How to navigate your first year according to a student who’s #killingit

March 06, 2017
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Your first year of uni can be tough, so we’ve teamed up with China Australia Millennial Project to help you nail your first sem.


For first-time uni students, it can take some time to adjust to the changes in learning and lifestyle. Want to ace your first year of uni but don’t know where to start? If you’re looking for some inspo, look no further than Monica Axiak. With a High Distinction average, a spot on the Dean’s Merit List at UTS and an active involvement in the start-up community, Monica shares some tips on how she does it.

Don’t take on more than you can handle

It might be tempting to sign up for a million societies at O-Week, but keeping on top of it all might be difficult when the assignments pile up.

“I remember my first O-Week in 2014 legitimately believing I could juggle debating, touch football and active membership in a handful of other societies, along with part-time study and a full-time accounting cadetship,” says Monica.

“Needless to say that never happened, so I would definitely encourage first years to avoid over-commitment and the unnecessary anxiety that brings.”


Instead of overloading, Monica recommends finding the right priorities for you and channelling more of your energy into things at the top of that list.

She says at the top of the list should be things you absolutely have to do, “…things like completing subjects and meeting expectations at work”.

After that, she says to do “[Do] something you really love and are familiar with, which will help with stress relief and provide positive reinforcement when other things might not work out”.

Finally, she believes it’s just as important to try something completely new, even if it comes after the other priorities.

“…[it] will help you develop as a well-rounded person and discover new environments and talents (such as getting involved in the start-up community).”

[Do] something you really love and are familiar with, which will help with stress relief and provide positive reinforcement when other things might not work out.

Be dedicated to your work

So how does Monica maintain her HD average? She attributes this to a lot of hard work and dedication.

“There’s definitely no shortcuts to doing this, but it’s no where near impossible. I think the game changer is your level of dedication to the work in front of you. In saying that, it’s not necessary to commit all your waking hours to your studies,” she says.

If you want to aim for high grades, she recommends attending all your lectures and tutorials (yes, even the early morning ones). But even more important is understanding all of the work.

“Do all your homework, understand the concepts and ask questions. Thoroughly adhere to the requirements of your assessments and break down every task to ensure you’ve covered all four corners of what’s being asked of you.”

Find your own work-study-social balance

Monica agrees the balance between study, part-time jobs, internships and a social life won’t be the same for everyone.

“I think the balance is different for everybody and people prioritise each differently. Personally, uni and work are by far my greatest priorities,” she says.

If you want to get ahead, prioritising your marks and career will be important, but be sure to give yourself a break to de-stress and avoid a burnout.

Get involved early

If you know what you want to do after uni, it’s never too early to start interning.

“Do thorough research on the organisations that interest you and their people culture, and make sure this matches what you’re really looking to gain out of the experience. I was a Tax Cadet at EY for three years and have taken so much away from the experience, both professionally and personally.

“I’d really encourage students not to discount the small to mid-tier [companies] either: they offer a wealth of broad, hands-on experience the bigger firms can’t across different areas of your chosen profession.”

For students interested in the entrepreneurial path, Monica also shares words of wisdom from her own experience.

“My entrepreneurial journey started through UTS Hatchery, which I think was an amazing opportunity to get exposure and experience working with Design Thinking and learn start-up methodology (both of which I’d never heard of before).

“As a starting point, I’d really encourage students to check out what their university has to offer in the entrepreneurial space and get involved.”

Monica Axiak is a Community Manager at the China Australia Millennial Project. If you want to follow her lead and start #killingit in the start-up space, find out more about CAMP here.


Lauren Piggott

Image: Giphy