Home' The Good Universities Guide : The Good Universities Guide 2014 Contents STUDENT SURVIVAL TIPS 33
Student survival tips
So, you’ve finally sorted through all the tough decisions and are
about to embark on the wonderful journey of higher education.
You’re probably wondering what comes next. Here are some
survival tips to get you through first year and prepare you for
success in your degree.
What to do... before your first lecture
Go to Orientation Week (O-Week) and get familiar with your
campus. O -Week is a week of fun activities designed to help ease
you into uni life, blow off some steam and make some friends
before classes start. Institutions usually offer a range of activities,
from scavenger hunts, sporting activities and pub crawls to
information sessions and campus tours. Orientation is also a
great time to discover the services that your institution has to
offer: go on a library tour, join some clubs and familiarise yourself
with the campus. The more comfortable and at home you feel, the
more likely you are to be enthusiastic about your course and
motivated to do well academically.
The first few weeks can be stressful, so organisation is key.
Some simple preparation can really help, so consider organising
a trial public transport run, printing out subject outlines or
purchasing your textbooks in advance.
What to do... in your lectures, tutorials and labs
This depends on what course you are doing and how your
classes are set up. If you’re an arts student, for example, your
lectures will generally be made up of 100 or more students while
there may only be 15 to 20 students in your tutorials.
Labs are more common in hands-on courses such as health
and engineering. Lectures usually involve a lecturer delivering
material, often with the help of visual aids. You should make
notes about the main points of the talk but don’t try to take down
every single word that the lecturer is saying. Use your course
outline as a guide to what you should be learning about each
week and structure your notes around it. Tutorial sessions and
labs are much more interactive and often require active
participation from students. Remember that class interaction
often forms a part of your course mark, so don’t be afraid to
speak up and ask questions if you don't understand something.
What to do... when your assignments start piling up
Many new students underestimate the time involved studying and
completing assignments outside of class. Even if you don’t have
many contact hours, you are still expected to maintain an
independent study schedule, keep up with your readings for each
class, research, write essays and prepare for exams. Get started
early — begin your assignments as soon as you get them and
maintain a study diary so you’re not surprised by assessments.
Studying with friends can be fun, but remember that this can also
be a distraction, as study sessions can turn into chat sessions!
Try to avoid doing the bare minimum required to pass — without
a doubt, the satisfaction of earning a top mark is well worth the
If you're having trouble writing assignments, referencing or
studying effectively, the academic support services offered by
your institution can really help.
What to do... if you don’t like what you’re studying
After the O-Week parties, the experience of being a student
should still be exciting, even if it is hard work sometimes. If it’s
not, have a good think about whether your course is meeting your
expectations. It could just be that your first-year jitters are lasting
longer than expected. Many courses also start with introductory
subjects that can seem fairly tedious. But if you are really starting
to doubt that things will pick up, it might be time to listen to your
instincts. It is not uncommon for students to find that the course is
different to what they expected (which is why it is a good idea to
do plenty of research before you start). Most don’t drop out of uni
completely but just adjust their study to suit their interests. If it is
just one or two subjects that you don’t like, you can change your
enrolment quite easily at most institutions. The catch is that you
have to do it before the ‘census date’ or you risk having to pay for
the units you drop and receive a fail grade. Some students find
that using institution support services or changing their study
mode to something more flexible makes all the difference. Course
transfers are more complicated and are restricted to certain times
of the year, but they are not impossible. Students who transfer to
another course or institution may be able to gain credit for
completed subjects and are more likely to be successful than
they would be staying unhappily where they are. Be aware that
subject credit is not always available, so investigate your options
carefully before changing courses. Talk to your friends and family
and always see a course adviser to make sure that any changes
you make won’t cost you extra money or jeopardise your
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