Lucienne has just completed her first year at the University of Melbourne. In this three-part ‘VCE to Uni’ series, she reflects on her experience of university life and shares her tips. Read on for some great advice in terms of settling in and getting involved!
I remember being incredibly nervous the week before university began…
I did not know what to expect academically, I was unsure how to get involved socially and I was unaware of how my lifestyle as a whole would change. These are common feelings before embarking on a new chapter – I thought it would be a good idea to create a series on how to ease the transition into university, so that you can get the most out of your first year.
What university is like
The style of learning at university is very different to what you may be used to in high school. At university, you are encouraged to be an organised and driven independent learner. This means that YOU are now in charge of staying up to date with watching lectures, going to tutorials, doing study and assessment tasks. This means that if you want to change something, it is up to you to take initiative and seek support. This could mean emailing tutors, visiting them in contact hours or asking classmates in tutorials. However, even though the power is now in your hands, the university still provides opportunities for you to receive assistance and extra support, particularly through the Academic Skills unit, which offers individual tutorials and workshops.
How to pick subjects
At university, there is a wide range of subjects on offer in each course. Although this is great, it can be a little overwhelming at the beginning of the semester when you are unsure what to take. If you are knowing which field you want to go into, or which postgrad course you want to complete – check for any prerequisites and then try and follow what you enjoy. If you are unsure which subjects to take or what they are about, your first point of call should be looking at the Unimelb online handbook. This outlines what the subject is about, its timetable and its assessments.
If you are looking for some extra information on subjects and want to know how students found them – check out ATAR Notes.This is a site where students review subjects, and this can help you with your decision. If you are still unsure, there is nothing wrong with spending your first year trying different subjects. The university allows you a few weeks at the beginning of each semester to try out the subjects before you are locked in or have to pay money for the subject. This means that you can always test subjects out and see how they are before locking it in. Subjects are locked in on the ‘census date’ – which is published on the student portal each semester.
I would suggest talking to people in your tutes and having a meetup every few weeks to go over what was learnt during that time. This worked for me as good revision, as sometimes it takes someone else to explain something for you to understand the concept. Also, if possible, try and summarise your notes before the SWOTVAC period. This can help you focus on the main ideas in the subject and organise your brain.
Throughout the year, there were times when I had something due for every one of my subjects in one week! This meant that I had to ensure I was on top of all my work as the semester progressed. At the beginning of the year, you are given all your assessment dates for each subject. It is best to write all the assessment dates in your diary at the beginning of semester so you are fully aware on how early you need to prepare for them. This can help avoid last minute cramming and essay writing a few hours before something is due.
The university provides student assistance in the library so if you ever need help with referencing you can always ask the staff. Secondly, the Academic Skills individual tutorial program enables students to have their essays read over by a staff member so you can get some general feedback. Many students do not know of this service and it can be a great way to get some tips before you submit your actual assessment. Whether there be grammar issues, unclear ideas, or a weak essay structure – the staff can assist you.
If you feel overwhelmed…
If you are finding this information overwhelming, or have started university and are worried about your academic progress – try not to stress, it’s normal to feel this way. I still have not met one student who had a breeze adjusting to a new study environment. Everyone knows that your first year of university is about adapting to a new pace and settling in. Try out subjects, do your best to stay afloat with all the readings and lectures and if all else fails – try and talk to your peers in those classes for help.
If you still feel unsure about your progress you can always talk to your tutors and see if they can offer you extra support. They understand first year can be a big change for some students so just let them know how you are going. Although you often hear that at university, the staff do not provide individual assistance, I have found this to not be true. They are always willing to help if one asks (it is just your job to seek help). Even if you fail a subject, it is not the end of the world. Just try to learn what you did wrong and change your attitude the next semester.
The VCE Extension Program
For those of you who are reading this and have not reached Year 12 yet, I encourage you to look into the VCE extension program. A few of my friends undertook a VCE extension program subject in VCE and believed that it was very beneficial in regard to preparing for university. They would have to dictate their own study, they were not being reminded of assessments and they were expected to manage time efficiently during the exam period, as they also had to do their Year 12 exams. This was able to create discipline in them and allowed them to learn how to self-motivate study. Although this would not be the best choice for everyone as it can be a big jump whilst also doing Year 12, if it is something you are interested in and feel capable of doing – you should research it. You can read more about it here, on the University website.
Just remember to try and give yourself a break in first year. Give yourself some time to settle in and get a feel for how you are meant to be working. Everyone takes time to adjust, so do not be so hard on yourself, and all will be well.
Lucienne’s favourite exam-related posts below:
For some comical and helpful posts on studying for exams…
Watch this space for the next instalment of the ‘VCE to Uni’ series!