Becoming a student

Starting out at uni is like beginning a new job, or finding your feet in a new city – it will take time to feel comfortable in your new role. Be patient and give yourself time to adjust during your transition to study life.

How can I prepare for study?

Two words: Attend orientation.

What is Orientation? Usually “orientation period” is the two weeks prior to the first week of semester. Unis will run tours, workshops and social events to give you an opportunity to look around, discover services, ask questions and meet your fellow students. If you are already preparing for your first semester, search for orientation from your uni front page.

Once you start your classes, tutors and lecturers will want you to be ready to study and will expect you to be familiar with your study program, have your ID card and know where to find the library. Making the most of orientation is important for every student, even those who are studying externally or part-time.

Remember that being a successful student doesn’t happen by magic: planning for success and thinking about how you will manage your study before you get there will help you to develop good habits early on. Be aware too that many students begin their degree unsure about their study choices – you can access help and advice by talking to the careers or counselling service at your uni.

Though orientation is very important for students, it of course takes more than a week to prepare for uni. Find out more about what you should do leading up to orientation by viewing the Uni Checklist.

What will my average day be like?

One of the most reliable ways to be well prepared for a new situation is to imagine it in advance. How will it look? Who will be there? How will you feel? Your degree will be broken down into smaller subjects (called units or courses) that run over the semester or half year. Your contact time with your teachers in each subject is usually split into two types of classes: lectures and tutorials.

  • Lectures: longer sessions (usually 2 hours) where a big group of students listen to the lecturer explain a topic
  • Tutorials: shorter sessions (usually 1 hour) where a smaller group of students can discuss a topic with a tutor.

Depending on your degree you may also have practical classes, such a working in a lab, performing, teaching in classrooms or building models. While high school teachers are similar to parents keeping children in line, uni teachers are more like mentors who initiate learning while fostering independence. You can find out more about undergraduate study, classes, and what to expect from assessment by searching the web sites of specific unis. However, your contact time with teachers is normally only part of your daily uni work. To help you imagine a typical day at uni, meet four students: Corina, Nima, Murray and Kevin.

While your average day will of course be different, note that all these students manage to balance the responsibilities of their study with the other things that are important in their lives. The best way to avoid study stress is to manage your study time effectively so that you are able to keep life balanced.

How can I meet people?

One of the biggest concerns new students of all ages and backgrounds have is how they will fit in at uni. Remember this on your first day: everyone is nervous and often waiting for someone else to be the first to say hello. Whoever you are, there will be other students beginning uni who feel similar to you. However, uni is also a great opportunity to meet new people with different backgrounds and life experiences to your own.

You can increase your chances of meeting people early on by getting involved in orientation events, and being aware of the many sporting, cultural, academic and special interest activities that are available on campus.

Your lecturers will not normally spend time on “getting to know you” exercises once orientation is over and weekly lectures begin. However, at some stage you may be expected to participate in group work: this is a common way that students form bonds at uni. Be aware, though, that group work may not occur until later in semester when loose friendship groups have already formed, and students are usually concentrating more on study than on making further contacts. This is another reason to make your uni contacts as early as possible.

The people you will meet at uni add special value to your experiences, and may continue to be friends and colleague beyond uni. Let’s look more closely at how a meeting people at uni really works.

While everyone’s social experience at uni is different, it’s important to be proactive, try new things and be open minded and respectful when meeting people with different experiences and backgrounds to your own.

Do you agree with this student? “I don't need to attend orientation. I'm studying part-time, so I'm not going to be on campus a lot. Besides, I'm at uni to work hard, not make friends.”