Student walking past library

We Were All First Years Once

Looking back on my first year of university (I began at MQ in 2013), I’m somewhat surprised that I’ve made it this far. The transition from school to the real world is a big one, and there are things that I now take for granted (as a worldly and wise fifth year) that were so foreign to me in the early days. Here’s what I’ve learned about getting through Session.

I know I’ll never forget that first day I felt like I had it all sorted out. It was around week 4 of my first ever semester. I was early for the bus that morning, and I even had time to grab a coffee before heading to class, which I managed to find without looking at the map (why is this campus so big?!).  I pulled out my course notes – yes, they still printed them on paper back then – and whipped out my pen with a feeling of accomplishment. I’m totally a real adult now!

Up until this point, O-Week, followed by Weeks 1 to 4 had been a flurry of ‘Where am I?’ (I live out in the sticks, no public transport – I’d never caught a bus before), ‘What am I doing?’, ‘Is this subject actually what I want to do with the rest of my life?’, ‘Who are these other people and why do they look they’ve got it all together?’, ‘Shit, I haven’t actually read the course notes this week’, ‘What’s this ilearn thing?’.

I still had a lot to learn.

Here’s what an older me would have told a younger me:

Read the unit guide

Lecture timetable? It’s in the unit guide. Assessment schedule? In the unit guide. Convener’s name, learning outcomes, required readings, attendance? You guessed it; all in the unit guide.

BUS201 Course Outline

While the above is true for most units, there are some unit guides that aren’t always up to scratch. There are the ones where the link doesn’t work, or the timetable has changed; some that are hastily amended versions of the same guide from five years ago (what do you mean my assignment was due in 2015?!). And weren’t you there five minutes early when the lecturer told us to ignore that bit?

Hand things in on time!

Bart Simpson Meme - Bart and Homer on couch
I’ll do it this afternoon

In high school, my assignments had 50% deducted per day they were late. This essentially meant that you either handed it in when it was due, or failed. So you can imagine my joyous surprise when I learned that I was only losing 2% per day if I was late with my Uni assignments!* Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?. But a day soon spirals into a week, and then two. Before I knew it I had four assignments, all overdue and the crushing realisation that I needed to kick myself into gear if I was to have any hope of passing these subjects.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten a (tiny) little bit better at time management since then, and all – okay most – of my work gets done. And for all the other procrastinators out there, take a look at StudyWISE, which has a whole section on time management for the busy student.

First assignment nerves 

By Week 4 of Session, first assignments are probably due (eeek!). So where on earth do I start? What is a learning outcome and how do I meet it? Does my English subject use the same referencing style as my Science one? Where is the marking rubric and what does it even mean? (Come on, no one really knows the answer to that one).

Dog at computer

Again, StudyWISE has your back.  Also, there is the Library’s subject and research guides. They’ve got guides for essay writing and oral presentations; you can even brush up on your maths at the numeracy centre. Plus, if you get really stuck, you can ask a learning advisor online. They can help you interpret essay questions and figure out what’s they’re really asking you for in the – you guessed it – unit guide.

And when all is said and done

As it turns out, getting my head around #unilife was probably the hardest part (for that, you can check out Mac101). I went from feeling like I was up a creek (you know the one) without a paddle, to finally being in my last year and the relief of having the end in sight.

In my first year, I was merely trying to keep my head above water, now, with 5 years worth of hindsight, here I am giving out the advice rather than eagerly searching for the answers, here I am writing on my university’s blog in my first PACE internship, here I am confident that I can answer the questions and have the skills to complete my work to the best of my ability.

Coming into the meaty part of term, now, with more experience and perspective, it’s important to remember that we were all first years once!

*[I’ve heard some faculties are trying to address this with faculty guidelines for late assignment submissions – in FBE, assignments weighted less than 10% will get a mark of 0 if late, those 10% or higher will get 10% of the total available marks deducted each 24 hour period or part thereof that the submission is late. Excluding approved cases where disruption has occurred]

Anneliese Hoffmann is doing a PACE internship in the Learning Innovation Hub for ENGL374.

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