Starting university can be pretty daunting. Most of us had only just gotten the hang of high school before we were given SATAC uni applications and told to choose a career we’d be happy with for the rest of our lives. So you’ve finally come to terms with the fact that you’ve left high school (or that amazing gap year in Europe) behind and you’re ready to conquer the new world that is university. But what can you expect from your first year of uni? Well, I go to the Magill Campus of the University of South Australia – or UniSA – and here are just a few tips that I’ve picked up this year:
1. Enrol in your classes early.
A few weeks after you get accepted into your course, you’ll get an email about enrolment. Mark that day on your calendar and set alarms and reminders on every device you own!
If you’re one of the lucky ones that manage to get online at 9:00am, you might score yourself a day or two off uni. But if you’re too slow, you might find yourself with four hour breaks between tutes and classes starting at 6pm.
2. Learn the uni terminology.
There are two main types of classes at uni – lectures and tutorials. Most of the time, lectures aren’t compulsory and you can access recordings online (yes, this means you can skip them).
Tutorials, on the other hand, are similar to classes in high school where a tutor leads a group of about 20 students through a discussion of that week’s topic. There is some other terminology (seminars, workshops etc.) as well but they’re basically the same as tutes. Speaking of tutes…
3. Go to your tutorials!
Lectures are okay to skip because you’re just being fed information but tutorials are much more interactive. Tutors will often discuss important subject matter or allocate groups for group assignments (*shudder*). Not to mention, most tutors take attendance and they’ll start to lower your grade if you miss more than 25% of their tutes.
4. Mentally prepare yourself for group assignments.
For some reason, universities love group assignments. They randomly group four people together and hope they all have matching schedules to be able to meet up more than once AND share the workload evenly to produce a masterpiece PowerPoint presentation. Most of the time, this won’t be the case so prepare yourself for the anxiety that is having your GPA rest in three other people’s hands.
5. Don’t panic if you get a ‘D’.
The university grading system is a little confusing at first. In high school, you’re used to getting an A, B, C, D or E but at uni, it’s HD, D, C, P1, P2, F1 or F2. Basically HD = A, D = B, C = C (convenient) and F = fail. So a D’s actually a pretty awesome grade!
6. UniSA, not UNISA.
You have no idea how many times I’ve accidentally tried to log onto the University of South Africa’s student website instead of the University of South Australia’s. Just for clarification, we are UniSA.
7. Get organised and buy a diary.
Your high school probably issued a school diary every year with sections for you to fill in homework. But at uni, you get nothing. Head to Kmart or Typo to pick yourself up a cute diary that you know you will use. Fill in all your assignment due dates before semester starts because nobody else will be reminding you that major essay is due in a week.
8. Get used to public transportation.
There’s a high chance you will have to catch the bus to uni. Whether your campus is in the city and you don’t want to deal with city parking or because you don’t have your license yet (me), you will most likely be using public transport every day. So load up your phone with some music and get your Pokémon Go out.
9. Dress down rather than up.
Since most high schools in Australia have compulsory uniforms, we didn’t really have to think about what to wear every day. The general rule at uni is to dress comfortable yet presentable – what you’d wear to the shopping centre or a friend’s house. You’re much more likely to get weird looks around campus if you’re in a party dress and heels than if you’re in a hoodie and tracksuit pants.
10. Take all the free stuff.
Go to O-Week. Even if you’re not interested in all that orientation kind of stuff, go for the free food and stationary. And the free stuff doesn’t stop at O-Week! I’ll never forget the day I wandered into a secret (free) pizza party in the library between tutes. Seriously, never say no to free stuff (especially food).
11. Buy your textbooks second hand.
I cannot stress this enough. Get onto the ‘Textbooks, buy, swap and sell Adelaide’ Facebook page or studentvip.com.au for some awesome deals on barely used textbooks. I managed to snag my semester one textbooks for $100 when they would have cost $240 brand new. Just make sure you ask to see a photo of the textbooks before buying so you know they’re in relatively good condition.
12. Take advantage of student discount memberships.
On the topic of saving money, make sure you sign up for all the student discount memberships ever. Websites like Student Edge and UNiDAYS offer 10% to 40% off major clothing brands, electronic brands and, of course, restaurants and cafes. A lot of local businesses around the Magill Campus also do deals for UniSA students so make sure to keep your student card on you at all times!
13. Aroma > the Caf.
You will definitely get hungry on campus at one point or another. Since there are only two places to get food at the Magill Campus, here’s the lowdown: Aroma sells more pricey, café type food while the Caf sells cheaper, school canteen kind of food. In my opinion, Aroma is definitely better as there is more choice and the food is actually quite good. But if you’re looking to save a bit of money, head over to the Caf.
14. Try the $5 cheese fries from Aroma.
Do not graduate from UniSA before trying the cheesy hot chips from Aroma! These chips only cost $5 and you seriously get a gigantic bowl of melted cheesy hot chips. So get together with four friends, fork out $1 each (outrageous, I know) and have at it. They do have a whole list of other flavours (e.g. Moroccan spiced, sea salt and balsamic vinegar) but cheese would have to be my all-time favourite.
15. Know that all your assignments will be due at once!
Week 5, Week 9 and Week 13 (AKA when all of your assignments and presentations are due). This sucks because you’ll think everything’s nice and cruisy but then BAM ASSIGNMENT, ASSIGNMENT, ASSIGNMENT, ASSIGNMENT. Then, by the time you’ve recuperated from the week of torture, BAM ASSIGNMENT, ASSIGNMENT, ASSIGNMENT, ASSIGNMENT. It’s a never-ending cycle.
16. Ignore those emails about campus work.
Even before semester starts, you’ll probably be bombarded with emails from Campus Facilities giving you ‘Advance Works Notices’. So 99.99% chance of the time, none of these will even affect you. Most of them are about the lights in some obscure building having to be changed at 6:00am in the second week of break or something. You might want to pop these into your spam folder.
17. Sign up for studies.
After a few weeks at uni, you’ll notice that the back of toilet doors are almost always covered with notices about some study that the university’s doing. Don’t just ignore these! Since Magill is home to the psychology courses, a lot of the studies conducted there involve answering a few questions or taking a few tests and guess what? Most of the time you’ll be reimbursed for your time with a $20 – $50 gift card! So sign yourself up!
18. Don’t be that annoying person talking in the ‘quiet study’ section of the library.
There’s the designated section of the UniSA library for group work or casual work with friends and then there’s the ‘quiet study’ section. If you walk into the dead silent ‘quiet study’ section with your friend gossiping about one of your lecturers, you can be sure to feel the death stares from the entire room. So don’t do it.
19. Hold onto your laptop in the H building.
If you have any lectures in the H building, you might want to consider taking your notebook over your MacBook. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve heard the crash and bang of stuff falling off the desks in that lecture theatre. At least four times a lecture. If you’re one of the brave souls to insist on bringing your laptop, make sure you hold onto your desk or at least balance it with your lap. Trust me on this one. I speak from experience.
20. Meet new people!
Whether half of your graduating class from high school is headed to the same campus as you or you’re the only one from your area, make sure to talk to new people! Be the first to initiate conversation and let your friendship circle grow from people who are the same age as you and went to the same high school as you. I’m still friends with the people that I got lost with on our very first day of uni!
Have any other tips for first year students at UniSA? Feel free to comment below and share the article!
Featured photo source: businesswire.com
I'm a second year Bachelor of Journalism and Professional Writing & Bachelor of Arts (English and Creative Writing) student at the University of South Australia. I love cheese, pasta and puppies.