What to expect from uni life

Starting university is the first step in taking control of your own learning. Unlike high school, you will be responsible for deciding the best way to balance your time and complete your assignments. This is an exciting prospect, but can also be a time of transition. The information below will help you to recognise and understand some of the adjustments you may need to make. 

Tips for high school leavers

Click here for tips for high school leavers

Prepare to be independent

The majority of your learning is done outside the classroom, and you're expected to locate information by yourself. Although you may have to spend less time in classes, you're expected to do much more self-directed study.

Contact hours (or time you spend in class) depends on your course. Some, especially in engineering and sciences, can have up to 35 contact hours per week. Other courses have few contact hours, some as low as 10 per week.

Low contact hours can result in students initially thinking that uni study is not much of a commitment. But the reality is that most learning occurs outside classroom.

In order to be successful at uni, students need to spend time doing independent study and research. Time management and meeting deadlines will be key. For every class hour, students might spend three hours on study and assignments. All students at university are expected to be self-directed learners. This freedom can be scary at first, and your study can seem to lack structure – but managing study is a skill that all students can learn and seek support with.

Complete the ELISE | Informing your studies quiz 

Completing the ELISE | Informing your studies tutorial and achieving a pass (80%) in the ELISE quiz, is mandatory for all new Undergraduate students. The quiz is available from Orientation week and we suggest completing it ASAP before your workload starts to increase. This will take you through a number of key skills and concepts that are crucial to academic study.

Here's what you can expect from your lecturers/tutors

You might find that university teachers are more critical of your work. You may also get feedback on your work more slowly and infrequently than you expect.

At uni, lecturers must do more than teach students. Teaching is only one of a broad range of responsibilities your lecturers have.

Uni lecturers don't tell you everything you need to know. In lectures especially, their role is to provide the basic framework of information/ knowledge that you need in order to discover things for yourself via independent study.



Most lecturers or tutors have consultation hours during which they are available to students (usually stipulated in course outlines). If you can't attend then, make an appointment. If you turn up outside consultation hours, your lecturer or tutor may not be there, or be available. If you contact your lecturer or tutor by email, be aware that they may not respond outside working hours or on weekends.

• Getting the most from a meeting with your lecturer or tutor
• Go to see your tutor or lecturer during their consultation hours. They will be ready and able to discuss work with students.
• Use the time well. Be clear about what you hope to achieve from the consultation.
• Do some preparation beforehand. Look at your course readings and lecture notes, so that the advice that your lecturer or tutor gives has a context.
• Make a short list of things to discuss or question to ask. Prioritise the list so that you can spend most time on the issues/ questions that are the most important.
• Take notes so that you'll have some concrete advice to take away with you after your meeting.
• Don't just ask for 'the answer', or expect your lecturer to do your thinking for you. Show that you have tried to work things out for yourself.
• Go in plenty of time. Don't turn up the day before an assignment is due and expect your lecturer to drop everything to help you: they may not be able to.
• Find out if there are programs to assist first year students in your school or faculty. In some faculties, there are advisers that are given responsibility for first year students and courses. They can assist you.

Census date

Census date is the last day you may withdraw from university without financial penalty. If you are considering withdrawing at any point during your university career, it is wise to talk through your situation with an Educational Support Advisor.

Stay safe on campus

As students, we know you are integral to UNSW and we want you to have a great time while you’re here while ensuring you are safe and well.

But with tens of thousands of students on campus, looking after each and every individual can be tough. So we place a big emphasis on providing resources and services that help you do your bit and take responsibility for your own safety and wellbeing.

The new Online Safety and Wellbeing Tutorial covers a lot of important information. And it's fun! The tutorial is available to all commencing students.


Know when and where to get help

Many students run into difficulties at some stage of their course. While you are expected to be an independent learner, independent doesn't mean ‘alone'. One of the most important ways to demonstrate this independence is to know when you need to request the assistance of others. You don't have to handle all of your problems by yourself. There are lots of people on campus who can help you, but it's up to you to ask for assistance.

Develop a network

University campuses are big places and can seem impersonal. It's easy to feel disconnected when you start uni, especially before you get to know anyone.

Developing a network of friends and acquaintances on campus is not a luxury, it's a necessity—an important aspect of successful study. It's a common misconception that making friends at university will be easy. In fact establishing social networks can be challenging at first and you will need to be proactive.

It's important to make a positive effort to meet new people:

Attend O-Week events and faculty welcomes and sessions

• The first few weeks are the best time to meet other people in your courses. Exchange phone numbers or email addresses with at least one student in each of your tutorials.
• Say hi and introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you in your lectures and tutorials.
• Greet people that you recognise from your classes when you meet them on campus.
• Try not to rush off straight after class; find the time to have lunch or a coffee with classmates during the breaks.
• Don't wait for someone to include you. If everyone waited for someone else to make the first move then nobody would ever get to know anyone.

Take an active approach to your studies

University study is all about independence and taking ownership of your learning. Independent learning means:

• taking responsibility for your own learning
• talking to your family, partner or those you live with and let them know what uni will involve for you.
• managing your time and your life
• participating actively in your courses and assignments
• knowing when to ask for assistance and seeking it out