For many 2017 school leavers, the beginning of their first university, college or TAFE semester is looming. If you have already secured your place – congratulations! If not, good luck in the next couple of rounds. Wherever you’re at, you might be feeling a range of different emotions. We’ve put together some tips to help you get off to a smooth start.
Attending university, college or TAFE straight from school can be daunting, but it’s also an exciting time. For many students, leaving the comfort and structure of school is challenging. You may not know anyone and go from seeing your friends every day to potentially having to make new friends. In addition, lecturers and tutors don’t generally chase you for your work, check up on your progress, or worry about whether or not you’ve attended their lectures. That’s up to you. Here’s our tips for ensuring a smooth start and surviving that first semester:
- Get yourself to class – this isn’t high school and no one is going to really care if you don’t turn up to lectures. You need to motivate yourself to do that.
- Don’t be afraid to change – just because you start a particular course doesn’t mean you’re bound to complete it. Many students just don’t enjoy their initial choice. You’re better off exploring your options sooner rather than later. Speak to a student adviser – you may be able to re-structure your units to avoid a transfer, or if you decide to transfer they can advise you how to go about it.
- Get organised – keep on top of work and study otherwise you may face significant stress during the hectic end of semester period. By establishing a routine early on, you’ll better balance your studies, social life and work commitments. Decide when you’ll study each week and try to stick to it. Review your schedule each week and ensure you’ve allowed enough time for revision and assignment preparation.
- Learn to learn – it’s important to become an independent learner. Your study is going to be more self-driven than before. No one is going to remind you about homework or assignments so keep track of due dates and manage your workload to ensure success.
- Ask for help – lectures and classes can be intimidating, sometimes with hundreds of people all sitting in the one room, but you should never be ashamed to ask for help. Most universities and TAFEs have great websites where you may find the answer to your question, otherwise student support services provide counselling, financial and academic advice; or your lecturers, tutors and fellow classmates are usually only too happy to help!
- Use your free time wisely – this is especially important if you have large breaks during on-campus days. Rather than leaving, stay on site and visit the library or use the time to read / study / complete assignments etc. The earlier you complete things, the less stress you’ll face later. Keeping up with deadlines and reviewing your notes as you go is a great way to utilise any breaks between lectures. If you have a late start, rather than sleeping in, set the alarm and get up early to review your notes or do some exercise.
- Stay healthy – by eating well, getting enough sleep, and ensuring you fit in some exercise. This is important to ensure you don’t become burnt out. If you’re finding it hard to maintain your regular fitness regime, investigate what’s available on campus or team up with new friends to organise walks or runs during breaks. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, and use bulk meal preparation to ensure you always have healthy food on hand that isn’t time consuming to prepare.
- Budget – you’ve probably increased your expenses since school with socialising, a car, and possibly even rent. This means budgeting is important – buy second hand books (then sell them once you’ve finished with them), take advantage of student discounts, take your lunch from home, and swap expensive social activities for cheaper ones. Don’t forget to take advantage of all the student discounts and freebies on offer as well.
- Make time for yourself – you know the drill, all work and no play isn’t the best idea so whether you take time out to relax, exercise or socialise – you need some downtime. It will help you concentrate better when you are studying.
- Get involved – university and TAFE campuses are often huge places with thousands of people, so you might need to get a little out of your comfort zone. Join a club or group of like-minded people and you might meet your new best friend! At the very least, getting involved on campus will help you settle in and activities or groups that align with your area of study will look great on your resume.
Most importantly enjoy and make the most of this time. Learning to manage your new schedule and demands will help make the transition to tertiary study smoother. Take advantage of all the resources available to you and enjoy meeting new friends.
Are you interested in obtaining some career advice. If so, our career advisors are experts in their field. If you would like some direction, please see our Career Counselling Services.
One of the most common barriers to completing further study while working full-time is the perception that you don’t have enough time. We have found that it can be done though – even for the busiest of people. It just takes commitment, some careful planning, and the willingness to perhaps give up some activities for a short period.
Many of our clients fit full-time study in while working full-time and at first it can seem like an impossible (or downright crazy) thing to do. For many people, there just isn’t any alternative for financial reasons. Others may want to study while working to support their knowledge with practical skills, or retain their position in the workplace while studying. Regardless of the reasons for undertaking study while working, it’s important to maintain a balance otherwise you are likely to burn out. In saying that, there are some periods that you will feel like all you are doing is working or studying. This is where some pre-planning is important.
Here are our tips:
- Schedule everything: at the beginning of the semester or study period, you should receive notifications of exams, assessments and anything that needs to be handed in or completed. Record all these important dates into a wall or desk planner that is easily visible. Work out what needs to be done for each subject and schedule in time each day or week to do that. By all means, enter this into your electronic calendar, but having it on show permanently will urge you to do something towards your goals on a more regular basis. If you create a schedule at the beginning of the semester and highlight when certain things need to be done by, you’ll have a much better chance of success.
