Are you ready for university?

We ask university students what they wish they knew before enrolling and what they’ve learned in their first year.

“Don’t expect to know what to do because it’s likely you’ll change like 50 times. You don’t want your high school self to be the best version of yourself and you shouldn’t feel guilty about changing your mind.”

The Grattan Institute has found that it takes Aussie university students an average four to six years to complete a three-year Bachelor’s degree. The reality is that students are changing their minds, delaying study and swapping majors all the time. If you feel like what you’re doing isn’t right for you, don’t be afraid to explore other options. 

“You’re pretty much on your own and need to REALLY stay on top of things.”

This can be a big shock if you’re unprepared, because there are no babysitters at uni. Lecturers expect you to work with a higher level of autonomy than in high school. They don’t read drafts or schedule progress checks, so it’s up to you to buy yourself a calendar and get prepared. Don’t be too worried though – your lecturer is always there to answer questions so don’t be afraid to shoot them an email with all your concerns.

“You probably won’t be the smartest person in your tutorial or lecture and that’s perfectly fine, because you can’t be excellent at every single thing you do.”

University brings together a wide range of people you may not have been introduced to in your small high school class. It also brings together people who have the same talents and interests as you. Everyone has something to add, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like the best and brightest in your course.

“Everyone is going through massive changes, so you have to be sensitive and understanding to that.”

You will suddenly go from being a big fish in a small high school pond to a little fish in a very large pond. Be understanding of that fact and remember that not everyone’s life experience is the same as yours.

“Read the subject outline really carefully before you enrol in a course.”

Make sure you are enrolling in the course you think you are. Universities love to use jargon and often all the big words in a course title don’t actually translate to what you think they do. Luckily, universities have cut off enrolment dates, so you can drop a subject without being financially or academically penalised. These dates are always in the key dates calendar on your university’s website.

“Learn your way around an essay structure and preferred reference style.”

Whether it’s MLA, Harvard AGPS, APA or Chicago, every course has a specified reference style that you are expected to stick to. You’ll get no sympathy from your lecturer if you forget. The information is easily accessible on the course specifications page. Knowing essay structure back to front, in your sleep and off the top of your head is also pretty important. It will be your best friend and go-to for almost every assignment.

“Get a better idea of what careers you can go into after your course.”

Don’t enter a degree without knowing where it will lead. Want to work in PR? Don’t do a journalism degree. Student relationship or guidance officers are going to be your biggest help here and will show you different pathways to where you want to go.