Thursday, 14 January 2016

What I've Learnt From Being A First Year University Student Twice

Since university starts again in a little over a month, I've decided to do some posts about adjusting to uni/college life. As someone who has switched courses and experienced first year twice, I think I'm the perfect person to gently guide all the freshers into uni life. Here are some of the things that I've learnt over the past two years!

university, australia, UNSW, UON, newcastle, student, tips, textbooks, advice

Don't buy all the books on the textbook list just yet

Depending on your course, textbooks can be extremely costly. University textbooks are expensive. Well at least to me they are. Each book normally sets you back around ~$80 and not every book will be used often in class and for assessments. I was super keen on buying all my uni supplies and textbooks at the beginning of first first year but it's better to just wait for the first few classes to see which ones will actually be useful. Usually tutors will give out textbook recommendations and unless the books are compulsory for your course, I would highly recommend checking them out at the library before purchasing. You can also check on online forums, facebook textbook exchanges and second hand bookshops to see if they stock your book at a lower price. 

Learn to use the library and the resources 

In the modern day era, Moodle and Blackboard have become central in the delivery of tertiary education. I'm lucky in that I have experience with using Moodle prior to UNSW and I found navigating the system to be a breeze. Unfortunately Blackboard was much harder for me to grasp but I got there in the end. These severs will often link you to other important university sites such as your email, your transcript, your fees and online resources. Learning to navigate the library is also useful as you can pick out your favourite spot (found mine in second semester) and use the unlimited resources available to you. If you're doing a course that requires lots of essays and assignments, I would highly recommend learning to use EndNote which is a referencing system that will change your life forever!

Find the course handbook and use it 

I studied a duo degree during my first year out of high school at UNSW and making my first timetable was tough! There were so many requirements and core courses I needed to take in order to progress to second year courses and I had no idea what were good classes or good locations or lecturers. Printing off my degree from the course handbook made a huge difference in terms of planing my future course for the next few years. I also like to highlight the graduation requirements as well as core units to take. I would tick them off once I had passed them and plan my semester courses in advance so that I could get the perfect timetable. Obviously I didn't get to progress to second year as I changed courses but it's still a great way to organise your uni courses. 

university, australia, UNSW, UON, newcastle, student, tips, textbooks, advice

Working part time or casually is amazing 

I got my first proper job in the summer after my HSC. I had a contract, I got superannuation, a uniform and training which was a big deal to me at the time. It didn't pay amazingly well but it was a comfortable job that was relatively stable. I went on to continue this job through both my first years of university and I only quit quite recently. If your course isn't too challenging or have many contact hours, I'd highly recommend finding a part time job. It's a great way to start saving earlier or to just ease up on financial worries. Having a job also allowed me to shop more (very superficial I know) without feeling the guilt of wasting my parent's money. It also taught me the value of money and budgeting. I pay for basically all my expenses now and I love being (mostly) financially independent. 

Get involved but don't worry about not being too involved

If there's anything I regret from my UNSW days, it's that I wasn't as involved in university life as I planned to be. This, of course, was because I lived quite far from uni at the time and I didn't want to get home late or travel 1.5 hours to Kensington on the weekends for a society meeting. I ended up doing a lot of volunteering, both through the uni and out of uni in my local community. Occasionally you'll meet that one person or have that one friend that is always being the vice-president of a society whilst playing for the netball team, writing cover letters for business internships and rocking up to all the parties. It's all well for them but don't feel bad because you can't afford time/money to do all these things. Don't completely ignore university life either as university is a goldmine of opportunities and a little CV boost is always great to have on top of a shining academic transcript. 

university, australia, UNSW, UON, newcastle, student, tips, textbooks, advice

A good basics wardrobe can never go wrong 

Starting university straight from high school meant that I got to ditch the uniforms and wear nicer clothes every day. However, a wardrobe transition was necessary for me as I didn't used to own much every day clothes as I'd only ever get to wear them on the weekends or after school. I'm not going to lie - I'm a patterns and colours kinda gal when it comes to fashion so I picked up so many pretty clothes. I learnt in the first couple of weeks that outfit repeating is totally acceptable (we all have washing machines right?) but I prefer to just recycle my clothes by wearing them on alternating days or matching them differently if they aren't dirty. I also learnt that some good basic tops and bottoms are definitely essentials to have as they making morning dressing so much easier. I'll be doing a post later to explain this in more detail. 

Remember that balance is the key 

You're only human after all and sometimes those 48 hour no-sleep cramming cycles just don't work out. It's amazing if you have great goals that you want to push yourself to get but just don't forget that you have limits too. Stress can be a great motivator but remember to occasionally put the glass down so that it doesn't take over your life. 

Are you excited about starting uni or are you a seasoned student? Let me know in the comments section below. 


  1. such great tips~ I start school in about three weeks eek

  2. I definitely agree with you on balance being the key!

    Yousra | Mystic Tales

  3. I agree! I brought all the text books for my first semester and didn't even open some :o

  4. Getting dressed for uni can be such a chore sometimes, makes me even miss the days of wearing an ugly school uniform heheh
    I found the library particularly useful in borrowing textbooks that I didn't wanna fork out $$ on throughout the years

    t w o p l i c a t e s

  5. I definitely agree that some good basics are a must for university, I got so much use out of just some plain shirts and black jeans.


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