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Author Topic: Newbie Uni Student Needs Advice  (Read 13745 times)
Aster Breo
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« Reply #15: October 26, 2010, 10:56:33 pm »

And, finally, any pieces of advice you really wished you'd had in your first year at uni?

It's been ages since I was in college (or grad school, for that matter), but my daughters are there now.  Others have already covered a lot of what I would have said.

But the biggest lesson I learned -- and that my daughters have also learned -- is to stay organized.  It doesn't matter whether you use a paper calendar, or google calendar, or the schedule function on your cell phone.  Just make sure you write down EVERYTHING and note when it's due.  Then block out time to actually do it.  That goes for homework assignments, class projects, exams, papers, and projects related to your extracurricular activities.  (F'ex, my daughter is on a competitive cheerleading team, a co-founder of the campus GLBT group, and a member of a Women in Leadership group.  She's always working on things for those groups, like bake sales and practice.)

Realize that you might actually have to study.   Wink  My daughter is one of those people who never had to study to make good grades in high school.  She's in her third year of college now and STILL getting used to having to put in the time and study.  She says to pay attention at orientation when the profs tell you you'll have to study for X number of hours per week. 

Most schools (in the US, anyway) have some kind of Welcome Week activities to help people meet.  These are great opportunities to meet people who have similar interests.  And don't be afraid to jump in and get involved in thing like clubs.  They're a lot of fun, and the people are usually great.

As for what to pack...  Make sure you have whatever you might need to deal with the weather, e.g., an umbrella, winter coat/gloves/hat/boots, etc.

And this might sound silly, but if you have a comfort object -- like a stuffed animal or special blanket -- take it!  You don't have to make a big deal of it, and nobody else has to know what it means to you.  But you'll be really glad you have it when you start to stress out.  And take pictures of your family and friends back home.  Everyone gets a little homesick now and then.

Good luck!
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« Reply #16: October 27, 2010, 12:10:46 am »

But the biggest lesson I learned -- and that my daughters have also learned -- is to stay organized.  It doesn't matter whether you use a paper calendar, or google calendar, or the schedule function on your cell phone.  Just make sure you write down EVERYTHING and note when it's due.  Then block out time to actually do it.  That goes for homework assignments, class projects, exams, papers, and projects related to your extracurricular activities.  (F'ex, my daughter is on a competitive cheerleading team, a co-founder of the campus GLBT group, and a member of a Women in Leadership group.  She's always working on things for those groups, like bake sales and practice.)

This.

There are tons of cool technology tools out there, too (many of them free or very inexpensive) that can make this a *lot* easier - including putting in things like "Think about what you want to pick for a topic here" and "Spend some serious time in the library this week looking for sources" for longer-term projects.

(I can go on and on about this one, if anyone's interested. Process-centered Virgos like this sort of thing, and the being a librarian bit doesn't hurt.)
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« Reply #17: October 27, 2010, 05:31:25 am »

My daughter is one of those people who never had to study to make good grades in high school.  She's in her third year of college now and STILL getting used to having to put in the time and study. 

This. This is me. I got straight A's in high school with little effort. I'm still getting used to having to study and I'm almost done my sixth year of university. (Hopefully it won't take your daughter that long, Moon Ivy. Wink )


Ok, here's what my brain has got for advice at two-thirty in the morning. 

  • Study more than you party can be valuable advice if you're like me and prone to partying all. the. time. (and still expecting the grades to be as easy as they were in high school). And when I say partying, I really mean just any sort of enjoyable past time that is not studying. Playing WoW, sitting around doing nothing, pleasure reading....etc.

