Top tips for getting started

Four tips for a successful transition to university study.

1. Adjust your expectations

There are many demands on students when starting university. Some students are getting used to longer travelling times to class or living away from home or adjusting to a different culture in a new country, so it’s important to recognise that all students undergo a transition phase when adjusting to university life.

Give yourself time to adjust, try things out, and settle into your new study regime.

Remember to: 

  • Keep an open mind

    Be open to the possibility that learning and socialising at university may not be done the same way as it was in high school, your home country, or in the workforce. Embracing changes and challenges with an understanding that it’ll take you time to adjust will set you up for success. Make sure you ask questions whenever you are unsure, when things are unclear, and to seek help when needed.

  • Be responsible 

    As a university student you are responsible for your own learning.

    To ensure you make a successful start, know your timetable and attend all scheduled classes. Prepare for these classes by completing the work assigned by your lecturers and tutors. While you may find some subject readings or tasks difficult, work through them as it’ll help to develop your understanding of the subject’s discourse (the language used) and prepare for assessments.

    Keep on top of your assessment tasks and due dates, as there are penalties for assessments submitted late.

  • Be realistic

    Understand what is expected of you as a student, what you can expect of yourself and what is possible.

    It is common for many students to not do as well in their first assessment tasks as they had expected. While this can be demotivating, it’s best to see all your results as achievements and a work-in progress. You need to give yourself time to develop your academic skills and adjust to a new way of learning in a new environment.

    Be open to feedback and developing your skills, as this will help you improve whatever marks you received.

Watch the video below to hear students’ tips for getting started at uni:

2. Manage your time

Many students are juggling study with work and other commitments, so effective time management skills are crucial.

It’s important to understand that the workload required to complete a full-time degree is similar to that of a full-time job, so you need to account for all your classes, work commitments, social, family and other responsibilities when planning your study time. Using a weekly planner to manage your classes and other commitments will allow you to determine what time is available for study.

Remember that you need to take time to relax, you are not expected to work flat out on your studies all semester!

Remember to:

  • Strive for balance

    At times the demands of university study can be overwhelming, and you may feel that you need to forgo other activities to keep up. That’s why it’s important to begin your semester by setting aside time in your schedule to unwind, participate in your hobbies and maintain your social life. However, make sure that your personal and social tasks do not start to take up your study time.

    Also, pay attention to your emotional needs. If you start to feel stressed, don’t ignore your feelings and hope that they go away, ask for help from tutors, friends or family and make use of the student support services offered by the University.

  • Set timelines

    You may find that you have multiple assignments due around the same time during the semester. When this is the case, try setting your own personal deadlines ahead of the true due date using an assignment planner. Doing so will allow you to plan out a timeline that factors in other demands on your time, so you can see how long it’ll take you to complete each task, and therefore when you should start them.

  • Stay focused

    It’s not unusual to lose focus and motivation at some stage during your studies.

    Rather than becoming anxious or getting lost in the details, try to see the big picture of how your subjects fit together as a whole course. Focus on the objectives for each of your assessments and subjects. And at the beginning of your degree (and again each semester), write down what you wish to get out of completing your degree, as this will help you work towards your goals. Remind yourself of this goal whenever you find you’re lacking motivation.

    It can also be helpful to talk to a course adviser about different study options available, such as internships and overseas exchanges, as this may give you something to focus on and work towards.

Watch the video below to hear students’ their tips for making the most of your time at uni:

3. Learn and study effectively

You may find that studying for university subjects is quite different to studying for high school subjects, studying in your home country, or completing tasks in the workforce. While most subjects have a mixture of lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops, or labs, along with online learning modules, you will find that each requires a different approach to learning.

To get the most out of your classes, it’s important to prepare for them. Completing assigned readings and tasks prior to classes will help you better understand the content and feel comfortable participating in activities.

Remember to:

  • Study independently

    Having good independent study skills will help you be successful in your studies. All students need to develop skills in researching independently, constructing a logical argument, and evaluating other people’s arguments. Keep in mind that developing these skills takes time and practice, so start by identifying two skills you’d like to develop and seek help.

  • Write academically 

    The style of academic writing that is expected at uni is quite different from spoken language and other forms of writing. You can ask your tutor about the special guidelines that apply when writing uni assignments in your discipline. There will likely be rules about the format of the assignment; the kind of evidence that is considered acceptable; the vocabulary you can use; and the referencing system you use.

Watch the video below to hear students’ tips on getting top marks:

4. Know when and where to get help

Many students run into difficulties at some stage of their course. While you are expected to be an independent learner, that doesn’t mean you have to handle all your problems by yourself.

If you ever need support with your studies, have financial difficulties, or have personal issues to deal with, the university has a range of support services to help. In all these cases you can receive support confidentially. Sessions with counsellors, Academic Skills advisers and Stop 1 Advisers are always confidential and can be accessed in person or via telephone.

Remember to:

  • Get connected

    The first few weeks of semester is an excellent time to meet other students in your course as well as relevant academic staff, so don’t be shy to approach tutors and fellow students and introduce yourself.

    Whilst it can be intimidating to meet new people, the benefits are numerous: you will have a group of people with whom you can discuss lectures and assignments, collaborate on difficult tute problems, share references or swap notes if you miss a class.

    Friends and colleagues can also be an important source of support when you’re feeling stressed or lonely. So, it’s certainly worth making the effort to get to know as many people as you can.

  • Seek help early

    It’s important to inform your tutor of any difficulties that are affecting, or may affect, your studies as soon as possible. By keeping them in the loop they’ll be able to suggest a range of suitable support services for you.

    If you prefer to talk to a course adviser or counsellor about your experience, it’s still important to seek help early.

Enjoy your time studying at university! The experience can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, and is a wonderful opportunity to learn, expand your knowledge, challenge yourself and connect with others.

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