University life can be difficult at times, especially during your first year. It can be a struggle to find your way around campus and wrap your mind around the logistics of university. I’m here to lift that burden and make things a little easier for you by sharing some of the “hacks” I’ve learnt since my first year of uni. Please enjoy and feel free to use these at your leisure.
1. Find your textbooks online
The course outline, as well as your lecturers and tutors, will tell you to always buy your textbooks, but I’m here to tell you otherwise. I understand that, as a uni student, money is a luxury most cannot afford (literally). So instead of wasting hundreds of dollars on a few textbooks that you’ll never use again once the class ends, try and find a free online version first. If you are unable to find a free digital copy, then you can go ahead a buy the textbooks (though I would still wait until the first tutorial and see if its mandatory for an assignment).
2. Try to bring your own food
I’m not gonna lie, Aroma is nice and all, but the food there can be a bit pricey for the average uni student (especially if you’re at uni 2-3 times a week). Not only that, but the vending machines aren’t very forgiving either, nor are they healthy. The best thing for you to do that’s both healthier and money-saving is to bring your own food to uni. Yes, it may be annoying to pack food the night before, but trust me, you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
3. Take advantage of the gym membership and the pool resources
If you’re one of those people who use “gym memberships are sooo expensive!” as an excuse to not work out, then you’re out of luck. No longer is that a valid excuse as gym memberships on campus are super affordable and convenient for those who struggle to find time to go to the gym between their class and work schedule. Though, if you’re seriously not a gym-junkie, then don’t fret, there’s something for you too. Magill campus has a swimming pool available for students to use throughout the year, and unlike the aquatic centre, the entry price is really cheap. So take advantage of the campus resources while you can – you won’t have the luxury once you’ve finish your degree.
4. Take notes!
Everyone is always the first one to laugh at that student that takes notes during a lecture or tutorial, but believe me, they are the ones who are really getting the last laugh. Have you ever found yourself in the middle of writing an assignment struggling to find that quote from one of the lectures and/or readings? Or has your tutor opened a discussion about the week’s readings and you couldn’t remember what it was about? These kind of situations are when notes come in handy. Not only are they great reference points, but they help your brain remember topic information more efficiently.
5. Attend orientation week, UniTopia and Clubfest
All the broke uni students raise your hands. I feel ya, living the broke uni life can be a struggle at times, so this “hack” has been especially made for you. If you didn’t already know, UniSA holds campus events throughout the year, especially in the first semester. The most important and useful ones include O-Week, UniTopia and Clubfest. This is because they offer the most range of freebies! And as we all know, freebies are lifesavers for a broke uni student. The more events you attend, the more freebies you receive, and the less you have to spend on items, such as pens, book bags and calendars.
6. Book in advance
Group assignments are every student’s nightmare. The thought of even having to present with a bunch of unfamiliar strangers fills my stomach with dread. We all know that it’s because of this that everyone decides to put off planning group meetings until the very last weeks. However, this is a very bad idea as every student is bound to do the same, which leaves limited library room space (especially if you study at Magill). Prevent a Game of Thrones scenario by booking a room in advance, so when it comes down to actually meeting with your group, you’ve already got a space booked, no worries.
7. Try to enroll in classes on the same day
A lot of people during their first year of uni make the mistake of either spreading their classes throughout a 4-5 day period, or arrange their timetable so that they come on one day for only one class. Speaking from experience, this can be very exhausting and expensive, especially if you live further away and/or catch public transport. It’s way easier if you can plan ahead and enroll in classes that are on the same day. This will cut down on travelling time and money, and means that you will have more time to sleep, study or do social activities.
8. Coffee is your friend
I imagine that my spirit animal would take the form of Lorelai Gilmore since without my morning coffee, I cannot be a fully functional student. This is especially true not just on early uni mornings, but when studying long hours for exams. Coffee can be a complete lifesaver as studies have shown that it can increase energy levels, fight the symptoms of depression and help you live longer. If there is one best friend you need to have at uni, it is coffee.
9. Lectures are not compulsory
Needless to say, I’m not suggesting that you don’t go to your lectures, but that some of them are not as important. It’s inevitable part of life that, at some point in the year, you’ll either get sick, or have an appointment or a work shift that overrides previous plans; and sometimes those plans are a university lecture. To some people lectures are not the most important thing in the world, but to others, they feel guilty or anxious when a complication arises that causes them to miss one or two. Don’t stress! It’s okay to miss a lecture or two sometimes. Just make sure you go onto learnonline afterwards and catch up on what you missed.
10. Buy a Co-op membership
As I said in the first point, textbooks can be very expensive and not everyone can afford to buy them. However, sometimes they are in fact a necessity and you will find yourself having to fork out a couple hundred dollars to buy 1 or 2 textbooks. A way to decrease the expense is to buy a co-op membership. The membership itself only costs you a one-off $25 and entitles you to a range of incredibly helpful discounts. It won’t make textbooks free (we can only wish), but it will make them much cheaper and more affordable.
