How to prepare for university: University essentials and tips

University student holding essentials

You’ve just come out of a long period of exams, graduated from school, and enrolled in your university course. Congratulations- exciting times are ahead.

Now, you might be wondering what comes next. What’s your degree going to look like? What’s expected of you? Here are some of the main differences you’re going to notice when you're completing a university course:

  • You’ll be responsible for choosing electives and timetables.
  • There’s less class time and more reading in your own time.
  • You’ll have to write your own notes; your teacher won’t provide them.
  • Nobody will chase you up if you don’t show up; it’s up to you to put the work in..
  • There are loads of clubs you can join, and more resources and facilities to enjoy.

While this next chapter in your education journey will be different to your high school journey, there are things you can do right now to make the leap with confidence.

Here are our top university tips for first-timers

1. Go to Orientation

Every university year begins with Orientation so add it to your schedule and go. You’ll get some helpful instructions for everything from using library resources to getting your student ID card. It’s super helpful to have university staff guide you instead of having to figure them out yourself later.

Orientation 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. Explore the campus and find your classrooms

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 late for your first classes. Avoid the embarrassment and get acquainted with everything the campus has to offer.

3. Choose subjects that 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 you don’t like – you have much more freedom to enjoy your learning and try new things. On top of core units, you get to select a bunch of subjects tailored to your strengths and interests. So don’t focus on what you think you think you “should” study. 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 any surprises down the track.

5. 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.

Student developing study schedule

6. Don’t skip classes

Unlike at 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 tricky to catch up.

The next time you attend, you’re going to be confused about the discussion, because of the gaps in your knowledge. The 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 from your friends so you don’t fall behind.

7. 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 cafés. If you 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.

8. 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.

Wondering what to take to uni? Here’s your university checklist

1. New stationery

You can’t beat old-fashioned pen and paper when it comes to note-taking. Use A4 ruled lecture pads to keep your notes neat, and a fresh set of pens to go the distance. Highlighters will come in handy when you’re deep into your weekly readings, and sticky notes make referring back to important information a breeze.

2. Tech fundamentals

Unlike school where you’re glued to its grounds all day, at uni you’ll be coming and going, socialising between classes and fitting your studies around your life. That means you need portable items, like a laptop (with a protective case), headphones, device chargers and a USB memory stick. Of course, your phone goes without saying.

3. Diary or calendar app

At school, your teachers will remind you about upcoming assignments. At university, sometimes the only notice you’ll receive is months ahead. It’s up to you to make sure you stay on top of your coursework. Whether you use an app or a diary, always keep a calendar handy. Add all your key dates and deadlines to it – and refer to it weekly, at least.

Like any big change in life, adjusting to this transition is going to be both exciting and challenging. Surround yourself with encouraging friends and ask for help when you need it. Make sure you seek out the university’s support services or a trusted lecturer for help. Remember, you’re now part of a big community of staff, students and alumni who want you to succeed.

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