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At school, your day was managed for you with set starting and finishing times. Your homework was also controlled, with teachers chasing you up. All you had to do was sit back and let the system take care of you. At uni, it's all up to you.
1. You're in charge
Now, that's a wonderful sense of freedom, but it comes with responsibility. You'll need to get used to disciplining yourself to keep up with the reading material and with your assignments. Because the subjects are more involved, you'll no longer be able to cram your work into the night before it's due.
Teachers also won't be breathing down your neck to attend classes so if you start missing lectures and tutorials, you'll not only fall behind with your work but also start to lose the routine. So, be disciplined and focused in your approach. Set priorities, avoid procrastination, and set aside time to work and study. It's a good idea to start with some light research early on, rather than wait before the week the assignment is due.
Many students find it easier to use campus facilities, such as the library or café, to do their work, rather than working from home with all its distractions.
2. Study with life balance
You're at university to learn, but there's also so much more to campus life than studying. It's your chance to develop as a well-rounded person, and discover your interests, likes and dislikes for yourself.
Join clubs, look for other students with interests outside of uni, and - yes! - embrace the social side of meeting others your age, responsibly of course. Get into the habit early of limiting your nights out, otherwise you won't have enough time for study.
3. Network, network, network
Universities are often large, and can seem a little impersonal. So, the moment you arrive, start introducing yourself to other students, tutors and lecturers. Get to lectures and tutorials early, so you have a chance to sit around and chat. Additional ways to network include:
- Joining clubs and associations.
- Checking out the campus entertainment.
- Keeping an eye on noticeboards for off-campus events.
- Introducing yourself to your fellow students and inviting them to join you in the café afterwards.
- Attending orientation week and faculty welcome events.
Building a network has a number of advantages. It means you can call on help if you have to miss a lecture. You can talk about your experiences and about study issues. It will help you cope if you're feeling homesick. And it'll make you feel more at home.
4. Look after yourself
For the first time, you're in charge. It's easy to fall into bad habits - partying too hard, not sleeping enough, eating badly. Staying fit and healthy will help you concentrate and get better results. It'll also help you manage stress. That's not to so say you shouldn't enjoy the social aspects of being with a large number of people your age - just take all things in moderation.
5. Stay positive
At school, you may well have been top of the class. At uni, you're with everyone else who was top of their class. It's competitive, but stay positive if you start to feel that you're not up to their standard. Remember the qualities and abilities that got you to university in the first place.
If you feel you're falling behind and struggling with life at uni, you can find plenty of support from tutors and other staff.
Finally, focus on the long term goal - the reason why you're studying in the first place. Each assignment and every lecture is a small step towards your career and an independent life.