    However, if you lean towards being the studious type, then party more than you study may be better advice. Or rather, make sure you party at some point. Because you'll go crazy if you don't -- trust me on that much.
  • Make your schedule work for your body's natural rhythms, not the other way around. If you do feel you should work on adjusting those rhythms, do it gradually. Don't dive in with an early morning class if you're a night person, or a late night class if you're a morning person. Respect your body's needs, and remember your age -- not saying this as a bad thing. Just that when you're 18 your body is still a teenager's body and it's still doing those teenager things. You'll probably still need a lot of sleep. (I still need a lot of sleep and I'm 24. Partially because of other issues, but the point remains.) Also probably a lot of food -- so invest in the meal plan, if your school has one. Or Dining Dollars is what they call it here, and you go and put on X amount of money on your student card and use that like a credit card at the caf. I finally clued in to doing that this year and it's a lifesaver.

    Anyway, my basic point is to know your body's needs and work with them, not against them. If your body's not happy, you're not going to get much done, and you'll probably get sick.
  • Do your laundry often. Save change whenever you can so you can do laundry. Nothing's worse than getting up for school in the morning and realizing you have no clean clothing. I do not have advice for when the laundromats are the least busy, but in my apt building our laundry room seems to be pretty free during the week, and pretty busy on weekends.
  • Go to club fair at the beginning of the year and sign up for as many clubs as you have time for. Valuable social experiences and opportunities can be had at club meetings and events.
  • Go out and get cultured. By which I mean, go see a play or a film at the film festival or go to the museum or art gallery once in a while, instead of going to see your standard entertainment value flick (nothing wrong with those, btw). Not recommended towards the end of term, when your brain is already fried enough and you don't want to look at one more thing that makes you think. Then go to the entertainment-value movies.
  • Establish your boundaries early and often. This is a learning curve, so don't feel bad if you don't do so well at it at first. It's a huge thing for me -- I can't say no to my friends and this means I never get any studying or actual paying work done. I'm slowly learning to set those boundaries and to say "no" once in a while. It wasn't something I had to worry about in high school because I had all the time in the world, living at home and having little to no homework to do. Now I live with roommates, pay bills, have a job, cook my own food, clean my own house (sometimes), have a cat to take care of, and have to do a lot more reading and studying just to keep up. So it's been hard, but I'm getting there.
  • Keep track of all the work you do, paid or volunteer. Start a Curriculum Vitae and keep it updated. This will provide invaluable assistance when you're putting together resumes for specific jobs.
  • All-nighters are not as glamorous as college movies make them out to be, and they will wreck your body quickly. I have pulled several hundred in the past 10 years and I regret doing so, very much.
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« Reply #18: October 27, 2010, 07:37:33 am »

Keep on top of your classes, but there's a whole lot more to college than work.

Agreed, though the balance depends a lot on the kind of person you are. Which is what, ideally, you should use at least part of your energy at uni to discover. There's so much freedom and flexibility that it'd be a waste not to experiment a little to see what really fulfils you.

It's worth keeping an eye out for career opportunities, interests and requirements too. That's one thing I regret not paying more attention to in my first year, given how competitive the market is nowadays. And it's the benchmark for the minimum work you should put in if you're the kind of person who prefers partying and studying - at the very least do enough to get a job!
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« Reply #19: October 27, 2010, 12:01:52 pm »

I disagree with this. Why waste your time cooking when you can go get a meal that's already ready, especially when you've already paid for it? You could use that time for other things.

In other suggestions, be careful that you don't overdo yourself with your class scheduling, especially that first semester. I took organic chemistry my first semester and it was a disaster, as I hadn't yet figured out how to budget my time and study for a class that difficult. Plan your semesters to keep you on track so that you can graduate in a timely fashion, but don't think that you can't take 'fun' or extracurricular classes if you have time for them. When else in live will you have the chance to take them?

One of my friends in college prided herself that she didn't take 'crap' filler classes like bowling, and instead kept hers all within her engineering degree. But you know what? No one is going to care. Grad schools are only going to look at her engineering GPA anyway, not her general one. And fun classes like bowling might keep you from going crazy.

