Summer is a time for pools, beaches, and sunshine. For thousands of students across the country, it is also a time to get ready for university. New university students encounter an entirely different educational setting than anything they’ve ever experienced. So, how do you prepare?
Here are five pointers to get you started:
Explore your resources
Students new to university face many challenges throughout their first year, so make yourself aware of supports before you need them. Then when you’re stressed and overwhelmed, you already know what help is available. Every university is different, but most have similar resources. Academic advisors and lecturers are your go-to resource for academic needs. Meet with them early and regularly to make sure you’re doing all you need to do to succeed. Make sure to ask about what degrees, online classes, certificates, and other academic resources are available at your university. Adjustments may also be made for students with disabilities. Talk with your advisor about the specific services for disabled students at your university. Find out about non-academic resources, too, including financial aid, such as the Disabled Student Allowances – DSAs, medical services, and mental health support. The first year of university is overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to seek help when needed.
Get to know your lecturers
If a course is offered multiple times, ask former students or your advisor for lecturer recommendations. They can tell you a lot about how a lecturer teaches and how helpful and responsive they are. If you don’t have a recommendation, consider meeting your lecturer. Sign up for the class. Go on the first day and see what you think. Does the instructor communicate effectively to students? Does this seem like someone from whom you can learn? Talk to the instructor if you have any reservations. If you’re not sure that you can effectively learn from the instructor, consider dropping the course and adding a different one or taking it later with a different instructor. A lecturer can make or break your experience, so make sure you put in the work to find the right lecturer for you.
Once you are committed to a class, make sure you introduce yourself to your lecturer. Some university classes are quite large. Make a personal connection by asking questions, emailing lecturers, and attending weekly tutorials, where lecturers answer questions and provide guidance to students. Try to make this effort even if you are going for an online degree. A good lecturer will be happy to answer questions, video chat, and even meet in person (if you live near the university).
Familiarise yourself with the syllabus
The syllabus is perhaps the single most important piece of information you receive to prepare for a course. It provides resources including policies, library and tutoring support, assignments, due dates, and often grading rubrics. Many universities require instructors to grade your work using those rubrics. Use that to your advantage. Make sure your work meets all those requirements. Pay particular attention to attendance policies, too, as they can significantly affect your grade.
University courses require a different type of learning than most new university students have done in the past. This requires a different way of studying. Plan on a two to one ratio of study time to class time. That is, plan to study for two hours for each hour of class time. Additional time may be needed if lecturer assigns extra reading material. Attend study groups and meet with teaching assistants if possible. Have a dedicated study space outside of your halls or student accommodation to avoid common distractions.
Plan your time
New university students get pulled in a lot of different directions. Classes, work, and social activities demand much of your time. Get a planner and use it. When you get your syllabus, put in key dates, such as weekly assignments, projects, and tests, as well as times when you plan to work on or prepare for them. If those go in first, you can then plan around those priorities as other competing events come up. Make your studies the top priority in your schedule. Keeping that in mind, it’s important for your sanity to make sure you find a healthy school-life balance. You won’t be able to perform your best academically if you are neglecting all other aspects of your life.
One of the most important things you can plan for is going to class. With no parent holding you accountable, it’s easy to skip classes. However, research shows that students who skip classes are more likely to get lower grades and are much more likely to drop out of uni.
Getting started in university can be overwhelming. Taking time to plan, prepare, and learn from the experiences of others goes a long way toward helping new university students succeed.