9 Tips for Starting 1st Year

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Roving reporter Grace looks back at her first year of tertiary study and shares what she learned from it.

Male student stands infront of a university building.A lot of you are probably going to experience your first year of university this year. Whether you’re from inner city Melbourne or from the middle of nowhere, it doesn’t matter. Wherever you're from, you’re probably feeling somewhere between being incredibly nervous or extremely excited.

Well, lucky for you I’m here to give you a few tips about your first year at uni and how to survive it without running yourself ragged.

1. It isn’t like high school!

You’ve probably heard this one before, but I really need to emphasise just how true it is! No one’s going to be calling home if you don’t show up - you have to get your butt in those lecture seats yourself!

All of your study is going to be more self-driven than ever before. No one’s going to give you reminders about homework (unless you have a particularly kind tutor). For some good studying and motivation tips, check out our Studying Tips & Resources section.

At uni and TAFE you’re in charge of your own learning, and you’re only going to get out as much as you put in. You’re also going to have a lot more free time, but that doesn’t mean you can just slack off! Which brings me to… 

2. Use your breaks wisely!

In my first year at uni I only had four days a week of classes. Out of those four days, only two of them had classed for the entire day, and even then it was a late start. You might think to yourself, "Gee! That’s a lot of free time! I could spend it catching up with friends, going shopping, doing whatever I want!" Well, not quite.

Balancing your free time between work, study and your own "me" time isn’t as easy as it sounds. University requires a lot more study than high school, and there are a lot more homework assignments.

If you have a break in between your classes, it might be a good chance to grab a bite to eat, grab some coffee and take a look at your textbooks to pass the time. The earlier you get things done, the more time you’ll have to yourself later! You'll also stress out less, rather than realising you have five assignments due the next day!

3. Get involved in O Week!

O Week isn’t all about partying (surprise!). It’s also a chance to get to know your new environment. Your university should have all kinds of information set up about clubs and facilities, and also some general need-to-know things about how your new school operates.

O Week is a great time to ask any questions you might have, because if you don’t ask, you’ll never know!

You should also check out the student clubs so you can meet a few people with similar interests. Having a few friends never hurts. And, of course, make sure to check out every last stall, because there are plenty of giveaways to be found at O Week! Hey, you might not need it, but it’s free!

Not to mention there will be a lot of great deals and discounts for other things on offer, like cheap gym memberships and textbook discounts, so keep an eye out!

For more about O Week, check out our O Week page.

4. Eat properly

A lot of the time I was too busy studying or doing homework to sit down and have a proper meal. Did I ever regret that later on!

It’s impossible to concentrate on an empty stomach, so remember to always get something to eat whenever you’re starting to feel hungry. Keep in mind that the food at university can be a little on the expensive side, so try throwing in a vegemite sandwich every other day so you don’t burn a hole in your wallet!

It may seem a little cheesy, but a good diet is the best way to stay focused in class. Most importantly, don’t forget to keep a bottle of water with you during the day so you can keep hydrated, too!

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Your lectures may seem pretty intimidating, with hundreds of people all sitting in the one room, but your lecturers and tutors all understand how intimidating it can be, because at some stage they were first-year students themselves.

Never hesitate to ask if you need to know something or if you need something repeated. And if you ever get lost or aren’t sure where to find something, just ask a fellow student where to go! The worst thing they might say is, "I’m not sure."

5. Get yourself out there!

University can be a pretty lonely place if you don’t make the effort to get some new friends, so join some clubs! Talk to the people in your tutorial! New friends aren't going to just fall into your lap.

Uni or TAFE campuses are huge places with thousands of people, which can be incredibly intimidating, but sometimes it pays to go just that little bit out of your comfort zone. You might just wind up with a new best friend! Or a group of them, if you join a club.

There are all kinds of clubs and societies, from chocolate appreciation clubs to bushwalking societies, depending on your university, so make sure to check your uni or TAFE's website to see what they have to offer!

For more about clubs & societies at uni or TAFE, check out our Student Clubs & Societies page.

6. Don’t forget to check the bulletin boards!

Somewhere in your university - or maybe in several places - will be a bulletin board. Students will put up all kinds of messages here, offering second hand books and cheap accommodation, or announcing events, gigs and special lectures. Take advantage of this and always be on the lookout for a good bargain or maybe an interesting event.

Just make sure you check it often, because if it’s a good bargain you might miss out if you're not quick!

7. Take some time to learn where everything is

Make some time to come in on a day when you don't have lectures, or maybe just come in early or stay late. However you manage it, it's worth taking an hour to just walk around campus.

Get to know where everything is: the offices, the best places to eat, the lecture halls... make sure you know where you need to go.

There will be guided tours of your campus during O Week, but in case you miss out, exploring things yourself is always a great idea!

8. There is no dress code!

You don’t need a uniform to go to university or TAFE - you can show up wearing whatever you want! Maybe for a while you might dress to impress, but the real key is comfort.

You're probably going to be on campus all day, so would you rather be wearing impractical shoes or comfy sneakers? Just wear what feels good!

Remember, though - it's good to check if there’s anything specific you need to wear for certain classes, like closed-toe shoes or sports gear. Otherwise, anything goes!

9. The library is amazing

Seriously, it is. Don’t doubt the power of the library, especially a university library. Stumped on an assignment? Not sure where to go next? Or just want to kill some time? University libraries are amazing resources and should be utilised as often as possible.

Your uni library will have heaps of books for whatever subject you need to study, and will be open all day. If you're not sure how to find what you're looking for, though, remember point number 4 and ask one of the librarians for help.

If you want to turn your distinctions into high distinctions, the library is the place to go!

Make the most of it!

Keeping these sorts of things in mind as you find your way around your new campus and learn to manage your new study load will help to make your transition into tertiary education a happy and exciting one.

I'm not saying that uni or TAFE is a piece of cake, but if you're willing to seek advice and take advantage of all the resources at your disposal, you'll definitely be able to look back on your first year of uni or TAFE as a good one.

Links

Reach Out - Starting University
A guide to how things work at uni and TAFE, like making friends, handling coursework and dealing with first-year stresses.

What Degree? Which University? - Settling in at Uni
A range of articles written by students for students about starting out in teritary study.