Depending on how the monies for the meal plan work, it might be good to "eat in" at times to stretch that part of the budget farther. Different schools have different systems. Thirty years ago, my meal plan was all-inclusive, period; I didn't need to worry about whether I was covered or not. Now, I hear it's not quite that simple at my alma mater. Some students do indeed "run out" of meals before semester's end, and they're stuck.

As for "fun" classes and the beast that is organic chem: At my alma mater, NO ONE was allowed to take organic chem until third/junior year/status. NO ONE. Not even the Chem majors. It was just. that. difficult.

Had my school offered minors, I'd have one in theatre arts; I took so many theatre classes I nearly had a double major, as it worked out. I fell into that group and loved the work, the lessons, the shows, and the people. For others, it was language classes, or athletics. I will say that I also fell into the complacency of second-semester freshman year, after a highly successful first semester, which led to my ending up on academic probation ("bring that GPA up or you're gone"). LFMF (Learn From My Fail) and don't do that to yourself. Sure, get the partying out of the way, I'm all for that--but don't do it to the point where your GPA is bombing and your enrollment status is endangered.

And, above all--have fun. Have fun learning, playing, meeting people, everything. You will NEVER have that time back. (About the only thing I'd change, if I had the chance, was that blown-off semester. The rest of my experiences there were some of the best I have ever had, bar none.)
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« Reply #20: October 27, 2010, 12:46:21 pm »

Depending on how the monies for the meal plan work, it might be good to "eat in" at times to stretch that part of the budget farther. Different schools have different systems. Thirty years ago, my meal plan was all-inclusive, period; I didn't need to worry about whether I was covered or not. Now, I hear it's not quite that simple at my alma mater. Some students do indeed "run out" of meals before semester's end, and they're stuck.

That's the point I was trying to make with the "eating in" advice. Most of my friends at "normal" universities often had/have to stretch out their meal plans carefully because they only included, say, two meals a day, and nothing on weekends. The planning got worse when they had friends stay the night: we all had to help figure out breakfast in order to include the most expensive items on the meal plans, and dole out cash for the smaller things. With these spartan meal plans, if they were generous and paid for everything on their plan/card, it would often mean they would have to forgo breakfast for two days.

Of course, my uni didn't even have an eating plan, so I pretty much "ate in" all the time. Which was easy because we had a kitchen and full fridge in our dorms. In any case, I think it's a good idea to learn how to cook while in university, even if it's just opening a can of soup and microwaving it. Cheesy
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« Reply #21: October 27, 2010, 01:03:19 pm »

learn how to cook while in university, even if it's just opening a can of soup and microwaving it. Cheesy

Are you implying that's not cooking??  Shocked  Cheesy
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« Reply #22: October 27, 2010, 01:05:06 pm »

Are you implying that's not cooking??  Shocked  Cheesy

Oof, if it's not, then I don't think I've cooked anything this week.  Tongue
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« Reply #23: November 01, 2010, 07:49:27 pm »

This. This is me. I got straight A's in high school with little effort. I'm still getting used to having to study and I'm almost done my sixth year of university. (Hopefully it won't take your daughter that long, Moon Ivy. Wink )

Wow.  I leave you guys alone for a few days and the thread explodes  Shocked

Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's all good advice.

Rereads Morag's post.  Yeah, that's me - I coasted through until Year 11 and finally clued in at Year 12 that I'd have to work.  I don't know how Year 12 is in the USA, but here, I know some people who went right through to PhD, and they said that the only year that was as harder than Year 12 was the PhD...
So I'm so looking forward to next year.

Thanks for all the advice, guys!  I'm feeling better about going now.  I'm planning not to room with other people; the uni only has colleges with single rooms, except for the two new ones, and I've applied for one of the older colleges.  Living with other people is something I'd probably have trouble with, because I'm an only child and not used to living *with* other people.  Except parents, but parents is different from roommates.

Lots of spare change.  Gotcha.

