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Top 10 tips for first-year students

15 December 2016
How to make the most out of your first year at Sydney

Your first year on campus can be intimidating. New people. New classes. New locations. We asked current University of Sydney students to share the things they have learned during their time on campus.

Embrace uni life: 'Give it your all, but don't beat yourself up.' 

1. Talk to your professors and tutors

“Find a reason to meet with them during office hours (clarify a lecture note, ask about an essay, etc.) and get your face in their mind. Not only does this give them a greater chance of learning and remembering your name, it shows that you are willing, dedicated and serious about their subject. It sounds rather silly, especially in first year, but it will make a big difference to your attitude (and theirs) as your degree progresses. Most professors are really lovely people.”

- Magdalen Lovegrove, Bachelor of Arts (Film Studies) 2016

2. Find out about the services available to you

There are so many services on campus from the Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS), to the Faculty of Arts Support Services, to the free tax refund help that the SRC provides! It’s best to know where the services can be found in case you find yourself in a sticky situation or to refer your friends!”

- Tiffany Wong, Bachelor of Arts (Languages) second year student

“The Careers Centre is one of the most useful things the uni has presented to me. Even it is your first semester in your first year, it is not too early to start preparing your resume for your dream job. There are also career opportunities that are beyond your imagination, say, teaching primary student kids in the UK!”

- Jade Cai, Bachelor of Commerce / Bachelor of Laws fourth year student

3. Go on exchange

“It might be one thing to travel overseas but it’s another to study abroad! I went to Washington D.C. for six months and made friends from all around the world (and couches to crash on!). I studied US history and politics, did my readings in the Library of Congress, survived a snow storm and loved every minute of it.”

- Christopher Chan, Bachelor of Design Computing 2016

4. Placements can be tough, but they are worth it

“There are nine clinical placements throughout the Bachelor of Applied Science (Speech Pathology) degree, and each of these experiences are invaluable. Practising and experiencing the work of a speech pathologist first-hand is where you learn things that you simply would not and could not learn by sitting in a lecture theatre. Placements will challenge you, but they do so in a way that only improves your clinical skills, problem-solving abilities and overall confidence and competence.”

- Antonia Chacon, Bachelor of Applied Science (Speech Pathology) 2016

5. It’s OK to take time off

“Take a night off once a week to eat good food with good company, it’s amazing what a bit of time out can do. I also advocate the food and Friday night drinks at Courtyard Restaurant and Bar on the ground floor of the Holme Building.”

- Evelyn Boukouvalas, Bachelor of Pharmacy fourth year student

6. Take care of yourself

“Have a scheduled and regular sleeping pattern. Taking an exam while nodding off or only being able to think about your comfy bed is difficult to say the least. To make sure that you do your best not only in your academics and practical components of the course but also to enjoy the time you have together as a cohort, get a good night’s sleep every night! By doing so you’ll keep your mind and body healthy while being to enjoy the rare commodity known as sleep that eludes many university students!”

- Douglas Truong, Bachelor of Oral Health

“Take care of your health. Juggling uni, home life, friends, work and a social life can feel overwhelming. But before dealing with any of that stuff, take care of yourself! Without being the healthiest and most centred version of yourself, you can't fully show up to any other part of your life. Try to be present in every activity throughout your day to make the most of your time. Everyone needs a bit of help during their uni life, so use all available facilities to your advantage. Join the gym or go to the pool with friends. There is more to uni than just the classrooms and libraries.”

- Caitlin Gauci, Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications)

7. Embrace the campus culture and university social life

“The University of Sydney is the best university in the country not only for its academic record but also because the student experience is second to none. Join a society. Discover a talent you never knew you had. Explore an interest and develop a community.”

- Jacob Masina, Bachelor of Arts (Hons)/Bachelor of Laws second year student

“Whether it’s applying for a student leadership position, going on a short-term exchange, or just taking more initiative in class, taking advantage of the myriad opportunities available is the best way to feel comfortable at uni. Having let opportunities pass me by in my first two years, stepping out of my comfort zone in the third increased my enjoyment of uni life an incredible amount. You’d be surprised where taking one may lead you!”

- Jayden O’Brien, Bachelor of Science / Bachelor of Arts third year student

8. Introduce yourself to people - don’t be shy!

Break the ice and introduce yourself to people in your lectures and tutorials. Everyone is in the same boat - you’re all just hoping to meet people! I met one of my best friends after tripping over him in our first year Political Economy lecture. I just took the opportunity to strike up a conversation. It really goes to show how a new friend might just be one ‘hi’ away.”

- Elizabeth Toriola, second year Juris Doctor student

This applies to interactions with everyone, everywhere - teachers and students, on and off campus. Chatting to people in your class makes the campus a friendlier place and I for one definitely underestimated how much students can help each other out! Don't be afraid to approach tutors either, and ask questions if you have any either in class or by email. They are happy to help and mostly very approachable! Get involved, speak up and make the most of your time at uni - we only live it once.”

- Tallulah Bur, Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws fourth year student

9. High school vs university classes - don’t be intimidated

“Get organised. Use highlighters and coloured pens, sticky notes and bookmarks; anything that will help you stay on top of a busy schedule. Make an assessment timetable for the whole semester to remind you to study for even those small quizzes - they all add up and can make a difference between obtaining credits and distinctions.”

- Natalie Krstevski, Bachelor of Economics second year student

“Stay motivated. In high school, there was a correct way of learning, being in class, taking notes and doing homework. Whereas in uni, there is none. You do not have to show up in lectures and you do not have to hand in your assignment on time (but not advisable for you to do so). Responsibility is all yours, and this is why uni is a little harder and a lot more demanding than high school.”

- Jade Cai, Bachelor of Commerce / Bachelor of Laws fourth-year student

“I discovered that when completing group work if everyone takes responsibility for the assignment as if it was their own, instead of waiting to fall back on others, the work is [of a] higher quality and there’s more collaboration.”

- Zhili (Lily) Guo, Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil)/Bachelor of Project Management

10. Don’t take yourself too seriously

“We all have less than stellar semesters. We can't all get straight HD's. The key is to give it your all, but don't beat yourself up. At the end of the day we are all here to learn and every experience, expected or unexpected, is a learning experience. Enjoy your time at uni. Keep things in perspective and frame your studies as something that enriches your life and friendships. Have fun with it.”

- Caitlin Gauci, Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications)