How to survive your first year of uni

How to survive your first year of uni
Starting uni can be a challenge, especially for those who've just left school. On the upside, your uni years will be some of the best you'll have – and they'll probably go very quickly. We offer our best tips to help you survive your first year.

Get to know your campus

If you're studying on a big campus, it might take a while to get acquainted. Start with the main buildings where you'll have classes, the library, computer labs and your favourite cafe. Once you're ready to explore, you'll find everything from gyms and all-night study labs to theatres and exhibition spaces. Grab a map from the website to get started!

Use your time wisely

Depending on your course, you might only spend around 12 hours a week on campus. Although this gives you time for work, seeing friends and the odd sleep-in, you'll need to set aside study time (even outside of peak assessment periods) and make sure you're taking time out to relax. If you have a break between classes, try using the time to catch on assignments. Have a free day during the week? Why not organise an internship?

Ask for help when you need it

Needing help isn't something to be ashamed of. You might need a crash course on academic referencing, another tour of the library, assistance with changing a subject or a quick explanation of a new assignment. Reach out to your classmates, lecturers, tutors and other support staff – you'll find your answer if you ask. The institution website is another great resource. Your campus should have a student support office, where you can access services like counselling, financial advice and academic assistance.

Manage finances within a budget

You're probably spending more time socialising and might have additional expenses, such as rent and a car. This makes budgeting really important. Bringing your own lunch from home is a great start, even if it's just every second day. Daily lunches add up over time, even if it's just $10 here and there. If you're worried about how budgeting will affect your social life, see which activities you can swap for cheaper alternatives (coffee instead of lunch or a BYO picnic in place of catching up at a bar). And don't forget to use your student card – accepted at cinemas, sporting games and some clothing stores.

Take advantage of freebies

Discounts and happy hour will help you budget, but have you considered what you're entitled to for free? Think entry to museums and galleries (check your local venue to be sure), local music and food festivals, and deals like a complimentary drink with your meal at local eateries.

Stay healthy

If you're going out more often, working irregular hours and sleeping in, you might find it hard to keep up your regular healthy eating and fitness regime. First up, try to eat well – it's definitely possible on a budget, so there's no excuse to drop your fruit and veggie intake. If maintaining your exercise schedule is becoming difficult, why not join the campus gym or swap cafe catch-ups for walks around the local park? Your campus might even offer free exercise classes through the student union.

Make an effort to befriend your classmates

If you're heading into one of the popular courses at your local campus, you'll probably see a few familiar faces. But whether you're surrounded by pals or fending for yourself, making friends at uni is one of the best parts of starting uni right now. You never know – you might make a friend for life. Don't be afraid to strike up conversation in class or make plans to catch up after a lecture.

Join clubs and attend campus events

On the note of being social, getting involved on campus is a great way to settle in, make friends and even add to your resume. Look for activities aligned with your course, like writing for the student magazine if you're an aspiring journalist or helping out at the campus gym if you're studying sport science.

Work-life-study balance

If you're combining study, work and a social life, you might find that you start to feel burnt out. The most important thing is to prioritise your studies – ensure you're allocating sufficient time to completing your readings, attending classes and writing up assignments. Try not to work more than 20 hours per week (keep in mind that you may be able to up your shifts in holiday periods) and don't let your social life get in the way.

Use apps to stay on track

If you have your phone or tablet on you at all times, use that to your advantage. Start by downloading apps to help organise your life (ExamTime and Timetable are good examples), as well as handy ones that can scan your notes, record lectures, save and share files, and allow you to edit documents just like you would on your laptop. Check out the lifestyle apps too – there's everything from fitness trackers to budget planners.

As a bonus tip, don't be too hard on yourself. Tertiary study can be a learning curve and it might take you a while to get settled. Don't expect to get perfect grades straight away and try to enjoy your time at uni while it lasts.

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