Module Thriving at University

Introduction

Choosing to Study

Studying at university can be quite a scary thought, especially if you don't know what to expect...

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Being at university will be a time of great change for you, where you will probably experience both excitement and anxiety imagining what the years ahead at university will be like.

You want to not only thrive at university but also make the most of your time and energy as a student right from the beginning. Understanding the particular challenges that university students face will enable you to do this with as little stress as possible.

This module aims to better prepare you as a student by introducing you to some of the issues and changes you will encounter at university, with the goal of making your transition to the University of Newcastle a smooth and successful one.

Before beginning, let's first explore your reason(s) for choosing to study.

Topic 1 Choosing to Study

Knowing your reason(s) behind your decision to study, and being clear about your goals, can keep you motivated and increase your chances at university.

So take a moment and consider:

  • What are you studying?
  • What are your aims?
  • What would you like to achieve?

It may be because you want to prove to yourself you can do it or you are purely interested in learning more about a particular subject. You may be determined to study for work-oriented reasons. Whatever the case, there is no right or wrong reason for choosing to study although if you have some personal interest in the studies then you are more likely to remain motivated.

So to help maintain focus throughout your degree, keep in mind your reason(s) for undertaking study in the first place!

Checklist

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Now that you have an idea about why you have chosen to study, let's take a look at some of the transitions that students encounter at university.

Topic 2 Transition

A transition is a movement from one phase in your life to another. By attending university, you are embarking on an educational transition. This transition is just one chapter in your career development and can largely influence your overall experience as a student right from the beginning of your degree to when you exit university. Therefore, it's a good idea to be aware of the processes that occur with a major change as you begin your study. One strategy is to understand the transition process. This can be represented by a transition curve.

The Transition Curve

As you can see from the diagram below, there are a number of stages that most people go through when they are making a transition from one major situation to another. The same stages apply when making the transition to any new situation such as beginning your first year at university or approaching your transition from university to the workplace or further study.

What stage of the transition curve are you currently at?

Adjustments

As you move through each stage of the transition process, there will be a range of adjustments you will need to make in order to advance at university. These will be very important around week 4 to week 7 when assignments and exams are due. Some of the adjustments you will need to make to thrive at university can be grouped under six possible headings and could include:

Personal

  • Being confident in yourself
  • Becoming more independent
  • Dressing appropriately for the environment
  • Developing a clear understanding of who you are and what you want
  • Using support services when needed

Social

  • Meeting new people
  • Size of your social circle
  • Alternative social groups, i.e. clubs
  • Settling in and forming friendship groups

Academic

  • Knowing the contact times with lecturers, tutors, unit coordinators etc.
  • Preparing and completing the required workload
  • Unstructured/structured timetable
  • Making time to attend ALL lectures and tutorials
  • Managing your expectations by preparing for the unexpected
  • Managing and maximising tutorial times
  • Not being afraid to ask questions!
  • Utilising resources such as the library
  • Reflecting and learning from assignment feedbacks

Career

  • Being able to confirm or challenge your choices
  • Understanding the future direction of your preferred job or industry
  • Making initial choices (preferences) and setting goals
  • Being open to possible alternatives

Physical

  • Travel to, from and around university
  • Accommodation
  • Managing stress
  • Maintaining a healthy diet

Spiritual

  • Values clash
  • Finding like minded individuals

At this stage, you should be able to identify your reason(s) for choosing study, the transitional process that occurs with the change to university, as well as the adjustments you will need to make to accommodate your university commitments.

Let's now take a look at some helpful tips that can increase your chances of succeeding at university.

Topic 3 Strategies

Below are some strategies you can use to deal with the issues you will face as a student and to help make your university experience a positive and successful one.

Networking

  • Develop a small group of trusted friends to share your issues and concerns with.
  • Make as many industry connections within your future area of professional interest.
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities offered through the university i.e. Careers Service events
  • Join a relevant professional association as a student member

Goal Setting

  • Begin to set short and long term goals for motivation. The Finding My Direction Career Module has some tips on how to begin personal goal setting.
  • Your short term goals might be to get a certain mark in the next assignment.
  • Your long term goals might include completing your degree and getting a specific type of job.

Varying Your Techniques

  • If you are struggling to get on top of an issue, it probably means the strategy or strategies you are using are old and inappropriate for the task. Be flexible and open, by trying different strategies until one is effective.
  • Take advantage of workshops and seminars provided by the University of Newcastle or outside university to discover alternative ways of learning.