As for early bird/night owl...I'm an odd one in that I hate going to bed early, but I also hate getting up late.  So if I stick to my 11:00 until 7:00 sleep schedule, that should work out OK...That tends to satisfy both urges... *grumbles about exams making me so tired I sleep in*

The college is fully catered (at least, the one I'm aiming for is), but fridges are allowed.  I don't think kettles are, though...I'll have to check the rules.  But darned if I'm not bringing *something* to heat water for the all-important cups of tea.

And apart from that, be on the lookout for clubs to join and leave the room occasionally?  Sure, I think I can do that... Wink

Thanks again!  I promise not to get involved with creepy guys from later years!
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« Reply #24: November 02, 2010, 12:55:20 am »

The college is fully catered (at least, the one I'm aiming for is), but fridges are allowed.  I don't think kettles are, though...I'll have to check the rules.  But darned if I'm not bringing *something* to heat water for the all-important cups of tea.

What about electric kettles? There are several brands out there that aren't very expensive: at least, probably about as expensive as a solid stove kettle.
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« Reply #25: November 04, 2010, 09:56:02 am »

Hey, all.  So I'm about to hit university next year, and I realised I am gonna be so far out of my depth it's not funny.  I just had a few questions I'd like to ask those who are at uni themselves:

If all goes well, I should be living on campus, so what are the absolute essentials that I pack?  Clothes, toiletries, that sort of thing, obviously, but is there anything that one wouldn't normally think of that I won't be able to live properly without if I don't pack it?

And living at a college that caters for food (again, hopefully), how much money should I be able to get by on?  Just a rough estimate - I'm saving up for a few things, and looking to get my first job, so any pointers would be helpful...

And, finally, any pieces of advice you really wished you'd had in your first year at uni?  Laundries are vacant at X time of day or night, always make friends with Chem students because they're the ones with their own breweries...?

Thanks in advance for the help!



HSC finished eh? Which uni are you looking at?
I just finished my degree at Charles Sturt in Wagga. My folks are from Sydney, so it was a big move away from home for me too. But living on campus at uni is the best thing ever.
I dont know what the dorm situation is like at your uni, but I was in a dorm in first year and it was awesome. Catered accomodation is great, but you do get very very tired of crappy dining hall food quite quickly. So you'll discover where all the good pubs are that do good steak etc for when you really cant stomach another dining hall spaghetti. Tongue Also, you will become very close to two minute noodles. Tongue

Stuff that I wish I'd thought of to bring at the beginning:
THONGS. (flip flops, for the benefit of non-aussies on here). I know you probably wear them all the time, but seriously, if you're in a dorm with shared showers you're really going to want them.
A fan. Some dorms are airconditioned, most probably wont be. You dont start uni till March, I'd imagine, but it'll probably still be pretty hot.
Lots of towels.
If you can get a teensy bar fridge, bring it. It will honestly save your life. There's usually a communal fridge in the common room, but you dont want everyone else helping themselves to your lovely chilled beers. Tongue Also means that you can save half the pizza you didnt eat the night before and have it for breakfast. Smiley
dressing gown/bathrobe. if you're in a dorm do you really want to walk to and fro from the bathroom in just your towel?

money: depends how much partying you plan on doing. even if you're not a party animal, you will still be social. Wink
In my second year when I wasnt in catered accomodation I got by on about a hundred bucks a week quite easily. But that included groceries and petrol. But it depends where you are. Wagga was really quite cheap to go out in, but I know in places like Canberra a lot of the pubs etc have cover charges etc. Depends a lot on where you are. But a hundred bucks a week would do it so amazingly easily if you're in catered. what you dont use, you can save. You will end up spending a massive amount of money on books though, which is a bummer. One of my dormmates in first year was a pharmacy student and she spent a thousand dollars on her books for first semester. Be prepared to spend an awful amount of money on books. Unless you're a theatre design student like me, in which case you'll probably blow it on things like power tools and glue. Tongue
Also, if you're moving away from home, look into getting youth allowance. I know the guidelines are really strict for it now, but it's worth looking into. Rock up to centrelink and ask.

random stuff I wish I'd known:
Go to everything you possibly can in oweek. It's where you'll make the best friends you've ever had. Oweek is fantastic, so make the most of it.
depending on where you're going, agriculture students (particularlly the boys) are gross. Hilarious and fun, but crude. Tongue
Take lots and lots and lots and lots of pictures with you. You'll miss people at home. Bring a camera and take tonnes of pictures of the fun you have at uni too, because I didnt and am now wishing I did.
laundries are vacant at the weirder hours of the night and at about 10 in the morning when everyone's in class.