11. Park wisely
If you’re someone who drives or is thinking of driving to and from uni then you might run into a few problems – one of them being parking. A lot of students find it incredibly difficult to find a carpark on campus, or they find that the parking toll can add up too much money in the long run. There are a few “hacks” that may save you from those problems. The first one would be to come in to uni a couple minutes earlier to ensure yourself a park. If you know that you have an afternoon class, then it might be helpful to come in half an hour earlier to find a carpark.
The second would be to park somewhere off, but close to campus. By parking somewhere close to campus you will save more money and may mean that you can find a carpark easier. If you don’t like either of these suggestions or just don’t think you’ll run into those kinds of troubles, then at least make sure you have the parking app on your phone. Most UniSA campuses no longer have coin machines and instead use the student parking app. It saves you from carrying coins around and takes less time to complete.
12. Lost? Use the App!
I remember feeling so lost during my first semester at university. There were so many buildings on campus with so many weird and different names that it was hard to keep track of where my classes were. What saved me a lot of time and energy was the ‘Lost on Campus’ app. It’s completely free and offers maps of all UniSA campuses so no matter what campus you come from, you’ll be able to find your way around. If you’re a first year student, this a must have item.
13. Find helpful study tricks
If you know you’re one of those people who have a hard time studying, or who have problems with retaining information for tests and exams then it might be a good idea to research some useful study tips and tricks. One of the study tricks I would use in high school was what I liked to call the ‘read and snack’. Each time I would read a paragraph or two, I would reward myself with some form of treat: maybe a gummy bear or a starburst. This made studying more enjoyable, and allowed me to retain more information as my brain would associate the information with the endorphins it felt when I had that treat. However, this may not work for everyone (and that’s totally normal), so it may be helpful to try a whole range of study tips to find which one suits you best.
14. Don’t bother dressing fancy
Every first year student makes this mistake in their first week at uni. Without a doubt, you’ll see hordes of new students walking around campus in well-thought out outfits, carefully styled hair, and full faces of make-up. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with this, but all students soon find out that campus is a much more relaxed environment (especially on the Magill campus). The majority of students find it much more comfortable and easier to wear casual clothing – sometimes even sweats! So don’t worry about what you’re wearing too much. Chances are other students are too worried about their assignments or finding their classes to notice your outfit anyways.
15. Get some work experience in before you graduate
Unfortunately, nowadays having a graduate diploma won’t always guarantee you a career in the workforce. Employers are more interested in people who have had experience rather than people who have graduates with a relevant degree. That’s why you’ll find that your lecturers and tutors will encourage you to go out and seek experience opportunities while you’re still at uni, even during your first year. Whether it’s through an unpaid internship or just doing some local community work, any experience will be valuable in the future.
16. Check the bulletin boards
Around campus, you will find dozens of bulletin boards filled with an assortment of flyers hanging around the hallways. Most people tend to overlook them, but in some cases, it can be useful to take a closer read. A lot of the time people will advertise research studies looking for participants. The great thing about research studies is that the majority of them offer willing participants rewards in exchange for their time. As a broke uni student looking for even the slightest ways to make cash, this can be extremely helpful. Next time you’re wandering the halls, it may be a good idea to pay more attention to the bulletin boards.
17. Useful ways to find loose change
This one was suggested to me by a close friend. A “hack” he often uses whenever he comes across a vending machine or parking meter at uni, is that he sticks his hand through the coin slot and scrummages for any loose change that someone may have forgotten about or not collected. It may sound like a crazy or desperate idea, but he estimates he collects $1.50-$2 each time he does this; and for a broke uni student, everything counts. Sorry pal, but I know what I’m now going to start doing during my early mornings.
18. Low phone battery? Use the charging station at USASA
Most people don’t know it, but USASA offers power cords to charge your iPhone between classes. For people like me who heavily rely on their phone, but who are too afraid to bring their own charger in case they lose it, having chargers readily available on campus can mean the difference between life or death (an exaggeration, but still true). An alternative idea is to invest in a portable charger.
19. Listen to recorded lectures at double the speed
We’ve all know that lectures can sometimes go on for longer than necessary (ain’t nobody got time for that). This may cause students to not attend or listen to the lectures online, causing them to miss out on vital information. Thankfully for us, there is a button that can set the speed of the lecture to a much faster and efficient pace. Just press the button on that’s two spots to the right of the pause/play button at the bottom of the screen, and it will allow you to double the speed of the lecture (you’re welcome).
20. Reference, reference, reference!
It may be a pain the ass, but referencing can actually be very useful to your essays. Not only do they act as evidence for your argument and help explain information that you cannot further explain yourself, but they can make a huge difference to the word count. It’s a very common struggle to meet the word count of most essays, but adding references can move you into the 10% under/over bracket. However, make sure your references actually make sense and fit in with your sentences. Don’t focus on the word count so much that you end up forgetting about the credibility of your essay.
Hopefully some of these “hacks” work for you and make uni life a lot easier. If you have any more “hacks” for other students, then leave them down in the comment section.
What are some other life hacks at University of South Australia?
Featured image source: http://phillipspilkington.com.au
19. Australian. Aspiring journalist with a passion for the creative arts.