So you’ve finished high school and received an offer to study your chosen course. Exciting times await, and you may ponder on your expectations and think to yourself: “This is going to be just like high school right?” Wrong!! University is very different from high school and requires a bit of an adjustment phase which is completely normal. Take some comfort in knowing however, that you are not the first person to have made this transition nor will you be the last. Everybody goes through the first year adjustment phase, it’s absolutely nothing to stress over- but employing some strategies and having a better insight into what to expect and what is expected of you will make your transition a lot smoother. Keep reading for tips for first years at Western Sydney University and take it from someone who’s been there!
1. It is completely normal to lose the feeling of having a comfort zone to fall back on.
So you’ve just come from high school, a place some of you have spent the last six years. Over those six years you would have developed a sense of routine, comfort, belonging and made some friends whom you socialise with both in and out of school.
It’s completely understandable to be slightly anxious in losing that comfort zone, after all 6 years is a long time and you would have seen your school mates and teachers just about every day! Your first few weeks on campus might make you feel a bit overwhelmed. As a first year student you may not know anybody at your campus. Even if you do, they have a completely different timetable to you.
2. Remember that everybody starts with the same negative thoughts in mind.
As a first year you’re going to see many second and third year students socialising and confidently navigating the campus, this may make you feel a bit lonely and lost, but don’t let it! These people were once where you are now and everybody starts with the same thoughts in their minds. You WILL form new friendships, you WILL gain confidence, and you WILL be navigating your campus like a pro in no time!
3. If you still wish to meet more people, make sure you attend a PASS session.
If you’re struggling, nervous, or lacking a bit of confidence to meet new people, just know that there are many people in the same situation, you can easily make new friends by attending PASS sessions. PASS or “peer assisted study sessions” are group classes in which senior students help you with your units.
This is a great way to network, make new friends, and really do well at your units at the same time.
4. There isn’t a better way to meet like-minded friends than joining a club.
Don’t forget to check out the clubs at Western Sydney University. There couldn’t be a better way to meet new and like minded mates than to join a club of your particular interest. You can always apply to start you own club too!
5. Embrace your independence and manage it constructively.
At university you are given more responsibility and freedom than you could have ever be given in high school. Learn to manage this in a constructive way because the sudden dose of complete freedom may de-rail your discipline if you don’t keep on top of it.
Nobody at university is going to make you take a lecture, a test, or anything for that matter. You are completely independent and responsible for your attendance, participation and engagement. As mentioned earlier, people are at University because they want to learn, so always remember this when you feel a little overwhelmed. Use this Independence to motivate and empower you to excel at your course!
6. Make sure you organise your schedule as soon as you can.
University is going to be a lot faster paced than high school, so you need to keep on top of that right away. If you don’t, you will quickly find yourself drowning in shortly due assessments. This will snowball and impact your studies heavily.
The first thing any student should do is to get a poster size monthly planner, (trust me on this)! When you start at Western Sydney University you will be given a learning guide for all of your units. This is a go-to guide for everything that is expected from you in that unit and also highlights key dates for assessment tasks. The learning guide is an essential and very handy reference.
I highly recommend having them on hand at all times. What you want to do on your first week (or when you get your learning guides) is to list all of the key dates from your learning guides onto your monthly planner. This gives you a great visual indication of your workload for the month and week to week, allowing you to plan ahead.
7. It is so important to make sure you always plan ahead so you don’t fall behind.
I can not stress how important it is to plan ahead, if you don’t you will quickly start becoming overwhelmed with assessments and may even miss key dates.
8. Familiarise yourself with the resources available to you.
Western Sydney University has a lot of great learning resources available to you. An extremely helpful one is the library and the library staff. They are there to assist in helping you find resources and helping you learn how to find resources.
The library does tours for new students, get involved and head to one, you’ll thank me later. I cannot emphasise enough how great the library and staff are at assisting in your research. They provide services like math’s help, proof reading, referencing help and navigating the libraries powerful online search functions which give you access to a plethora of invaluable e-resources.
If you’re feeling a little tired you can even visit the sleep pod in the library to have a quick power nap! The library also has group study rooms and collaborative learning spaces which are great for group work and study. Another great convenience is the fact that the library is open 24/7 for students and accessible with your ID card. In short, the library and its staff are your best friends!
9. Become familiar with referencing your work correctly right away.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment that you will need to make academically, besides the content load and pace, is referencing. This will be a new concept to you if you’ve come straight from school and really needs to be mastered right away.
Referencing is a way of citing any ideas or facts in your work, giving credit to the originator and is essential for academic credibility. Referencing your work is proving your information sources are credible and giving due credit to the individuals whom ideas you have used.
There are several different referencing styles however, Western Sydney University uses WSU Harvard style referencing. The sooner you can become fluent in referencing your work the faster the and more efficient this process will become for you. If you’re not efficient with your referencing than be prepared to spend as much time referencing (if not more) your document as you did writing it.
As mentioned above there are library resources to help you with this transition and provide tutorial videos on referencing a variety of sources.
10. Use online referencing tools if you have to.
Another great way of managing your references is to use an online referencing tool like this one. It is a great reference management tool that can be set to WSU Harvard style to assist in managing your bibliography and references. It really pays to do some homework on referencing and becoming proficient as soon as possible, as you will be required to reference for the rest of your time at university.
11. It is perfectly OK to adjust your study load and courses if you need to.
If you are struggling to adjust to your study load don’t worry, speak to your course coordinator and drop a unit/s for the term. This will have to be done before what is called a census date. What a census date basically is, is a chance for you to fine tune your study load and units without academic penalty.
At the beginning of a new semester you will be given a time frame in which you can fine tune your study load. Whether it be due to picking up more shifts at work or struggling slightly with the workload, speak to your course coordinator about adjusting your units for that semester and get their input. They will give you the best advice, simply because certain units have progression prerequisites. In other words, you can’t start certain units until you complete another. This is where your unit coordinator will give you the best and most practical approach to your unique circumstance. If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, address it right away so that your grades don’t suffer and you don’t either!
12. Lastly, make sure you enjoy your time, it will go by quickly.
Although it may seem like a big hurdle, before you know it you will be helping new students acclimate to university life. Enjoy your time, you will meet great people, students and teachers of whom will leave a lasting impression on you and may even inspire you towards a certain career path or further study. Western Sydney University gives you the environment, resources and tools you need to excel, make sure you take full advantage of them and have a great time while doing so!
Good luck on your new journey!