Managing your studies

Studying at university requires independent learning, which involves taking responsibility for organising your own study. If you develop and apply organisational and time management skills to manage your workload, you'll find it much easier to meet the requirements of your course. It’s important to stay on top of your workload and implement strategies that will help you manage your studies.

This is a great time to develop strong self-awareness and access the many opportunities that exist on campus to up-skill. When you graduate, you will then be better placed to manage unfamiliar and demanding workplace environments, and have the confidence to negotiate your individual needs with your employer.

Managing your time

You will be expected to make sure you have up-to-date information about your academic commitments, and can keep them. That includes lectures, seminars and other teaching sessions, meetings with tutors and assignment deadlines. If you get on top of it early, you'll have plenty of time for work and play.

Here are some suggestions to help you plan your time at university ...

Use time management tools
You're probably used to making paper timetables and using a diary or wall planner, but e-tools like calendars on mobile phones and Google, or programs like Microsoft Outlook can also help in more interactive ways. You can set them to remind you of upcoming deadlines, or add links to resources, maps and contact details, for instance. By trialling different strategies, you will soon find a system that works for you.

Spread your workload
It is very likely that you will find lots of deadlines for assignments all happening at the same time (usually the end of semester). You will be expected to manage this workload yourself - no one will accept it as an excuse if you don't get them all done. So decide on your own deadlines for starting and finishing work on your assignments, and spread the load.

If eligible, use extensions from Disability Services to spread out your deadlines if necessary. However extensions are not always your friend, sometimes an extension can push all of your deadlines into a smaller timeframe, potentially leading to stress and anxiety.

Decide when you're going to study
You will be expected to build in time for your own independent study. It's easy to keep putting this off - which means that you spend a lot of time feeling guilty about not working, and not enough on getting the job done properly. Make a study timetable and decide when you are going to do reading, seminar preparation or work on assignments. Then you can enjoy your free time without feeling as if you should be working!

Prioritise your tasks
Everyone does the things that they enjoy first - but the other things may be the ones that get you more credits, or you need more time to complete well. Consider the best way to prioritise tasks to get everything done and achieve the greatest success. If you find you're persistently putting off starting a piece of work, talk to someone who can help.

Set achievable targets
It can be hard to keep yourself motivated, so set goals to work towards. It's better to have lots of small, achievable goals ("finish reading this chapter", "write my introduction", "check my references") than big ones ("write my report") that take a long time to achieve and are difficult to pace.

Visit a Disability Services Officer (DSO)
DSOs can work with you to put together an assessment schedule to enable you to effectively manage your time to meet your deadlines.

Developing your study skills

  • To achieve your potential for academic success, keep developing as you progress through your higher education course. Most of this will happen naturally as you build on your knowledge and experience of study. However, it's good to review your practices regularly and make sure they are still working for you at the academic level you have currently reached.
  • Studying at university means learning new study skills to meet the academic standards of your course. It is important to take the time to develop these skills effectively to provide strong foundations for academic success. These include: effective note taking, critical reading and writing in an academic style.
  • Refer to the workshops and resources available on the Learning Centre and Mathematics Learning Centre websites.

Managing your emotional impact

  • Know and understand how you respond to stressful situations and what you can do to help yourself.
  • The Counselling and Psychological Service (CAPS) has put together some helpful hints and online resources to assist students develop the skills needed throughout their education.
  • We recommend taking some time to familiarise yourself with those topics which are relevant to your development. Refer to the workshops available on CAPS website.
  • Common areas of development that the CAPS office covers include: managing stress and anxiety; dealing with procrastination and perfectionism; getting organised; communicating effectively and speaking confidently; managing your thoughts and uncomfortable feelings; and a range of lifestyle and wellbeing concerns.

Managing your academic progression

  • Studying at University is very demanding, and taking on a heavy or unrealistic study workload may have a detrimental impact on your condition. It’s important to be realistic about your coping level and make realistic study load decisions appropriately. You may need to take a lighter load in order to meet all expected deadlines.
  • Every student has a different learning style and learning capacities. It’s important to choose your study load independent of other students studying your course. You should work towards your own academic goals, not those of your fellow students.
  • Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses will help you make realistic subject choices and when identifying the types of assessment that will play to your strengths.
  • In order to make well-informed decisions about your study load, ensure you research each subject, including information about assessment requirements. For example, if the impact of your condition affects your ability to be assessed in examination conditions, you may wish to choose subjects that are more essay-based units, where possible.
  • Summer and Winter school can help you make up withdrawn courses, but keep in mind that taking a decent break between semesters is a very important opportunity to rest and recuperate.