Oh! And dont take incense. It sets off the fire alarms. Tongue

I'm a little jealous of you actually. I just finished uni and I'm really sad I dont get to go back. it's fantastic. you'll have an amazing time.
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« Reply #26: November 04, 2010, 08:52:49 pm »



Not quite finished - VCE, and I've got three exams left (woo!), so I'll be finished this time next week.  I'm looking at ANU in Canberra.  I've been to the campuses, and (thankfully) they have heating and cooling systems installed, but I'm still taking my huge, fluffy dressing gown, for the days when it's just too cold to get out of bed  Tongue

And yeah, I'm not an incredibly social person.  Large groups of people tend to drain me after about an hour, but neither do I plan on being a shut-in.  And the catered college will cut down considerably on my living costs.  And I'd planned on spending a lot of money on books, just probably not on uni books Roll Eyes  So glad I'm not planning on doing Pharmacy...

Gah, I'll have to get some thongs... I'm sure I had a pair once, but I usually wear boots, to be honest.  Bar fridge is being widely recommended, so I'll see if I can pick up something tiny and cheap somewhere.

Incense = bad.  Gotcha.

Aww.  Good luck for after uni and all that.  I'll admit I'm planning on spending as much time as humanly possible in uni.  Now it remains to be seen if 1) I get into ANU, and 2) if I can stick it through to PhD...I'm getting some conflicting messages.  About half the people say go for it, if you want it and the other half say don't bother...my uncle wanted to get his, but gave up halfway through Masters because he was just so sick of being a student...

Thanks again to all for the advice!
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« Reply #27: November 04, 2010, 10:52:15 pm »

And yeah, I'm not an incredibly social person.  Large groups of people tend to drain me after about an hour, but neither do I plan on being a shut-in. 

It's usually pretty easy to find a balance - and there are usually chances to do things with one or two or three people, rather than a huge group. (It's also much easier if you have a single room, rather than having to share. Like I said, most schools in the US, you end up having a roommate for at least the first year or two.)

Quote
Incense = bad.  Gotcha.

It's really all about realising you share your walls with other people. (And your floor, and your ceiling: my senior year in college, I swear the upstairs neighbor a) paced in platform boots and b) had a hobby of rolling a bowling ball down the room at intervals.)

Incense is hard on other people with allergies. Candles generally aren't allowed because of fire risk. (You might be fine. Not everyone will be. And large buildings often have a surprisingly low burn time). Other restrictions might be because the building wiring can't take the sudden load of an electric kettle or whatever, if too many people do it all at once. If you look at the restrictions with the "If everyone did this, would it be safe/appropriate/okay", you can usually figure out why the limit's there. (And figure out alternatives that are fine: for example, my dorms didn't allow an electric kettle, but they did have a boiling water tap installed in the kitchen on each floor, so getting boiling water was really simple.)

Quote
Aww.  Good luck for after uni and all that.  I'll admit I'm planning on spending as much time as humanly possible in uni.  Now it remains to be seen if 1) I get into ANU, and 2) if I can stick it through to PhD...I'm getting some conflicting messages.  About half the people say go for it, if you want it and the other half say don't bother...my uncle wanted to get his, but gave up halfway through Masters because he was just so sick of being a student...

