Student Stories: Four things I wish I knew before starting uni

Student Stories: Four things I wish I knew before starting uni

I was always excited to be going to uni — to explore my new-found freedom and have fun in a new studying environment. After coming straight out of high school and heading into the city for my first year of university, I have learnt a lot.

With my first year nearly complete, here are some lessons I learnt in my first year of uni that other future students may benefit from.

1. Learn the campus layout

My first rookie mistake was never visiting the campus before I started. Due to heavy sport commitments and a lazy summer, I barely knew where the campus was — just that it was a train ride into the city. This is not something I recommend you do. Once my timetable was released, I saw the number of buildings and rooms my classes were in and had no idea where any of them were.

Then I discovered the lifesaving app Lost On Campus, which has maps of every university campus in Victoria. Just type in your uni, find your building, then track down the exact room you are in. There are even photos of the door and tips on how to get there.

One more lesson I learnt just a few weeks in is that sometimes, it’s okay to be late. Tutors, lecturers and other students barely bat an eye if you're late because they understand the nature of public transport.

2. Keep in touch with school friends

Plenty of older students have told me about the loss of friendships, they’ve suffered once they left high school. When your old pals are working and studying in different parts of the state, it’s easy to slip away from close friends and not see them for long periods of time.

I recommend making the effort to regularly message your friends, have a chat and persist in finding a time when you all can meet up. Keep those jokes going, ask them about their courses, work and lives. University is a completely new time where you meet so many different people — don’t let your long-term social support base wither away while you try to find new friends.

On the topic of socialising, when starting uni I found I had never encountered people who were so different from me. Many weren’t from Melbourne or even Australia. You'll encounter so many different personalities and you’ll have to do your best to get along with all kinds of people. Just don’t let them get away with not doing anything in group presentations!

3. Schedule your classes onto as few days as possible

This was something simple I did in order to maintain motivation. On one hand, it feels nice knowing you only have to go in every day for a small amount of time, perhaps for one class, and then go home to relax and do some work. In reality, by the end of a 12-week semester you cut corners, and begin to select certain classes you can skip.

When I scheduled my classes onto 1–2 days, it gave me more time for part-time work, studying and kept my attendance levels up. It’s a lot harder to keep consciously skipping classes when you have multiple lectures and tutorials on the one day, as it suddenly isn’t just one small thing you’re missing. Those days may be harder and longer, but it’s worth it when it gives you more time and ensures you keep on top of your studies.

4. You don’t need to attend every lecture in-person

This one took me until the end of the first semester to catch on to. When I first started uni I was desperate to be an ‘ideal’ student, so I attended everything — including the lectures I quickly realised were not directly relevant to me. As the semester goes on there are more assignments due, exams are coming up and you need more time, so I began skipping those lectures and instead watched them online. This allowed me to play the lecture at a faster speed and get started on other work immediately afterwards since I didn’t have to spend time travelling home.

Final thoughts

Another lesson I learnt was to be social. Don’t take uni work (i.e. every lecture and class) as the be-all and end-all. It’s fun, a social place to meet people and try new things. Don’t take results too heavily — uni is the best place to make mistakes and learn from them before you enter the workforce.

By Sean Mortell

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