For many students and their parents, transitioning to university is an exciting but daunting experience. Here are five tips to help students succeed in their first year.
1. Find support services
All universities offer student counselling, mental health, sexual health, disability services, careers centres, accommodation and financial support.
Students should also attend presentations during orientation week, ask their tutors and course coordinators or contact their student centre to get more information.
The best way to get information is to talk to other students. New students should take every opportunity to join peer-mentoring groups. These are often fun-filled sessions run by senior students who can offer first year students tips and insights in how to tackle their assignments and exams.
First year students should also become familiar with the university library and centres that focus on developing literacy and numeracy skills. These learning centres can help students develop their writing, maths and study skills by conducting a range of free workshops, including academic writing, reading strategies, making oral presentations and time management.
2. Manage your time well
Learning how to juggle social and academic commitments is one of the most difficult challenges for new students. One of the best ways to manage study workloads is to draw up a semester plan. This can take the form of a timeline or calendar.
Students should start by entering in all assignments and exams on their semester plan and then work backwards to allocate time for researching, draft planning, proofreading and checking references.
In this semester plan, you should also account for other commitments including work, socialising, sport and exercise and perhaps even a good’s night sleep.
3. Keep up-to-date with readings
One common theme across different faculties is that a good assignment is one where arguments have been debated and claims supported by evidence. In order to do this well, students need to do the weekly readings assigned in their individual courses.
You also need to read beyond the required list. Lecturers are not interested in students’ personal opinions. They’re interested in students’ opinions that are informed by evidence. That is, supported by the readings and research the student has done.
But new students may feel overwhelmed by the volume of readings they’re expected to do. The good news is you don’t have to read every word in a text. You need to skim and scan sources for relevant information.
4. How to avoid plagiarism
Learning how to reference reading sources correctly, to avoid plagiarism, is an essential skill. At the start of semester, most students have to complete online modules which explain the complexities of academic integrity.
Students caught plagiarising risk failing a course or being expelled from their degree. What this means for students is everything you read which has informed your thinking must be included in your reference list.
Students shouldn’t only provide a reference for each work they’ve cited. You also have to make sure the formatting of the reference is accurate. Depending on what you’re studying, you may be asked to reference in different styles. Check which one you need to use before you start.
Proper referencing demonstrates to lecturers (and potential employers) you can pay attention to detail, and that you’re part of an academic community and respect the rules of this community.
Students can adopt good habits from the beginning of their studies by recording all details of the reading source in their notes, including the author’s last name, title of the text, year of publication and page numbers.
5. Enjoy university life!
If you’re not happy with your course or subjects, you should get advice from your faculty. Students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning progress, but you should still talk to your lecturers about any concerns.
It’s acceptable to transfer to another course, but students should be aware any course changes must be made by the census date in order to avoid financial penalties. You can check your university’s census date on the university website.
Finally, university is not just about studying hard in order to achieve one’s career goals. It’s also about making life-long friendships and connections.
The best way to do this is for students to pursue their talents and interests and get involved in clubs and societies. The new friendships you form will become part of your support network and ensure that you make the most of your university experience.