Welcome to First Year

Welcome to the Sydney School of Education and Social Work's online home for the First Year Experience. This website has been designed to support you in key areas that have been identified by previous students as important to the success and enjoyment of first year. The site includes the voices of fellow students based on interviews and reflective narratives that have emerged from a large student survey on the first year experience conducted in 2010.

Sticking it out is a huge thing for first year. You have to make it through the tough times to actually get anywhere.
Year 3, BEd (Primary) Student

Hopefully, by hearing from other students you will understand your experience better and that the successful negotiation of first year is important to all of us in the school. Please take the time to explore the available resources.

What to expect

Following are a series of interviews where students share their perspectives of what was challenging about first year and rewarding about coming to university.


Gideon's first year experience

“You can get more engaged with other students and there are a lot of social events on campus. You don’t have to drink…”


Chely's first year experience

“My first year was difficult because it was hard to adjust to the academic style of studying…”


Karina's first year experience

“It was challenging to have to meet new people and form new relationships but that is now one of the most rewarding things about being part of the school…”


Lizzie's first year experience

“I found it easier when social work students came together in the same class…”


Khadine's first year experience

“I didn’t pass my first essay, it was a bit confronting for me…”

The journey

Expectations of university are different from school. I think students need to be prepared for the differences between school and uni and the academic staff are the ones who are the most able to communicate this.Year 5, BA/BEd Student

Studying at university can require a big adjustment. Whether you have completed the HSC, are returning to study as a mature age student, or have come in through other pathways such as TAFE - everyone will find they have to adjust to various elements of university study.

Studying at university gives you a lot more flexibility and freedom therefore one of the major adjustments you will have to make is managing your time. Scheduled time in lectures and tutorials is only one element of what is required. The majority of time that you will use will be spent in independent study: reading, preparing for tutorials, researching and completing assignments. While all this is happening you may also find you have other time pressures that need to be factored in such as work and family responsibilities.

Understanding the expectations of academic work and mastering the new skills required is another major adjustment. This can be a struggle for some students. The key to this is to ask questions about what is expected from lecturers and tutors, plan and allow enough time to do the work that is being assessed as it often takes a lot longer than anticipated.

If the mark for the first assignment is not as good as it could be then this is the opportunity to take note of the feedback given, seek further advice and reflect on what to do differently in the future. This is all part of a process for students to understand their own learning better, build their ability to self-regulate and become self-directed, independent learners.

While students in the Sydney School of Education and Social Work have a clear goal to become qualified educators and social workers, there are also broader aims in studying at university. These are summarised by the university as graduate attributes and are consistent with fostering student development and growth more generally. You can see from the attribute of "lifelong learning" that this is a natural progression from the self-regulation and self-direction required to successfully study at university, in addition to the intellectual curiosity, inquiry skills, critical thinking and ethical understandings that have been developed.

All students bring with them their experience of previous study and all are at different points of the journey. Building networks with other students is a way to enhance the student experience and to provide support for each other. Remember while the goal is to attain a degree, the process and the people that you meet are also important and often the most rewarding.

This website has been designed to cover a number of key topics that students in the school identified as important in a survey on the first year experience. We hope that by watching our student and staff vodcasts and accessing the various resources given this will be of benefit to all students in their negotiation of first year and beyond.

Good luck and enjoy the journey.

Resources at Sydney

Other resources

Thanks and acknowledgement are given to colleagues from the Learning Centre, The University of Sydney and from other institutions who have contributed to the open access resources cited.