- Split up your reading: for many people, reading is time consuming and can’t be done at the last minute. I don’t know about you, but I can only read a certain amount of information that needs to be retained in one sitting otherwise I just end up with brain fog. Similar to the above point, work out what you need to read and how long you have to complete it then create a schedule that helps you understand how much reading you need to do on each day or each week. Once you have your schedule, enter it into your planner and commit to doing it so you don’t end up overwhelmed at the end.
- Maximise your commute: at one time in my life when I was studying while working full-time, I chose to catch the train so I could read and/or prepare for assessments even though I had access to free parking. Alternatively, if you must drive to work, you could investigate audio options. You can even convert PDF documents to audio files with various free online tools.
- Use your time efficiently: keep some study notes with you at all times, so that when you are faced with a wait or down time, you can slot in some reading or preparation. Even short periods of 5 or 10 minutes can help – when you’re waiting in a queue, sitting at an appointment, or even working out at the gym (on a treadmill or bike) you can create some extra reading or study time.
- Make sacrifices: while we don’t recommend abandoning all leisure activities or time spent with family and friends, there are going to be times when you need to sacrifice things. You could be the most organised person in the world, but freeing up blocks of time to focus on study will make all the difference in the long run. Think about how often you watch TV or mindlessly scroll through social media. Sometimes saying yes to a social event is an automatic response, when you could have a catch up at another time that doesn’t interfere with your study.
It’s important to be realistic and work out how you can make your study schedule work. Planning ahead and working when you’re most productive helps you to achieve more in less time. And, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan – simply make another time to catch up on what you’ve missed and keep your eye on the big prize at the end.
Are you interested in studying but unsure which path to take or course to study? If you would like some direction, please see our Career Guidance Counselling.
Many people we talk to are at a crossroads in their working life. They’ve gone as far as they can, or they’re simply bored with the path they are on. Some have decided that postgraduate study would help them to climb the corporate ladder, but just don’t have the time or money to pursue it. No matter what’s stopping you, there are ways forward if you’re committed.
Most research done on the subject confirms that making the decision to study later in life not only helps reinvigorate your career, but your life as well. While further study might be necessary to achieve a desired career transition or next step, it can also help boost your career in other ways by improving your problem solving skills, inspiring the creative side of your brain, and developing your ability to think innovatively. So what’s holding you back?
- Confidence: While learning is a lifelong process that many of us embrace, the thought of formally applying your mind to study brings many people out in a cold sweat. Further study can help you uncover skills and qualities that you had all along, or achieve long held personal goals. The fact is, you may feel out of your comfort zone initially, but most people gain huge amounts of confidence once they begin, and undertaking some form of formal study usually does wonders for your self-esteem in the longer term.
- Mental Capacity: You haven’t studied since high school and don’t think you’ve got what it takes. Research indicates that our brains continue to grow and change in positive ways until we hit our early 30s – the bad news is that after that it does begin to naturally deteriorate. The good news is that research has also proven (time and time again) that by exercising our minds, we can counteract this effect and improve (or even grow) our brain. If you think you don’t have what it takes, think again – start using your brain and your capacity to learn will naturally improve.
- Time: you’re just too busy. If you have a family, there is the added pressure to spend as much time with them as you can, but the options for study these days are endless. If you’re worried about your workload, you can choose to study one subject at a time, or alternatively many institutions offer a wide range of flexible study modes including internal, external, online, intensive and mixed. This means you can fit your study around your other commitments. If you find at any time you’re not coping, or you encounter some unexpected life event, you can usually take leave and pick up where you left off at a later date.
- Cost: once you have been working for a while, and especially once you have a family, there may not be any spare cash to spend on further study. It’s important to think here about the long term impact. Short term pain = long term gain. These gains don’t necessarily have to equate to increased pay but could mean an improvement to your lifestyle or happiness by being able to change careers and work in a role that you enjoy. Many courses don’t require payment upfront, although of course, you will have to pay at some stage, so it helps if you can part pay fees as you go. The government offers various programs including: HECS-HELP, FEE-HELP or VET FEE-HELP to assist in deferring the upfront cost of further study.
- Fear of Failure: often people who study later in life enjoy the process far more than when they were younger, but taking that first step can be difficult. Research indicates that mature age students are highly motivated, have better problem-solving skills, are more independent, and better able to articulate original ideas than their younger peers. This all equates to greater success.
So what are you waiting for? The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be finished. Start today and make a difference to your career and life for tomorrow and beyond.
Would you like help deciding whether or not to undertake some further study from a Career Counsellor? Are you unsure about what direction to pursue? If so, please see our Career Advice and Career Counselling Services.