Health & Wellbeing

Adjusting to uni life for beginners

Sarah Webb is here to share some tips and resources for your first year at uni and how to survive it without running yourself ragged.

Whether you are going to be experiencing your first year of university this year, or you’re returning to study after the  break, starting university is a time of great change. Even if it is exciting, change is not always easy to cope with. The first few days can be quite bewildering and it’s not unusual to feel lost, lonely or stressed.

Social adjustments can be daunting; making new friends, balancing work and study, navigating a new campus, acclimating to living on-campus or out of home (for some) – all of these changes contribute to high stress levels among some first-year students.

According to Jackie Cobbold, a Coordinator from the Student Support Group at Ourimbah, underestimating the amount of time study requires is one of the main causes of stress in new and returning students

“Life throws curve balls at the most inconvenient times such as due dates and exams that aren’t always able to be planned for,” she said.

Academic adjustments often pose a challenge as well. New students often learn that with independence comes less pushing from teachers and parents, forcing a higher level of self-discipline and responsibility for academic decisions. This can be stressful, especially for those who may have developed poor organisational skills or acquired bad study habits earlier in life, such as high school.

Symptoms of stress vary from person to person, but can often show itself in changes to normal functioning, changes to appetite, sleep, energy, motivation, interest, concentration, enjoyment, and changes in emotion.

“It can make people feel overwhelmed,” Jackie said. “They can feel more irritable and less tolerant that then affects their family life and relationships.”

Usually, it’s those around us that may give an indication of when we appear stressed, without always realising it ourselves. This is why support systems are so important when facing new challenges and increased pressures.

“When stress is increased, prolonged and consistent, we can experience the symptoms of stress,” Jackie said. “For those with existing vulnerabilities such as anxiety and depression, these symptoms can exacerbate. They can be prone to feeling unwell, [as it affects] your immunity and can make you feel anxious and increase panic.”

However, there are ways to manage these feelings of stress or anxiety, and the University has plenty of resources to support you along the way. Students can access free confidential counselling with UON’s Counselling Service to discuss personal or study-related issues at the Newcastle, Ourimbah, Sydney or Port Macquarie campus.

The Counselling Service provide students with strategies and resources to support and assist students to reach their personal and academic potential. What’s more is that if your an off-campus student, or study by distance, you can access all of their available resources online.

Jackie said the online counselling website incorporates a lot more than just counselling. “[It] has resources that are able to provide an holistic assessment from Student Support Advisors, and refers [students] to appropriate supports such as counselling, internal and external supports, academic help, financial, accommodation, legal etc.”

Other services students can access for help include the Learning and Development Unit for academic stress and study-planning, and the University Chaplaincy.

High levels of stress are very common among first year students. To cope with so many changes at once, Jackie encourages new students to keep their social and educational options open.

“Don’t over commit, be as organised as possible and try not to leave things to the last minute,” she said. “Have [a] study schedule… check all your assessment due dates and highlight them. Research takes time, as does referencing, so factor this in and learn when you study best and have most quality time.”

She also suggests to stop studying at least an hour before sleep, to allocate time to exercise, take a walk or swim, and factor in time to do nothing and ‘veg’. This helps to keep your mind sharp and be able to focus. There are lots of other tips on the Counselling Service website as well.

Keeping these sorts of things in mind as you find your way around your 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 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 this year of uni as a good one.


For more information on counselling services at UON, including contact details please click hereFor more information on online counselling services at UON, including how to make contact, click here.

Image via Unsplash by Tim Gouw

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