Choosing your Uni Papers for Success!
Depending on who you are as a person, enrolling in university papers at the start of the year is like the first day of school - you’re either excited to start the year and bust out your new stationery, or you’ve been dreading it since your last exam. Either way, the papers you enrol in (and what times they are) will set the tone for your upcoming year, so it’s important to get it right!
1. Create a Degree Planner
The degree you are studying will determine whether you will have more or less options when it comes to enrolment time. For example, most first-year commerce or business degrees are quite structured whereas science or arts degrees tend to be more open with what you can do. This can make picking the perfect timetable seem like an impossible task when there are hundreds of options available to you. If you haven’t done so already, I would recommend visiting your faculty’s website or making an appointment with them in person to create a degree planner, so you can have some direction in picking your papers – especially if you’re like me and want to be as efficient as possible to finish as soon as you can. A degree planner will also become essential as you progress through university, as many second and third level papers require you to have completed certain past papers, and some papers will only be offered in the first or second semester.
2. Choosing the Right Papers
As I mentioned above, some degrees are more rigid than others. However, if you do have the freedom to choose your papers from a broad range of options, it’s important you pick the right ones. Most of us are attending university with the hopes of getting our desired job at the end of it, so it’s really important that you find a balance between papers that interest you and papers that will help you with that future job. If you’re not sure what future employers are looking for, have a look on some of the big firms’ websites as they may give guidance on what papers they require, otherwise book in to chat with your university’s careers advisor.
In saying that, while we all have to do papers we don’t really enjoy at some point, I’ve found that I do a lot better results-wise when I’ve actually enjoyed what I was learning. Try to pick papers that will interest and engage you because it will make you more willing to study for it! Additionally, if you have the option to – play to your strengths. If you’re an exam person, pick papers that are more exam weighted. If you prefer to do assignments during the semester and have a less-weighted exam, then take that route. Information about all the papers offered should be made available on your university’s website at some point during the semester prior, and this will give you details about the course and assessment structure, as well as providing a description of the topic. Talking to students who have done the paper previously is also very helpful!
3. Picking Gen-Eds or Electives
Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between a general education paper and an elective paper. For example, the University of Waikato and AUT elective papers are papers that aren’t compulsory (say for achieving your major) but are somewhat related to your studies; whereas UoA general education papers are compulsory to take during your degree, but are specifically delegated to being completely unrelated to your studies in order to expose you to a broader range of knowledge. While electives are chosen to complement your major, general education papers can be harder to pick as you can choose almost anything outside your field of study!
After talking to my friends and through my own experience, I found that the most common considerations for general education papers typically are – is it easy, how does it fit into your timetable and will you enjoy it. It can be tempting to pick something similar to your field of study, but employers and the university recognise that that is not the point of a gen-ed – so really have a read of the course descriptions and pick something a little different – I mixed my BCom/LLB up with a gen-ed physics paper on astronomy!
Most undergraduate degrees require you to do either one or two general education papers, and doing them in summer school can be a good option if you need it as they are usually less content-heavy than your other subjects and therefore are easier to learn in a compacted amount of time. If you don’t need to do summer school, try fitting your gen-ed in with other papers you know that you’ll find harder, as it will take a bit of pressure off during exam time as they are usually all level one papers!
4. Enrol Early
It can be easy to be caught up in the New Year/Summer festival bubble, but try and enrol as early as you can. While first years will need to wait until you’ve been accepted after your high school results are released, second years and above are typically able to enrol during or immediately after the exam period of the last semester. Enrolling early means that you are more likely to get a spot in the classes that you want at the best times (which, let’s be honest, no one wants to be in class at 8am on a Monday or 5pm on a Friday if you can avoid it).
TIP: enrol in your semester two papers when doing your semester one enrolments, as it will guarantee you the best spots. You can always change your mind later!
5. Change if you aren’t happy!
There is a common misconception that once you enrol you are stuck in the paper as you’ve paid for it, but most universities will give you around a 2-week grace period where you can change in and out of papers. My advice as a 5th-year student – if you hate the paper in the first two weeks and it’s not compulsory, change out of it… your semester will be a lot more enjoyable!
Because other students will also be switching in and out of papers at this time, it also means that courses which were too full for you to enter or streams at better times may become available, so keep an eye out over that time for any changes!
By Tayla Court, Auckland, New Zealand.