Being realistic

  • Become aware of how your disability responds to different stressors and situations and learn ways to manage those things, rather than your disability.
  • If your timetable is full and you have no time to study, you need to consider dropping some social commitments, or rethinking your employment situation – rework your timetable to provide adequate breaks between classes.
  • If you have to work to support yourself, you have to be realistic about what you can manage and what you are getting out of your uni studies.
  • Many conditions are fluctuating and unpredictable. If you are unwell and absent during first few weeks of semester, consider withdrawing from one of your units. It can be hard to catch up and starting on the back foot may mean you aren't able to perform well and achieve the most from your time studying.
  • You may experience a severe exacerbation of your condition or circumstances that are outside of your control and requires you to take a longer break from your studies. The University of Sydney allows course suspension to students on medical grounds. Seek advice from your faculty for more information.
  • If you are struggling to meet the requirements of your course by the census date (week 4/5), this is an indicator that you are trying to work above your coping level – you should reduce your study load now as the workload will only increase as the semester progresses.

Getting the most out of your studies and your time at Sydney

  • Know what you can cope with and what you can’t
  • Play up your strengths
  • Make smart choices (study load, subject choice)
  • Seek advice from teaching staff and student advisors
  • Know that there are always options – you may not know what they are, but if you seek assistance in time, those options will be presented to you
  • Get involved with student clubs/groups that interest you and make new connections
  • Know what learning resources exist so you can develop new skills
  • Know your student rights and responsibilities, and relevant policies (special consideration, attendance, enrolment variations, suspension, exclusion, candidature, appeals)

Taking responsibility

All students will need to take responsibility for the following:

  1. Managing your attendance
  2. Managing missed assessments (special consideration)
  3. Managing your study load and appropriate withdrawal
  4. Accessing the support services available and getting help in a timely manner

1. Attendance
In general, unless otherwise stated, the University is a face-to-face learning environment and individual attendance requirements are linked to the learning outcomes of a subject. Disability Services cannot make adjustments to the attendance requirements of any course. Students who experience disrupted attendance when their condition is exacerbated should contact their tutor in the first instance to discuss the status of their attendance to determine how this can be addressed - most commonly through Special Consideration. In most circumstances significant absences will result in an AF grade. Often high workload is a contributing factor in absenteeism and, where possible, students should consider whether their study-load is at a manageable level before the withdrawal deadline (census date).

2. Special consideration
Eligible students can seek assessment adjustments and examination adjustments through Disability Services. However, if students require adjustments or extensions beyond the scope of their eligibilities, they should seek special consideration through their faculty.

If a student cannot sit an examination due to illness or misadventure, they must review and follow the faculty’s special consideration guidelines.

Applications for special consideration must be lodged with the relevant faculty office, and each faculty has a set time limit within which applications need to be submitted. Please make sure you check with your faculty about their deadline.

Applications for special consideration need to be lodged directly through your faculty, not through Disability Services.

3. Managing your work load
To manage your studies effectively, you need to measure how you are coping at key points during semester and evaluate your ability to keep progressing. If you are struggling, you might need to make some changes to personal commitments, or reduce your study load. Be aware of the key withdrawal dates and penalties during semester.

If you experience an exacerbation of your disability after key withdrawal dates and find it difficult to manage, you can speak with a DSO to discuss the options available to you.

4. Student Support Services
There are a range of student support services available to help you manage the other aspects of your life that might interfere with or impact upon your studies. It is your responsibility to know that the following support services exist and to seek assistance as soon as you become aware of any potential difficulties or the need for additional support:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services
  • Accommodation Service
  • Careers Centre
  • Chaplains
  • Child Care
  • Counselling and Psychological Services
  • Disability Services
  • Financial Assistance Office
  • Learning Centre
  • Maths Learning Centre
  • Scholarships Office
  • Student Representative Bodies – SRC and SUPRA
  • Student and Staff Equal Opportunity Unit
  • University Health Service

For more information: Student Support Services.