Your first semester of university will be a time wherein you challenge yourself, adapt to dynamic changes, learn more and just have loads of fun. Here’s a list of things I wish I knew before starting university – hopefully these can help you make the most of it!
At uni, a lot of assignments need to be submitted online by odd hours (looking at you, 12am), and you’re technically free to submit things past the deadline, if you’re willing to cop a 10% penalty per late day, that is. This leniency often tempts students into starting assignments late. Don’t do it – ironically, you’re going to compromise the quality of your work and stress yourself out more while cramming! Begin assignments 2 weeks in advance so that your future self has an easier time consistently completing them!
Say you have a class where tutorial attendance doesn’t count as a percentage of your final grade. Though you may be tempted not to attend tutorials at times, you should! Other than noting tutorials’ educational value (it’s an opportunity to ask your tutors questions), attending tutorials gives you a good academic record. Note the following example – say a student fails a subject by 3 points. If their overall attendance was exemplary, the faculty may pass the student!
At uni, you can expect a crazy mix of early/late starts and early/late finishes. Therefore, you need to plan different transport options for each day to allow yourself ample time to get to uni (this is ESPECIALLY important on exam days!) and from class to class. Sometimes you can be on the other side of campus (or even a separate suburb) for another class that you need to get to within 5 minutes! If you can’t allot time in between classes, you might need to leave the preceding class earlier.
If you’ll be a full-time student juggling study and part time work/extracurricular activities/responsibilities, or you eventually feel that the typical course load is too overwhelming, usually you can take a smaller subject load and still be considered a “full time” student eligible for loans and concession cards. For example, you can drop from 24 credit points to 18 credit points.
Some of you out there who plan to do internal degree transfers, apply for jobs, internships, scholarships and/or postgrad school may feel pressured to achieve a certain grade. Though a little stress is a good motivator, too much of it will counterproductively hinder your performance and jeopardise your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Remember: strive to do your best, eat well, drink water and sleep well. Even if you miss a certain grade, you’ll grow wiser and stronger. Each new day is another chance, and you’ll get to where you need to be!
At uni, you’re going to spend a lot of your time by yourself, and that isn’t a bad thing! Along with your demanding study, you’ll have more opportunities to cultivate and pursue hobbies and interests that’ll craft part of your identity – you can join a society, finally get to that reading list and discover new places, to name a few!
At university, the social scene is incredibly dynamic, what with the constant shifting of classes twice or thrice a year. In this time, you’ll get to know many cool people! However, during first year especially, a lot of your new friends may be completing different majors, so you might not see them as often. It’s normal for changes in friendships to occur, and though difficult at times, it’s best for your personal growth to accept them.
Many of you might spend hours a week commuting to uni, so it is a great idea to use that extra time to read ahead or catch up on readings/other classwork! If you count these hours, say, 1 hour going to and 1 hour going back five times a week, that’s a solid 10 hours of valuable extra study time a week at your disposal! Conversely, you could use that time to catch up on sleep, music or your favourite TV show!
If you can’t purchase textbooks brand-new (which I don’t suggest anyway as you’re likely going to use them for a couple of months at most), you’ve got cheaper (and some free) options! E-book versions can be half the price, and your uni library may have electronic or physical copies (be quick to reserve them!). Moreover, you can find affordable second-hand copies, and even older editions (which are still equally as useful)!
Examiners usually base the final papers on lecture content – don’t worry about uncovered chapters on the prescribed textbook. Pay close attention to your lecturers (especially if they hint that a topic is commonly examinable), then expand on your knowledge of covered topics afterwards!
You might gain invaluable advice on essay writing/referencing and answers on confusing course content that could spell the difference between a whole grade threshold in your assignments/final exams!
Your uni library’s online catalogue is home to thousands of useful scholarly journals, articles and papers that you can access for free. Moreover, Google Scholar and JSTOR are also very useful citation sources for your essays!