Uni Life

Honest Tips For Surviving Uni

Survived O-Week but not sure what’s next? Jack Moran has some real tips on how to start your semester that go beyond making friends and using a calendar.

O-Week is done and dusted but now you’re faced with an even more daunting prospect, the dreaded first weeks of uni. Whether it’s your first year and you’ve been thrust into the new world of tertiary education or you’re an old hand who’s struggling to get back into the swing of things, it can be tough to adjust to the pace of university life. With three years of university experience under my belt, I’ve read plenty of articles with tips on how to start your year. I’ve even written one. They’re good in theory but they don’t often survive in practice. So, without further ado, here are some honest tips for making sure your semester is at least somewhat survivable.

Be honest with yourself about your schedule

By now you’ve already planned your schedule and selected your classes but the biggest tip here is to pick class times you’ll actually want to attend. Obviously, lectures are out of your control but at least tutorials you have some element of choice in. If you’re not a morning person, don’t pick morning classes. While we’ve all started a semester saying we’re going to change our habits/live our best lives/be our best selves/etc, don’t risk your class attendance on it. If you really want to become a morning person, use this semester to train yourself to wake up early and go to sleep earlier. Once you’ve got your sleep cycle mastered, pick those earlier classes next semester and bask in your willpower-earned early morning productivity.

That being said, don’t discount afternoon classes. If you’re in the habit of leaving things to the last minute, an afternoon class can be a perfect choice as it means you can get to uni a little earlier than your tutorial and do your readings and tutorial prep in the middle of the day rather than having to stay up late doing it all the night before. Enjoy that sleep-in, get your work done in the middle of the day and be ready to go by the time your afternoon class starts. Sounds pretty great to me.

Find out what classes you can skip

Full disclosure on this one, I have basically had perfect attendance for the duration of my university career and the idea of skipping a lecture or tutorial is almost inconceivable to me. Nevertheless, during the semester there’s going to be times you need to skip. Whether it’s because you want to take a much-needed mental health day to preserve your sanity or because you need to pick up a much-needed shift at work to preserve your bank balance, there are going to be days you’ll want to skip.

With that in mind, check out your course guides for the semester schedule and work out whether any weeks’ lectures or tutorials are essential. The first thing to look out for is whether or not your course has participation marks or some other way of incentivising attendance like weekly in-class assessments. If that’s the case then you might have to just go to those classes anyway if you want to maximise your marks and make it easier to pass. Other tutorials to take note of are those taking place directly before or after a major assessment as they’re often when you’ll get critical advice or feedback on a task that shouldn’t be missed.

Find out if your textbooks are worth buying

Almost every student has some variation of this story. They’re in their first year, doing one of their first courses ever. Wanting to be prepared as possible, they headed down to the Co-Op and bought every textbook for all of their courses. By the semester’s end, however, one textbook was still on their shelf and had never been opened because it wasn’t needed at any point. Another textbook was used maybe once or twice for a major assignment but rarely touched before that.

Before you invest large sums of money into textbooks that are going to be overpriced paperweights, find out if you need it. Ask people who’ve done the course before, see how the textbook fits into the course outline and assessments. If it turns out the textbook is barely used, save your money and don’t buy it. That being said, make sure you can at least still access it and find out exactly where in the library it is and if there’s going to be enough copies for you to borrow one when an assignment comes up.

Know when and how to drop a course

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Maybe you bombed out on an assignment. Maybe you haven’t been keeping up with your readings. Maybe you’re just really bored with that elective you picked. Whatever the reason, there might be a chance that you’ll get to a point of your course and be pretty sure you’re going to fail it. Knowing when and how to drop a course from the start of the semester can make sure you’re not wasting your time or money on a course you either don’t like or aren’t going to be able to complete.

First and foremost, check out the Key Dates page at UON’s website. The dates you’ll be looking for are the Census Date and the Semester Conclusion date. Dropping a course before the Census Date means it won’t be added to your transcript and you won’t have to pay HECS on it. Dropping at this point is good if you’re a few weeks in and realising that the course doesn’t interest you or doesn’t help your long-term educational or professional goals. Semester Conclusion date is the final day of semester before the exam period begins. Dropping a course here means you’ll still incur a financial penalty but it won’t appear on your transcript.

Be prepared to think hard about dropping a course though because it will have an impact on your course of study. If you’re sticking to the standard forty units a semester it will mean that you’ll have to prolong your degree or be willing to do fifty units in the next semester to make up for it. Whether the course is an elective or a core course may also impact your decision.
So there you have it. Some honest tips for surviving the semester. If there’s any we missed, let us know in a comment below or on Facebook and good luck with your semester!

Feature image: Mohammad Hassan via Pixabay, no changes made.

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