Everything I wish someone had told me in my first year of uni

February 25, 2016
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Everyone’s first year at university is a unique journey, and there’s a real sense of freedom to pave your own successes and failures. However, the shift may overwhelm people who are late to realise that there’s more to uni than just classes. Whether you’re coming in straight out of high school or an extended break, here are ten pieces of advice I wish I’d heard in my first year.

“You have a clean slate.”

It doesn’t matter whether you played football or a trombone in high school, or what your goddamn ATAR was, uni is about fresh beginnings. These are your selfish years, where you start behaving how you want and figuring out the kind of person you want to be. Don’t cheat yourself out of valuable life experiences because you can’t let go of the past.  

“Make new friends.”

I was lucky enough to spend the first three years of uni with three of my closest friends from high school, but I regret not taking the opportunity to make new connections in that initial year. The first few weeks on campus are littered with people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds, and striking up a conversation while waiting for a coffee could impact your uni life in a positive way. 

“Get involved.”

Participating in O-Week activities or joining a club will help you get a feel for your uni’s culture, and make your time there a lot more interesting. Ask as many questions as you can and figure out what kind of extra-curricular activities are available - you’ll be surprised how many people share similar interests.

“Don’t buy books before your first class.”

More often than not, students can find the assigned textbook at a much cheaper rate on Facebook exchange groups or independent retailers. Some students opt to borrow from their uni library, and other times your tutor may allocate alternate readings.

“Utilise the resources around you.”

Office hours are one of the most underrated resources a student has for the duration of their university career. This time has been put aside by professors to address any concerns you have about the subject matter, grades and assessment deadlines. Likewise, make an effort to read your learning guides thoroughly instead of checking them for due dates - they usually have hints about the coursework.

“Plan your schedule wisely.”

If you’re not an early riser, avoid 9am classes and Friday altogether. If you drive and don’t want to spend an hour looking for parking, pick the earliest class you can find or stick to the end of the week. If you just go to uni to chill with mates and hate the peak hour rush on public transport, pick classes that start after 11am and wrap up before 4pm.

“Take advantage of your breaks.”

Never again will you get months of stress-free time off to do whatever you want, no strings attached. Discover the world without the nagging pressure of finances, careers, family and just life in general. Work, save, travel, shop and repeat - in a totally healthy way of course.

“One glass of water for every glass of alcohol.”

You’ll dodge brain-numbing hangovers, blackouts and throwing up, plus you won’t write the next day off. Taking care of your body and knowing its limits will benefit you immensely in the long run. 

“Transferring is not the end of the world.”

Ultimately, there will come a time when you’ll question what you’re doing with your life. The panic-laden moment usually strikes around third year, and threatens to derail your ‘get rich by 30, retire by 40’ plan. Spoiler alert: you’ll probably end up switching majors, degrees or universities, but it’s not as scary as it sounds. Talk to your course advisors, figure out where your interests lie, and make a plan. Things will work out.

“Mentally prepare yourself to be alone.”

The harsh reality of university is that the same people no longer surround you five days a week, nor do you have mentors hassling you to study and achieve top grades. The responsibilities of your decisions lie solely with you, which is what ultimately makes you an adult. However, some students may find it harder to cope with this than others. Campus counsellors are available on appointment for times when you’re not feeling your best, and external services such as BeyondBlue Australia and Lifeline Australia exist for people who need someone to speak with immediately. 

Meghna Bali

Meghna Bali is a final year Bachelor of Communication student at Western Sydney University. She's also highly enthusiastic about chai, poetry and ruining movies for everyone.

Image: Francisco OsorioFlickr Creative Commons license