Self-Management

  • Self-management is about coping with stress, dealing with conflicts and developing personal confidence and self-esteem.
  • Keep a good balance in your life of your sporting, artistic, social and physical interests etc. If you drop any of these your brain and body will become unbalanced and this will lead to a greater risk of anxiety and apathy etc.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle by having a nutritious diet, sufficient relaxation and sleep, regular exercise, drinking alcohol at a moderate level and using non-prescription drugs (i.e. cigarettes) at a minimal level, have both emotional and social support/contact and try to minimise stress as much as possible.
  • Accept that not all the experiences of studying at university will be positive (e.g. failing an assignment or receiving a grade less than expected). You may need to reappraise and readjust to move forward.
  • Seek available help when you feel that you need it.

Using Support Structures and People

  • Find out who to ask for help and don't be afraid to ask them!
  • Find out where the different services, facilities and offices are on each campus and why they exist. That way you will have an idea about what they can provide and how you can gain the most value from them.
  • Make personal contacts with people who can greatly assist with your study, such as your lecturers, course coordinators or tutors.
  • Get to know some of your fellow students well as they can help with your success by providing an opportunity to swap ideas and resources, provide feedback on how you are doing, collect handouts and take notes for you in cases where you cannot make a class or help you understand something in a lecture you were unsure about.
  • Seek support from home, as your family/partner can provide you with extra encouragement.

Time Management

  • Get a wall planner from the campus bookshops to timetable significant events and deadlines.
  • Draw up a timetable which not only includes your university commitments but also all your outside commitments, such as part-time work, sport training, picking kids up from school.
  • Put your wall planner/timetable up next to your desk or where you do your work to readily be able to see deadlines and future commitments.
  • Plan ahead by spreading your workload over the semester (e.g. completing an assignment a few weeks in advance) in order to avoid becoming overcommitted at specific times of the year.

Building Confidence

  • Think about how you may increase your motivation, what your strengths are, how you can work on a style that is uniquely you; what satisfies you; can you increase your productivity; what achievements you have made and how you overcome challenges.
  • Know what you are competent at and know your values. Consider completing the VIA Signature Strengths questionnaire www.authentichappiness.com

Reading, Resources, Writing and Referencing

  • Always use the recommended ways of referencing material; work on your existing study strategies as well as trialing some new study techniques.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions and concentrate in lectures and tutorials.
  • Set yourself a goal of asking at least one question in each tutorial. That way the tutor will get to know you and assume you are keen and interested. This can also help build your confidence level.
  • Use the University of Newcastle’s Careers Service to look up 'Graduate Outcomes' data or talk to final year students and industry professionals in your area. All this data should help motivate you as to why you are doing the course you have chosen and where you might want to take it.

Overall...

  • Be assertive, rather than be passive and don't let problems overwhelm you
  • See issues as challenges to solve rather than to avoid
  • Set small goals and celebrate achieving them
  • Seek advice and assistance

You've had quite a bit to think about! Now let's relate what you have learnt about personal transitions, adjustments and possible strategies back to YOU.

Activity One: Successful university strategies

Think about how you believe these strategies will help you be successful at university, and briefly explain why you think so.

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Topic 4 Student Experiences

Laura - Arts/Law

Corey - Diagnostic Medical Radiography

Amy - Teaching (Primary) / Early Childhood

Sam - Nursing (Honours)

International students

Issues

As you begin your journey as a university student, you will be faced with a number of different issues that can affect your studies.

Activity Two: Issues

In the textboxes below (labelled "Issue"), list five issues you think you will face when you start out at university or are facing now that you are a student at UoN. In the second table of textboxes below (labelled "Solution(s)"), describe how you might deal with these issues. Include the resource (website, contact person or department) which will help you resolve this issue.

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Activity Three: University resources

For this activity, you will make your own resource page where you will address and record those who can assist you in making your university experience an effective and successful one.

Use the University of Newcastle web site to research some of the services and sources of assistance and if possible put in a room number, email address or a telephone contact number.

Use the headings as a guide to get you started or simply fill in the blanks if you believe you could gain support from all of these resources now or in the future.

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Creative Commons Licence

Prepare for Uni is adapted from the Career Development Program of the Queensland University of Technology. Licensed under Creative Commons License.