Your first year of university: 10 things no one tells you

It’s a big question. What’s that first year of university like? Reading any advice or tips about going to uni, you’re going to get a lot of useful info. Essential stuff like subject enrolment and where to get your student ID. But what about how it’s going to feel? What it’s like to actually move out of home? To meet loads of new people?

Starting uni is a unique experience, so here are a few tips on what to expect and how to survive – and totally smash! – your first year at uni.

By Pia Priestley
Bachelor of Communication
(Public Relations and Advertising)
Charles Sturt University

1.  Being responsible is a little harder than you might think

There are a lot of things that will no doubt be going through your mind when you think about your first year of university. Who’re going to be your friends? What will your subjects be like? How are you going to get to class every day? It’s easy to forget that you’re going to need to look after yourself as well, especially if you’re moving out of home. You (and only you!) are in charge of what you eat each day, for making time to do the washing, ensuring that you have enough down time and planning exercise. You need to learn how to manage your time because no one is going to be on your back reminding you when things are due. It’s a bit of a culture shock at first, so just know it’s coming!

2. You’re seriously going to have to budget

Let’s talk dollars and cents. You need to know how much you have, and what you need to spend. There’ll be things you have to get, like textbooks or uniforms, but also things you can choose whether you buy or not. You need to start seriously asking yourself if you need something like that skirt you really liked in the window of that shop… $100 today could be $100 on accommodation during an overseas study trip or a tank or two of fuel for your car. Know when to ‘treat yo’ self’, but also be aware of your saving goals. If you master your finances in your first year of uni you will be set for the duration of your uni degree.

3. You’re actually going to have to work hard in your first year of university

Attending class every week for all of your subjects is a must. Just by doing this, you will be ahead of the pack. If you want that high distinction, do the readings and take notes. Ask questions. Form a study group. And if you stay on top of your study, you can go out to that really fun event on Saturday night stress-free! Remember that at the end of the day, you’re here to learn and advance your career. Don’t lose sight of the end goal!

4. You need to learn how to cook

Yes, I know takeaway is easy and convenient (and sometimes so much tastier), but not only will a takeaway habit take a toll on your health, it will also put a serious dent in your bank account. A few quick and easy recipes in your back pocket will mean you eat well, without spending a fortune. I always turn to stir-fry, as it is great for leftovers and easy to make a bulk amount to freeze or share with friends. If you’re living with people, try cooking for everyone and splitting the cost. It makes cooking at home even cheaper and it’s a great way to unwind after a busy day.

5. Just because you can go out nearly every night of the week, doesn’t mean you have to.  

When you hit your first year of uni, you’ll notice that there’s the potential for a night out any night. So, it really doesn’t matter if you do miss a night or two – there’ll be plenty more opportunities. Don’t be afraid to say no, get some extra sleep, finish those study notes, or just chill out with some Netflix.

6. Stay on good terms with your dormies

Life is so much easier when everyone gets along, right? So if you find that you’re butting heads with your dorm mates, it might be time to reflect. Learn to agree to disagree. Sometimes in life, people will do things you don’t like or relate to. Therefore, my advice is to learn to ignore it and let it go.

7. Get into a routine of waking up at the same time every day

Leaving high school and starting your first year of uni can be a bit of a shock when you don’t have a routine. Getting up at the same time each day helps get you ‘in the zone’, even if every day is different. Not only will you be into a rhythm, but it will make your days so much more productive!

8. Your friends might change as your first year of university rolls on

And that’s okay! But this doesn’t mean you should stop making an effort with people you made friends with at first. People tend to change and grow quite a bit during their uni years (this goes for friends back home too!). Don’t feel you have to be besties with the first person you meet. As you progress through your university degree, you’ll make friends with people in your classes who live off campus and potentially even commute to uni. You’ll also meet people through extracurricular activities… and then you’ll get to meet all of their friends too!

9. Travel while you’re a student

After uni, it might become harder for you to find time (or annual leave) to travel. In addition, travelling gives you a broader perspective on the world. There is no other experience like it. Not to mention, travelling as a student means plenty of great discounts – so it’s probably going to be the cheapest point in your life to travel! Why not take advantage of travelling in your first year of uni and try an overseas study trip?

10. Make the most of being at uni buy joining a club or a sports team

Having never played sport throughout my 13 years of school, I am as un-co as they get! However, when I left school, I promised myself that I would get involved in as much as possible at uni – and I’m SO glad I did. It was the best goal I’ve ever set for myself. For example, in my first year of uni I joined a league tag team and made so many friends – even with people who I don’t live with or do the same course. If it wasn’t for doing this, I wouldn’t have half the friends I have today.

Keen to find out what living on campus is like in your first year of university?

Chances are you’ll meet your people, grow as a person and have a hell of a time while you’re doing it. Find out more about living on campus.