Prepping for Uni – The Ultimate University Starter Kit
If you’re a first-time university student in 2019, I bet you’re very much enjoying your extra month of the summer holiday while some of your other friends, siblings and parents are likely to have already gone back to work (we all know the best weather is in February, right?). That being said, time does fly when you’re having fun, and university o-weeks will be upon us in no time! If you’re like me, as excited as I was to start tertiary study in a subject I was passionate about, without any older siblings to guide me starting university did seem a bit daunting. In order to make this massive life change a little bit easier, we at NxtStep have put together the Ultimate University Starter Kit to help give you the gist of the ins and outs of uni life!
What you need to be preparing now
Assuming you’ve been accepted into your University’s program, you now need to enrol specifically into your classes or ‘papers’. For a typical undergraduate degree, most universities recommend that you enrol in four papers per semester and depending on the course, you may have more or less flexibility in choosing these papers. Check out our blog on Choosing Your Uni Papers for Success! to help you with this process, as well as looking at your university’s guidelines. The earlier you enrol, the better chance you will have of getting in the papers you want and having a timetable that suits you. While this can be done online, if you are struggling, go in or get in contact with your faculty.
While you may qualify to have your first year of study fees-free, you may also need to consider applying to Studylink if you are going to need assistance throughout the year for your general expenses or course-related costs. Living costs are paid weekly and are intended to help you with rent payments, university accommodation costs, petrol and food, etc. You can also apply for course-related costs which is a one-off payment capped at $1000 to help pay for study materials such as textbooks, laptops, lab coats, stationery or any other equipment you might need. Do have a good think about how much you need though, because if you don’t qualify for an allowance you will have to pay it back at some point! You can always adjust the amount you receive throughout the year as well.
Arriving at University Accommodation:
If you are moving to uni from somewhere else in the country or just moving out of home into a hall of residence, be sure to look into the recommended move-in dates as these can be up to two weeks before classes start – i.e. Victoria University’s overall move-in date this year is the 24th of February, while other universities’ dates might depend on the specific hall. Hopefully, you would have already had a chance to see what you will need in your room (i.e. bedding, etc.) and what you might need for communal areas. You should also already have been or will be about to be contacted by your RA, or ‘Residential Advisor’, who is typically a second-year student that lives on your floor to help you out with anything before or during your stay.
Finding your Classes:
Once you get your timetable, if you can, head into uni and work out where your classes are. During o-week, there will be guides stationed around the uni to direct you where to go, but if you go beforehand, you can work this out while there are fewer people around and avoid the first-day stress of not knowing where to go. When lectures start, at Massey University, the University of Auckland and most other universities, lecturers are guided to begin lecturing at 5 past the hour and finish at 5 to, which will give you plenty of time to get across campus if you have back-to-back classes, but this will be a lot easier if you know how to get to the next one!
What to Expect in your Lectures:
Now that you’re enrolled and the administration has been sorted, you should have access to your timetable, which may have a variety of lectures, tutorials, labs or workshops - but what does this all mean and how are you meant to prepare?
• LECTURES are typically held in large theatres with the lecturer at the front teaching you about the subject with the assistance of a PowerPoint presentation. You usually aren’t expected to be involved other than taking notes, although some lecturers do encourage participation through asking questions.
• TUTORIALS and LABS are small classroom like situations (10 to 30 students) where you will be expected to contribute to a discussion relating to the topics you have been taught in the lectures. Sometimes these will be run by the lecturers themselves, or by final year, post-graduate or master’s students. Depending on what you study, labs may also be practical applications of your knowledge, taking place in working chemistry labs, etc.
• WORKSHOPS are similar to tutorials, however, they take place in a large lecture-like setting, where instead of teaching, the lecturer will expect everyone to participate in answering questions.
While this is a generalisation, don’t worry too much about the distinctions as the lecturers know you are all new to the university process and everything that is expected of you (re. participation, preparation, assessments, etc.) will be well explained to you in your first couple of classes.
Books v Laptops:
This decision is entirely up to what you feel comfortable with, although most people do use laptops. Having used both in the past, I found that it’s easier to keep up with the lecturer when I was on my laptop, but if I handwrote, I picked out what I thought the important points were and my notes were more concise. If you don’t have a preferred method yet, try both and see how you go!
Textbooks v Coursebooks:
Textbooks are used as theoretical knowledge to support what you learn in lectures, and lecturers will usually tell you whether the books are recommended to assist your study or essential to be able to participate. Based on this, if they are essential, I would highly recommend you buy the book, but if they are merely recommended you may be able to get away with borrowing from the library as needed (although note that this will be harder around assignment/exam time as they will be in high demand). If you do choose to buy the books, buying new can be quite expensive so look on the university buy and sell pages for second-hand copies, but be aware that there may be different editions being advertised.
Coursebooks, on the other hand, are specifically created by the lecturers and contain a collection of the required materials for the course, PowerPoint presentations, readings and tutorial questions, etc. These are 100% required although you are likely to be able to access the materials online if you are happy to work off your computer.
What to Wear:
ANYTHING! Unless you are instructed/required by your course to be in a lab coat or a uniform, you are free to wear whatever you please! University is the perfect time to express yourself but looking presentable is always a good start.
Orientation week is described by many, particularly those from the University of Otago, as being the best week of the year. Regardless of whether your uni’s o-week is held the week before classes start or during it, the days will be filled with activities, club and society demonstrations and sign-ups, and most importantly… FREE STUFF; while every night of the week there will be parties or events designed to welcome you to university and introduce you to your peers. The university student societies put a massive effort into providing events that cater to everyone’s interests, so even if you aren’t a massive party animal, there will still be a lot of things for you to get involved in. I would highly recommend getting involved as much as you can as it is the best opportunity to make friends that may last you a lifetime.
Good luck, have fun and make the most of this new experience!
By Tayla Court, Auckland, New Zealand.