Starting Uni?

Follow this guide to a sucessful first year at university

Horticulture hippies sprawled on the grass, college jocks and sorority queens…Or that all embracing awe inspiring professor challenging you to delve into the depths of your intellectual consciousness. Umm you may want to ditch the Hollywood guide to university and really get prepared.

Gap Years and Choosing a Degree

Despite 13 or so years to think about what they want to be most students have absolutely no idea about choosing a career path upon completing VCE.
Enrolment and course selections are often made on the premise of status, lucrative career prospects or adequate enter requirements with less consideration to genuine interests.

Sydney University educational psychologist Professor Andrew Martin finds students taking a year in between high-school and university to travel or work are more refreshed and open minded enabling them to better adapt to university life, “Gap years can be a useful time for those students who are uncertain in their post school plans or are less academically motivated upon completing school.”

With 1 in 5 Australian university students failing to complete their tertiary studies the University of Melbourne aimed to address completion rates by introducing a new academic model in 2008.

The ‘Melbourne Model’ has first year students selecting from a range of undergraduate degrees from arts to sciences designed to lay the foundations of scholarship. Upon completing the 3 year courses students will hopefully be better equipped to select a post graduate degree in a professional field such as teaching or law.

“Talking to final year students is the best indication of what to expect from your degree and which are the best subjects to choose.” Sophia Floudiotis, 19

Expectations versus Reality

First year students may expect subjects to be a continuation of where they left off at high school. Correction- university challenges you to question things you’ve been taught.

Entering classes with an open mind and willingness to adapt to new ways of thinking is paramount.

“Expecting uni life to be like American shows led me to be disappointed with the social scene. It was alot more difficult to gain new friends as people weren’t hanging around campus between breaks and after classes.” Chris Theodoulou, 21

“From what you hear the load of work is a lot less and easier…Boy that’s wrong! It is more easier to fall behind than high school.” Annmarie Geros, 19

The trap of the contact hours

Depending on your course, contact hours can range anywhere from 35 to just 10 hours per week!

But don’t be fooled by equating less hours to less commitment. The bulk of learning occurs outside of class where it is important not to underestimate the time needed to complete weekly readings, essay research and referencing.

Teacher feedback and communication is infrequent so swapping emails with fellow peers is the best way to stay informed especially during absence as teachers won’t chase you down

“Without teachers to drive you it’s all up to you to manage your time effectively by balancing your social life against a disciplined study plan.” Stephanie Raios, 19

The social network

Creating a balance between work and play is essential for staying on top of things and feeling energized.

Study groups are a great way to condense heavy learning materials, maximize comprehension and allow you more free time. Your new peer community isn’t as pigeon holed as high school evident from the number of quirky clubs and social events around.

Lex Georgiou, president of the National Union of Greek Australian students says Hellenic university societies provide great social networks for first years,

“There are opportunities to meet new people, engage in Hellenic culture and continue the legacy of Greek-Australian students.”

“I actually haven’t joined any clubs but I created SUGAS -Swinburne University Greek Association and have met many new people.” Alexander Mexias, 19
“Try to establish your party and study habits early on. After first semester it’ll all be easier to manage.” Isabelle Petrou, 19

First week check list

• Attend Orientation Week to collect maps, information on library tours and study skills/referencing workshops
• Establish a good report by introducing yourself to all your lecturers and teachers
• Print lecture slides to ease note taking
• Use a map on the first day to locate all your classrooms for the semester
• Print and read unit guides writing each assessment and due date on a calendar or white-board.