely to make mistakes, and you'll have more opportunity to pick up on any mistakes that you have made.

Miscellaneous stuff
- Scout out the good places to study in the first few weeks. Particularly if you're at a big campus, it can be hard to find spots to sit in the library, so go exploring for the quieter areas and all that.

- Know what services the uni offers, and where to find them. So, find out where the health services are, disability support services, learning advisors, etc.

- If you're going to Monash and you're going to buy a parking permit, make sure you know when the sales open and get on it ASAP because the first round sell really quickly and you'll have to go on the waitlist for a few weeks if you miss out, which can be annoying.

I think my big point, and one I wish someone had told me at the start of the year is: change isn't bad, and don't be afraid of it - embrace it.

If anyone has any advice for second year, I'd love to hear it ;)
« Last Edit: November 28, 2017, 04:14:36 pm by K888 »
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2017, 03:13:00 pm »
+9
Speaking of #3, try to make at least one friend per class. This is probably super obvious, but I didnít in my first semester, and I saw the difference it made in my second semester.

Talk to at least one person in each class, and add them on Facebook. It is so, so helpful if you miss a class, or youíre confused about an assignment, and you can talk to someone about it, catch up on what you missed, etc. Alternatively, you can collectively suffer together. ;)
This is also me, but Iím working on it. My advice is to approach everyone, and everything, with an open mind and an open heart. You really never know who you might meet, who you might end up best friends with, or what youíll end up liking.

this this this
I only worked out a lot of the things in this thread recently and next year is my third LOL

what I'm trying to reiterate here is don't feel bad if it takes you a while to figure out uni. Take every opportunity that presents itself to you. A lot of things don't work out the way you had planned before uni, and that's okay.
Also, I went into first year expecting to become a certain way or feel different, but I realised not all the answers can be found during university & that's also okay. You may gain the most from the experiences that you have and the people that you meet. Look at everything as a learning experience, and don't be afraid to do things at your own pace (for example, by extending your degree -- I'm doing this)
You might be used to getting perfect marks or perhaps had a super high ATAR, but getting these sort of results at uni is pretty rare so don't be disheartened if you aren't achieving what you expected

University passes by VERY quickly. I'm a bit shocked that next year I'll be 3 years out of high school because it often doesn't feel that way. It can be one of the best times of your life if you want, so be yourself (there's a niche for almost anything at uni) and don't think too much. Have fun, work hard, but mostly enjoy yourself and this special time in your life :)

Joseph41

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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2018, 04:09:59 pm »
+6
Bump! Would love to hear perspectives of new (and old!) uni students on this one. :) I'm sure lots of our current Year 12s would benefit.
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2018, 04:54:40 pm »
+9
The first big thing I learnt was not to expect the same kind of marks I had in high school, and not to be too hard on myself. In high school, I considered anything below 85% as crap. The first mark I ever got back in uni was 69/100 and I honest to goodness cried about that for half a day. You can't have the same standards, and it takes a while to get them back to where they used to be.

Another thing was making friends. If you see familiar faces, say hi! Go to O-Week! You meet a heck ton of new people who have similar interests as you and they're just as eager to make friends. Everyone's in the same boat. :-) It's hard to come out of your shell, I know, but you have to be willing to make the effort as well. As an introvert, this first year at uni really challenged me to come out of my comfort zone but I think it's worked in my favour and I've met so many cool people :-)

Oh and another one - don't sweat it if you don't do or forget to do readings. In semester 1, I made sure I did every single one (not the bonus ones because like... really) and it got to a point where I couldn't keep up and stressed about doing it. The readings are covered in tutorials anyway, and you pretty much just skim them to have a good enough grasp of what's in the reading. Besides, you don't need to do all of them to do well - just do the ones you think are necessary.

I think that's it for now, will add more when I can think of them :-)
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2018, 05:02:27 pm »
+8
Referencing, particularly when to reference something. Totally foreign to me as a first year cause you never really had to reference anything in VCE. Took me a while to wrap my head around it (think I understand it now - someone please correct me if I'm wrong) but basically you want to reference everything that could be attributed to someone else (i.e. could be someone else's work, involves some degree of subjectivity). For example, you wouldn't reference "chocolate is made from cocoa beans" because that's an indisputable fact and no one can come out and say "I discovered that chocolate is made from cocoa beans". But you would reference something like "chocolate has antioxidant properties that promote heart health" because someone out there had to go out and research the antioxidant properties of chocolate and found out that it promotes heart health. Dunno if that made sense, but anyways, if you're ever in doubt about whether or not to referencing something, reference it. You're never going to be penalised for being a bit overzealous with the referencing (might get a comment to tone it down a bit but other than that, nothing else), but you will be if you don't reference enough.

And while on the topic of referencing, totally recommending that all Mac users download the program "Zotero" (it's available for Windows too but I've only used it on Mac so don't know if it's as amazing there as it is on Mac). It's free and will make your life so so so so so much easier when it comes to referencing. Just add in the reference details in at the beginning, and all you have to do is one click and it'll add the citation into your word doc, and at the end, it'll generate a reference list for all the references you've used (no need worry about perfect formatting and everything else - it does it all for you!!)

Also, don't know if this relevant but pretty much all uni students have free access to microsoft word, powerpoint, excell etc. Your uni should have instruction on how to get it but if you're lost just enter your student email here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/education/products/office/default.aspx. Had a friend that didn't know this and was about to fork out the money to buy it.


« Last Edit: October 02, 2018, 10:35:27 pm by sdfg »
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2018, 09:39:59 pm »
+9
Similar to what FB3 first said- I also set high expectations for myself. Anything that was below 85% was crap. I remember getting a 70 for one of my assessments and I was devastated. But looking back- it's still a credit. Nothing wrong with that.

