How uni works

Welcome to the world of uni! Whether you’re considering uni, or just wanting to know more about student life and study, you are in the right place. Uni is all about choice: anyone can be a uni student, and can study at anytime in their life. With so many uni campuses in Queensland, as well as online study options, people can also now study from just about anywhere.

What is uni like?

Uni is quite different from other places of learning, such as high schools, TAFE and workplaces. Two things that make uni unique are

  1. You're in charge: you plan your course according to your interests, keep track of your workload and decide your own priorities. While many are there to support your study, your ultimate success at uni comes down to you.
  2. Research is key: unis foster healthy debate and encourage the questioning of established knowledge via the production and sharing of new research. Uni is a place to learn and exchange new ideas, create innovation and apply it to the real world. Everyone is involved in this process, from first year students, to lecturers, to postgraduates.

This environment brings together a diverse group of people, but a group who share common goals of learning, self improvement and challenge. Depending on your experience, there may be other changes you can expect as a new student such as increased independence, increased use of technology, or a broader range of ages and backgrounds to mix with.

What is expected of me?

As a member of the uni community, you are expected to

  • Support other students: you're all in this together! Always respect your fellow students and the diverse range of backgrounds, ideas, and opinions they have.
  • Take responsibility: you are in charge of your own learning
  • Ask for help when you need it: possibly the single most important thing to learn

It is also important to think about your own expectations. If making social connections is a priority, you’ll have to be prepared to introduce yourself and get involved in campus clubs and events. If your expectations are for a certain level of results, you may find balancing your uni workload and your other responsibilities your main challenge. You can use these expectations to form the basis of goals for your time at uni.

What is it not like?

For many people, especially those who have not had close friends or family attend uni, the most accessible examples of what uni might be like are American college films. Some of these films may be helpful – especially when picturing your first day – but mostly, they are not reflective of a genuine uni experience.

  • Uni will not be one big party
    There will definitely be parties – especially at the beginning and end of semester – but for many students week to week socialising at uni will be with study groups or as part of working on group assignments.

  • Most students will not have a big group of close friends
    Because students at uni plan their subjects according to their interests, they often have classes with different groups of students. Because of this, most students make small bunches of friends in each class, forming a social network of different friends and contacts throughout the uni.

  • Uni will not be full of competitive, smart people
    As a rule, being motivated to succeed at uni is a much higher predictor of success than any natural academic ability. Furthermore, unis are collaborative and supportive places – aggressively competitive people typically do not fit in well. There are also many pathways into study for older students who may be concerned about entry requirements.

  • Uni is hands-on – students don’t spend all their study time reading and writing
    All students will have to spend considerable time reading and writing in their courses. But uni students also spend time working in groups, preparing presentations and completing work placements. Depending on their study area, some students will also be experimenting in labs, developing games, building models, or creating works of art.

The best way to find out what uni is really like is to talk to students or read about their day-to-day lives – many unis run a student blog to help students share their experiences. All uni students start out with a range of expectations, many of which turn out to be not quite right.

Try asking the new students below what they're expecting at uni.

It is normal to feel challenged and sometimes confused when learning what uni is all about. If you need advice, talk to teaching staff, counselling services or student administration services at your uni. You can also explore a range of tools, quizzes and modules on staying calm, staying connected and feeling good at The Desk.

The most important thing to remember as a new student is