It's good to think ahead - but don't fret about it too much just yet. It is good to think about it as you're picking courses (because it's good to have skills that can lead to a job if you don't stay in academia.) A lot of my friends did a practical course (computers, biology, whatever), and then other classes in subjects they enjoyed. In terms of *staying* in academia - some people are cut out for it, some people aren't, and both are just fine.

If you're thinking about it, talk to your professors relatively early (the end of your first year, unless they suggest it sooner) about what courses you should take, chances to start doing larger research projects, perhaps get an internship or whatever over the summer. It can be a lot easier to move forward if you realise that the paper you wrote your sophomore year can be developed into a thesis, and that a piece from that can be a core part of your work for your Master's, and so on. (Especially if you keep really good notes on sources and ideas and other details all along.)

Thanks again to all for the advice!
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« Reply #28: November 05, 2010, 02:51:47 am »

It's good to think ahead - but don't fret about it too much just yet.

What Jenett said.  Smiley

I don't know how it works in Australia, but in the US, there's sort of a traditional expectation that college will take most students four years to complete.  So a lot of people go in with that expectation.

In practice, though, it doesn't always work like that, depending on a HUGE variety of factors, like: how many times you change majors, how your financial aid works out, whether you work at a full- or part-time job, whether you decide to get married while still in school, things like that.

For me, I started out majoring in theater (performance) in the fall of 1982.  After my first year, I switched to technical theater.  Then, in the fall of my third year, I got married and left school to move to a different city with my husband so he could attend an architecture school.  At some point, I went back to school in the new state (I waited long enough to establish residency so I could have in-state tuition rates), this time majoring in education.  After a year or so, and s student teacher gig in a first grade classroom, I discovered that I was NOT cut out for that.  So I left that school and applied to a different one, where I majored in earth science/geology.  I finally graduated in 1988.

And, of course, you don't have to go straight into graduate work.  It's not even a good idea, sometimes.  I think getting some work experience before grad school can be really beneficial.  It can help you understand what you want in a career and what you want to avoid.

I had two kids and went back to work between college and grad school.  And there are pros and cons to that, as well, of course.   I was raising two toddlers while working on my masters (in political management).  That took about a year and a half.  And for some insane reason, rather than taking a break after grad school, I started law school the week after I graduated with my masters.  I would DEFINITELY not recommend that.  Especially with young kids.  And law school is typically three years (here, anyway).  Because I was caring for children and also my grandmother, who was slowly dying from Alzheimer's, I ended up having to switch to part-time halfway through.  So I spent four years in law school.

Anyway, my point is that you never know where life will take you.  I never expected to get married so young.  In retrospect, there are things that I missed out on because of it.  Like, I've never lived alone.  OTOH, I wouldn't trade my husband for anything.  Marrying young worked out really well for me, but it doesn't always.

Plans are good, but it's also good to stay flexible enough to recognize and take advantage of unexpected opportunities.
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« Reply #29: November 05, 2010, 03:13:36 am »

Hey, all.  So I'm about to hit university next year, and I realised I am gonna be so far out of my depth it's not funny.  I just had a few questions I'd like to ask those who are at uni themselves:

If all goes well, I should be living on campus, so what are the absolute essentials that I pack?  Clothes, toiletries, that sort of thing, obviously, but is there anything that one wouldn't normally think of that I won't be able to live properly without if I don't pack it?

And living at a college that caters for food (again, hopefully), how much money should I be able to get by on?  Just a rough estimate - I'm saving up for a few things, and looking to get my first job, so any pointers would be helpful...

And, finally, any pieces of advice you really wished you'd had in your first year at uni?  Laundries are vacant at X time of day or night, always make friends with Chem students because they're the ones with their own breweries...?

Thanks in advance for the help!

Everyone has already given you great advice, but I have one more tip: try not to bring unnecessary expensive items, or items that have a lot of personal value (especially jewelry).  Unfortunately, not everyone is respectful to other people's property, and I have heard tons of stories of friends having their jewelry/movies/name brand bag/random sentimental item stolen.  I have always lived in an apartment and I still ended up having things missing.
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