Another thing- making friends! Since uni happens three times a week for me, it was harder to meet people. I made myself comfortable by only sticking with people in my group back in Sem 1. It kinda hit me at the start of Sem 2 that I need to venture out of my comfort zone and talk to more people. So I sit with different people at lunch time and lectures now. Also I realised now that you really have to put in effort by going to uni gathos and parties to really get yourself out of your comfort zone. It's easier to interact with people outside the uni context and within a social context.

Also I should tell my Sem 1 self- bruhh it's alright to be super chill with your uni lecturers and tutors. But then again, it's possibly due to the fact I go to a specialised school not an actual university. I find myself emailing informal emails to my lecturers (ie; I emailed my cinematography lecturer saying how I dug myself into a hole and I need moral support as a result of doing an assignment at the last minute)
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2018, 10:19:57 pm »
+8
Definitely the same with grades.  Uni marks and highschool marks are different.


I also found that midsem break is kinda like swotvac but that the break between semesters is more of a genuine holiday period
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2019, 11:11:24 am »
+1
Those who are currently in first year (and beyond!) - what did you wish you knew prior to starting? Let's use our experiences to make the transition a little easier for the Class of 2019 and after. :)
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2019, 04:36:39 pm »
+8
There are consultation sessions where you can talk to your tutors/lecturers. Go to them if you have any questions (of course it's better if you've prepared your questions beforehand). What I did was basically grind through the lecture notes/content of each unit and formulate questions which I really don't understand after thinking and googling, and the surprising part was that my tutors/lecturers might not have thought of these questions as well so we just look at the questions together for like 2 hours or more, or that they might recognise the mistakes they've made in the lecture slides (hogging consults are bad, so be mindful). Spending time with them is also a pretty good opportunity to get to know what they do, etc. so it's cool I guess.

Treat those around you with respect, regardless of who they might be.

Don't hesitate to use the student forums, and make friends through forming study groups on Messenger (especially in units with a smaller cohort), it's a very easy way to get to know people doing the same majors/units as you very quickly, get help if you need, and make a lot of friends.

Uni is hard, it is gruelling and you have to be on your feet constantly. It would be slightly less unbearable if you are doing something you enjoy though.
If you don't think you are doing something that you don't mind/enjoy, it would be WAY better for you in the long run to switch courses. This applies to a lot of my friends who did Med (and realised that they didn't want to do med in the first place).  Also recognise that you won't know where you truly belong in first-year. That's normal, everyone will go through that phase, and maybe they'd find their "passion" in uni. I hate that word, but yeah. I was lucky to have chosen something I truly enjoy in the first place, even though it took a while to decide in high school, and high school me would NEVER know that he really loved financial mathematics and econometrics until he tried. So be brave to try new things, and never look back.

Like high school you will stumble upon obstacles that might hinder your motivation to keep going. It is normal, and a part of life I guess, but don't be wary of the help offered in uni, e.g. counselling or student advice.

Good luck!
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2019, 09:37:02 pm »
+3
- Be mindful of the location of your classes when making your timetable or else you could end up doing a lot of unwanted sprinting.

- If you got a score that's much lower than expected, bring it up with your tutor / subject coordinator. One of my assignments was raised from a 68 to 75 after I requested a re-mark.

- The midsemester break is not a break. Don't plan anything during that week because trust me you'll regret it.

- Referencing! In high school teachers will let you off, but it's a big no-no in uni. I lost a mark once for writing "date. page" instead of "date, page" (full stop instead of comma)

- Clubs and societies - only join the ones you can actually commit to, or you'll just waste a lot of money on club membership fees.

- Never ever buy textbooks / subject readers / guides etc unless you are 100% certain you'll need it. A lot of stuff can be found online, legally, for free.
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2019, 10:43:21 pm »
+2
- Referencing! In high school teachers will let you off, but it's a big no-no in uni. I lost a mark once for writing "date. page" instead of "date, page" (full stop instead of comma)
Endnote becomes your best friend when referencing! I learnt that in the first ~6ish weeks of first year and haven't looked back since haha!

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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2019, 11:29:03 pm »
+4
- Referencing! In high school teachers will let you off, but it's a big no-no in uni. I lost a mark once for writing "date. page" instead of "date, page" (full stop instead of comma)
Definitely this! You can lose so many easy marks in assignments. The marking criteria for my ENGG1000 report stated you could lose 10 marks EACH for incorrectly naming the file, submitting the wrong file type (i.e. PDF instead of Word), even if we went over the page limit.

Actually plan your timetable before enrolling to make sure you're fulfilling the prerequisites for the T2 courses. And have a back up plan in case something goes wrong.

Facebook is useful because all the events are on Facebook (i.e. there are some events where you have to state you're "going" to the Facebook event). All the group chats for each class are on Facebook so you can still access the resources for the previous classes. Plus, you also get notifications on where the free food/drinks are ;)

If you tend to perform poorly in an exam, try to grab as many free marks as possible in your other assessments. This means online quizzes, assignments, labs etc because it can really boost up your final mark, and if your course offers supplementary exams if your final mark is within a certain range, you can qualify to retake the exam.

And something everyone has talked about but I wanted to emphasise more: uni is very different to high school. Coming from someone who did really well during high school, it's difficult to deal with the fact that a lot of your marks are barely a pass but at the end of the day, you gotta keep pushing on. And I literally scraped a pass for math and didn't even pass physics last term and I cried a lot when I got my results (and also didn't help when my friends were complaining that they were one mark away from a distinction) but there are other people who've also failed and had to retake courses so you're not alone!
« Last Edit: June 12, 2019, 11:33:43 pm by owidjaja »
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Re: Things I wish I knew about first-year uni
« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2019, 01:59:40 pm »
0
Some awesome advice in the last few posts. 🙌
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