Tips for adjusting to university after high school

Transitioning from school to university

You’ve just come out of a long period of exams, graduated from school, and enrolled in your uni course. Congratulations! That’s quite an achievement.

You’ve just come out of a long period of exams, graduated from school, and enrolled in your uni course. Congratulations! That’s quite an achievement.

Now you might be wondering: what’s your degree going to be like, and how hard is it going to be to transition from school to university?

First of all, don’t stress about it. University is very different from school, and you’re going to have to learn a lot of new skills to adapt.

Here are some of the main differences you’re going to notice:

  • You’re responsible for choosing electives and class times at university.
  • Less in-class time and much more reading in your own time.
  • You won’t get any reminders about assignments or exams.
  • You have to write your own notes; your teacher won’t provide them.
  • The workload is bigger.
  • Nobody will keep an eye on you if you don’t show up; it’s up to you.
  • Uni is much bigger, with thousands of students.
  • There are lots of clubs you can join, and more resources and facilities.

This may all sound a bit intimidating at first, but it won’t take long to adjust. Within one semester, you’ll be cruising along like you’ve always been there.

Here’s a guide on how to adjust to university like a pro.

1. Go to orientation week

Every university year begins with an orientation week, and you’ll receive an invitation to this via mail or email. Go!

At orientation week, you’ll get some really helpful instructions like how to use the library resources, get something printed at the print shop or book a computer lab. It’s super helpful to have university staff teach you these things, instead of having to figure them out yourself later on.

Orientation week is also a great chance to get to know other students, check out the facilities, and take part in some fun activities that will make everything feel more familiar by the time you show up for class.

2. Spend some time walking around campus and finding your classrooms

The most stressful part of your first week at university is getting lost, and it happens all the time. Universities are generally big and can be difficult to navigate, even with a map. If you don’t spend a bit of time tracking down your classrooms before your first day, you might end up embarrassingly late to your first classes, wandering the halls, trying to find room 1.05 in building 7a.

3. Choose what subjects interest you

One of the coolest things about university is being able to choose from a broad range of interesting electives. Unlike school, where you’re forced to take classes that you don’t like, you have much more freedom to enjoy your learning and try new things. For example, if you study a Bachelor of Business at Torrens, you can choose electives like: Content Creation for Social Media, or Place, Culture and Destination Management.

Don’t just focus on what you think you ‘should’ be studying. The reality is that you’ll do better overall if you choose topics that interest you. You may even discover a new passion, and who knows where that could take your career!

4. Thoroughly read your course outlines

University learning is totally independent, compared to school. In your first class of each subject, you’ll be given a course outline, which tells you all your readings and assignments for the semester. Make sure you go over it thoroughly, so there aren’t going to be any surprises down the track.

5. Make a calendar of all your due dates and check it every week

At school, your teachers will remind you about up-coming assignments. At university, sometimes the only notice you’ll receive about assignments is months ahead. It’s up to you to make sure you keep track of all your assignment deadlines and exam dates. Whether it’s an App, a diary, or a paper one on your wall, have a calendar you can add all your assignments into. Check it weekly, and schedule in ‘start dates’ at least several weeks before ‘due dates.’

6. Develop a study schedule and time management plan

Time management is by far the trickiest adjustment you’ll have to make at university. Learning is mostly independent, and assignments are often due all at once. Nobody is going to give you a schedule for your reading; you will have to set aside your own study hours each day. You’ll have to figure out a way to stagger your assignments over time and manage your weekly workload.

7. Learn to cook on a budget

As a university student, you’re going to be stretched for time and money. This is particularly the case if you’ve moved away from home to study. No longer do you have your parents cooking for you, or packing your lunch, like you did at school.

You’re going to have to learn how to get by on a budget and stay healthy, and that means learning to cook. Don’t go down the instant noodle path: it’s not good for your mind, or your focus.

By cooking in bulk at home and packing your own lunches you’re going to save a whole lot of money and time. Start the week with a huge lasagne, cut it up and freeze it in portions, and you’ve got cheap, instant, healthy meals for lunch and dinner for the week.

8. Don’t skip classes, catching up is really hard

Unlike school, nobody will check up on you if you don’t show up to your lectures. Your attendance will be noted during tutorials, but you don’t have to go to all of them. It’s up to you to make sure you show up, but here’s the thing: if you miss a few classes in a row, it becomes really hard to catch up.

The next time you attend, you’re going to be confused about the discussion, because of the gaps in your knowledge. Class will become even harder to cope with. Show up to class, unless you’re actually sick, and even then, make sure you get notes off your friends so you don’t fall behind.

9. Keep an open mind and stay curious

Universities are big, diverse, and full of different people with different opinions. There are organised political parties, religious groups, student elections, opinion pieces published in student newspapers and endless discussions at the university bars and cafes. If you’ve come from a small school, this may be new and challenging.

Remember to keep an open mind, don’t take anything personally, and be curious about what’s going on.

Don’t be afraid to get involved, join a club or a society, and become a part of the vibrant social fabric that the university has to offer!

10. Make a weekly budget

If you’re now financially independent from your parents, either working part-time or living off a scholarship, it’s important to manage your finances responsibly. Make a weekly budget, so you don’t accidentally spend all your income in the first semester.

11. Be kind to yourself, growing up is hard

Like any big changes in life, adjusting to this transition is going to be both exciting and difficult. Remember to be kind to yourself, surround yourself with supportive friends, and ask for help when you need it.

It’s now up to you to take care of your mental and emotional health. If you recognise any of the warning signs of anxiety or depression, make sure you go to your student support services or a trusted lecturer for help. Remember, university staff care about you, and want you to do well. If you’re having a hard time adjusting, they’ll help you get all the support you need.

See here for more information on courses in business at Torrens University.

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