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Three things first year uni students need to know

The following article is written by Jess Holsman, Deakin psychology graduate and founder of YouTube’s ‘Study With Jess’, where she gives advice to thousands of students around the world on effective study.

The first year out of high school can be daunting for many, especially those transitioning from their final school year into university. A foreign environment, different teachers, new classmates and unfamiliar subjects and assignments can all – understandably – leave students feeling overwhelmed and potentially a little out of their depth. This transitional phase can, however, also be one of the most exciting times for many students who have been waiting in anticipation to delve into subjects that reflect their true interests and passions and finally learn from the masters.

So before one eagerly charges through the university gates, what words of wisdom should all first year university students take with them? While every alumnus can likely compile a long list of advice, here are the top three things you need to know.

1. Nothing is compulsory

One of the key differences between high school and university is that attending university is not compulsory, meaning you are enrolled to study at your own volition. In the past, your parents may have had to drag you out of bed, drive you to school and wait outside the gates to ensure you made it to class on time, but this is not part of the university protocol. While some university subjects do have minimum attendance requirements for tutorials, you’re not going to get detention if you just don’t show up – it’s up to you to be responsible for your own actions.

But, if you have enrolled to study a university degree, then it must be because you actually want to learn, right? You have made the personal commitment to yourself to wake up each morning, get organised and make your way to class. This should be a sign that you see value in receiving further education and that you view your time at university as a means to enrich your mind and inch you further towards the future you are determined to create for yourself.

'While some university subjects do have minimum attendance requirements for tutorials, you’re not going to get detention if you just don’t show up – it’s up to you to be responsible for your own actions.'

Jess Holsman,
Deakin University graduate

2. It pays to be proactive

Just as your lecturers will not be checking in to see that you have attended every class, they will also not be chasing you up when it comes to doing your work each week. That means there’s no one to nag you about whether or not you’ve completed last night’s readings, researched a question from class or have been revising your notes each week. While you can bask in this freedom momentarily, this does mean that staying up to date with your work and coming to class prepared is on you! You are responsible for your academic success at university so make sure you are proactive and complete your work on time. Do so, not out of fear that you will get into trouble if you don’t, but because deep down you know that coming to class already having done your weekly readings and reviewed your lecturer’s slides will make the learning process easier on you.

The same goes for asking your lecturers and tutors for help. If at any point throughout the trimester you feel as though you are falling behind or struggling to grasp a particular subject, make sure you get in touch with your teachers and make a time to review the course material. While your tutors and lecturers may have hundreds of students to teach, they will always be willing to set aside time to help those who speak up and ask for the extra assistance. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t receive!

3. Expect the unfamiliar

Another thing to note when starting university is that many of the assignments you will receive in your first year will likely be unfamiliar to you and so will the subjects you learn. This is especially the case for students enrolling in areas of study that they did not undertake during their high school years, or perhaps were not offered at school whatsoever. Remember, you are enrolled in a course to learn more about that area of study, and with a new course comes new forms of assessments. While you may have mastered your high school assignments and presentations, at university you will likely encounter other styles of writing, as well as new marking criteria. This certainly does not mean that you will not succeed in your first year, however it’s important to be open to the possibility that it may take a little while to master these new assignment styles.

Best of luck with your studies!

Xo Study With Jess

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