How to uni

What are the differences between high school and university?

University is a bit different to high school. You’ll find yourself adjusting to a new way of learning and studying. But don’t worry, we have some simple lessons that will help you transition seamlessly into your new university life.

What are all these new words?

When you first arrive, you might think the University has its own language. That’s pretty much true. Bookmark our glossary for quick reference and soon enough you’ll know your corequisites from your electives.

Quick hint: lectures tend to be longer than tutorials (or ‘tutes’) and generally introduce you to the content of your course. Tutorials are where you’ll engage with these ideas and discuss them with your classmates in a smaller group.

Uni is a time to make new friends

One of the best things about uni is meeting a bunch of new people. Your bubble is going to get bigger pretty fast, and you'll start meeting people from different backgrounds with different life experiences. Our advice: embrace it and don’t exclusively hang out with old friends.

Read more - How to make friends at university: learn how to meet new people at uni

Take notes, not transcripts

Don’t try and transcribe a two-hour lecture word for word. You’re meant to engage with the content and ideas, so be careful not to bog yourself down in the nitty gritty. Pay full attention to your lecturer and jot down the important points to reflect on later.

And remember when it comes time for you to revise the content, you can go online to access the lecture slides or listen to recordings later. 

There’s no dress code (just don’t wear PJs)

Gone are the days of the school uniform. You’re free to wear whatever you feel comfortable in and be an individual. Be yourself – some students don shorts and thongs, others prefer skirts and heels and every now and again a guy turns up in a cape. It’s part of the wondrous diversity of campus life.

Plus, most clubs and societies have their own selection of merch, so before long your wardrobe will be full of colourful tees.

No more 9 to 3

At school, you had a pretty regimented timetable and that bell sounding on the hour to remind you where you had to be.

Timetables now are far more flexible. Depending on your course, you might find your classes scattered across the week or clustered into peak times. This means you’ll have to be organised and manage time in your schedule for work and social commitments. Remember, though, you’ll need to factor in time to prepare for class and complete assessments.

You get out what you put in

No-one is going to check whether you’ve done your homework. If you don’t do it, you won’t get detention – but you’ll fall behind. At uni, you need to take responsibility for your own study.

Time management is a key skill to acquire early. There are lots of resources that will help you become organised and stay on top of your studies. Take advantage of these and you’ll find assessments, group assignments, exams and everything else far easier to manage.

You don’t need a permission slip

Need to go to the bathroom during a lecture? Want to wander off campus on a lunch break? No worries – you don’t need to ask first. 

Just make sure you’re quiet and respectful if you’re walking in and out of class, and beware of slamming doors!

It pays to participate

Some classes award marks for participation (this will be listed in the assessment schedule in your Unit of Study outline). It should go without saying that you’ll learn a lot more if you actively take part in your tutorials, and trust us - there’s nothing more awkward than a tutor repeating questions to a silent class.

Don’t freak out at the word count

In school, you might have had a whole year to type up that major 2,000-word essay. At uni, you might feel overwhelmed when you see one of your first assignments asking for 2,500 words within a few weeks. But don’t panic, you’ll have a lot more to say than you think. Often you’ll find yourself working to cut your essay down to the limit. And as with most uni skills – there’s a resource for that.

Check your sources. Check them again.

At uni, knowing how to reference properly is paramount. It’s part and parcel of joining an academic community. So don’t be lazy, you don’t want to lose marks for incorrect referencing, or worse, be penalised for unwitting plagiarism.

Look up your course referencing guide online, or ask your lecturer. And complete the Academic Honesty Education Module early on so you’ll be skilled up before the assignments start to arrive.

Be proactive with feedback

Don’t understand? Don’t worry. Most lecturers have consultation hours, so take advantage of that time to go and talk to them.

After you’ve submitted an assignment, you’ll receive your marks online via Turnitin. Don’t forget to download your assignment and the feedback right away for future reference as you won’t be able to access them next semester. The feedback will help you for future assignments, so take note of it and don’t just look for your mark.

Last updated: 21 January 2022

27 February 2017

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