Adjusting to study

Regardless the typeof student you are, entering tertiary study can seem like a huge adjustment.You may need to make some changes to your lifestyle, add to an already busyschedule or manage a few learning curves that you weren't expecting.

The transition fromschool to tertiary study

Although some students breeze straightthrough it, the transition from school to tertiary study isn't always easy. Itmay be that the work is harder or that subjects are unfamiliar, or perhaps thestress of a new environment or new commitments proves a little more difficultthan expected.

Sudden independence can also seem likea difficult adjustment and may require some getting used to. Some studentsembrace the sense of freedom that comes with finishing school, but it's notuncommon to struggle when faced with becoming self-reliant. Living away fromhome for the first time or living on a student income can also cause somestress. See Study destinations and Student income for more information.

Tips for schoolleavers beginning tertiary study

Stay organised

Tertiary study can bea bit overwhelming at times, but you can save yourself a lot of stress ifyou're organised. This could be as simple as attending O-Week or printing off a map before yourfirst week of classes. If you know that you have trouble digesting new content,why not get an early start by flicking through your textbook before each ofyour introduction lectures? You'll hear this time and time again but it reallydoes help to stay on top of assessment, especially towards the end of semesteras things start to pile up. Allowing yourself plenty of time to completeassignments or study for exams will give you the best chance to succeed in yourcourse while minimising stress at the same time.

Embrace change

You're bound to come across more than afew changes as you adjust from school to tertiary study,so keep anopen mind and get ready to embrace change. If you know that during school youstruggled to keep up with your schedule, remind yourself that tertiary study isall about independence and take on the challenges that come with it and perhapsyou'll learn to love getting organised and being on time. If you're moving awayfrom home for the first time, think about the positives (no curfews or naggingabout your lifestyle) and try to forget the negatives.

Ask for help when you need it

Too few students askfor help when they need it. Try to keep in mind that institutions offer a hugerange of support services that can help you with any issue you’re experiencing,from personal issues to those of an academic nature.If you're notsure about the services your institution offers, see Student services and facilities for an outline of what may beavailable. This includes raising questions in tutorials too. If you don'tunderstand something or need further clarification, speak up! It's likely thatsomeone had the same question but was too afraid to ask.

Returning to study

If you’re returning to study, it can bedifficult to hand your free time over to classes and assessments, especially ifyou’re already managing a busy schedule. Whether you’re beginning your studiesa little later in life or you’re entering a postgraduate degree, it’s likelythat you will face similar issues. Even postgraduates who are just months outof their first degree can find it difficult to adjust to a new teaching styleand new content.

Tips for students returning to study

Be prepared to makesacrifices

Although the benefits of further study tend to outweigh any sacrificesmade, you may find that you'll need to make some changes to your lifestyle whenyou begin your course. Some of these may be short-term sacrifices, such ascommitting to attend Saturday classes for a semester (which is common inpostgraduate courses) or larger sacrifices, such as cutting back on paid workto study full time. You should also be prepared for assessment periods and knowthat they will be tough on your schedule, if you're involved in a groupproject, keep in mind that you may need to attend group meetings after hours orover the weekend and that you will need to work around your classmates'availability.

Look out for flexible options

Finding a flexible option can make aworld of difference. This might mean finding an undergraduate course thatoffers night classes to accommodate students working full time or seeking out apostgraduate program that offers online study options. It’s worth looking intofast-track options too, as these can significantly cut down the length of yourcourse. Some institutions offer optional summer or winter semesters, whichusually involve completing an extra subject over an intensive period (perhapstwo nights per week for half the length of a regular semester); others offer atrimester model, which involves the institution running on a three-semesterschedule by default. If you’re lucky, an intensive subject might see youtravelling overseas for a study tour.

Gain the support ofthose around you

This includes family,friends and your employer, as well as recognising the support available fromyour institution. It helps to explain why pursuing study is important to youand how it may affect these other parties. You may need to arrange to leavework an hour early one day a week, make alternative childcare arrangements afew nights per week or make sure friends understand that you might not be ableto catch up during peak assessment periods. You should also look into yourinstitution's support services, which include anything from academiccounselling to financial assistance and child care. See Student services and facilities formore information.

Keep your expectations realistic

It’s easy to set highexpectations of yourself, but it can be difficult to maintain them. This isespecially the case if you are combining work with study. There may also becircumstances you can’t control, perhaps one of your subjects is known for veryrarely giving out high distinctions or, despite your best efforts, you justweren't able to wrap your head around a particular topic. Whatever the reason,do not despair if your marks are less than perfect! Tertiary education is allabout learning, so you're not expected to know everything from the outset.

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