How to Survive as a Fresher
Congratulations! You’re a fresher.
After five long years of working your way up the social hierarchy of high school, you’re now back to square one. You’re the little fish again, and now the big fish are, like, adults.
Fortunately for you, StudyTime isn’t going to leave our day ones high and dry in the anarchical outback that is university life. All of us have been through our respective first years and survived relatively intact (or at least with minimal scarring), and we’re here to help.
Here are our top tips for surviving as a first year.
1. Tutorials are for making mates
The thing about being in your first year, especially considering the fact that most students are in new cities, is that everyone wants more friends. However, talking to strangers in a big lecture hall seems less than ideal when you’re desperately trying to appear as cool as possible whilst simultaneously hiding the anxiety (everyone’s got it).
Tutorials are the best way to make uni-long friends. Everyone in it has a few things in common:
- Everyone is a first year wanting to make friends
- Everyone is studying the same thing
- No one wants to be there
Tutorials without friends suck, but the good news is that you’ll be sitting in a confined space with the same people every week, and after a few awkward icebreakers from the tutor, you can quickly build up a list of at least two people you like enough to sit next to in lectures.
2. Budget for food
True story: I spent way too much money on food in my first year. I spend way too much on food now, but in my first year, it was just silly.
Think of how much money you think I spent on food. Double it.
This is due to a variety of collaborative factors: your mum is no longer making you lunch, sushi is overpriced, and you’re now getting StudyLink money.
The financial habits you get into in your first year will set you up for later years, which is when you want to, you know, do stuff and go places.
Set yourself a weekly budget for food, and also try to make as much food at home as possible.
This is also helpful for another threat to your fresher survival experience: the fresher five. Calories count on weekends, people. Hash browns are not a whole food.
3. Don’t stress about planning your future
Going to uni is a big step in your life, and as such, it gets a lot of attention and stress put on it. It can sometimes sound like you’re planning and micro-managing your future education and career at age 18, and that is definitely speaking from personal experience.
The truth is, pretty much everything I studied in my first year is completely different. Pretty much everyone I know has changed their studies somewhat, and pretty much everyone still has a limited idea about what they’re doing.
Don’t stress about having a five-year plan, and don’t stress about managing your life in your late teens (or early twenties, for that matter).
According to Professor John Krumboltz of Stanford University, this can actually be counterproductive.
As we grow older and more experienced in what we’re doing, we often change our studies and future career path quite a lot, because life is like a box of chocolates and is full of unexpected chocolates that can shape our future; some good, some not-so-good (looking at you, cherry ripes).
Professor Krumboltz noticed that successful people often stress how important it is to remain focused while always remaining open to the unplanned and unexpected. This is called planned happenstance.
Basically, planned happenstance involves working with some vague ideas and doing positive things in the general direction that you want to go in, while still having confidence that by applying yourself and keeping an open mind, good things will happen.
4. Study smarter and take good notes
Unfortunately, breezing your way through the year with self-deprecating lack-of-study jokes and a complete lack of study, paired with last-minute cram sessions with your mates the week of the exam doesn’t work at uni.
This is especially true with some of the more demanding exams, and ones that require a lot of research or reading throughout the year. It’s physically impossible to get through many, many chapters of scholarship on African politics the night before the exam (I’ve tried).
If you want to give yourself the best advantage going into your first year, get some form of tracker or schedule, buy a wall plan, and make your days a bit more productive. Fortunately, if you’re a StudyTime OG, you’ll have a whole lot of educational psychology-approved tips and tricks to optimise your study potential.
Don’t rote learn by re-reading, highlighting, and re-writing convoluted notes over and over again. Do test yourself through past exams (on the uni library website), cheat sheets, and thinking about the context behind the content that you’re learning.
Don’t rock up to lectures unprepared before frantically typing down everything the lecturer says, starting with what uni they got their masters at. Do your readings ahead of time and prepare skeleton notes, then listen to what the lecturer’s saying and just jot down any extra things to help you think about the content.
5. Be good with your money
This is similar to our little chat about buying overpriced sushi at uni, but a little bit broader. You’ll be amazed at how much money you can blow on food, nights out, clothes whilst online shopping during a particular tedious lecture, travel, and textbooks.
If you take any money out, make sure you’re keeping track of it and saving any extra. Set a budget that will allow you to make money every week, and use your StudyLink money wisely – don’t take out more than you can’t pay back, and keep track of how much you’re spending.
You can take a weekly allowance out, which will help supplement your income (working full-time with uni is not ideal), as well as $1o00 for course-related costs (textbooks, electronics, travel, etc.). This is great, especially if you want to add to your savings over the next few years – but make sure you’re keeping track of it! #spreadsheets
6. Invest and Reinvent
Uni is a fresh new start. Everyone changes drastically over the next few years, so you may as well do it for the better. Suddenly, a whole lot of things that mattered in high school just, well, don’t. You don’t need to hang out with anyone you don’t want to, you don’t need to impress Becky, and you don’t need to pretend that succeeding academically is lame.
Think of your first year of uni as your chance to start becoming the adult you want to be. Invest in yourself – learn new skills, take the classes and go to the events that interest you, go to the gym, buy a new wardrobe, become a diary person. Most importantly, leave the old, high school you in the past like the old Taylor.
The next few years will be the most challenging, transformative, and expensive years of your life. Hang on for dear life, enjoy the ride, and most importantly. . .
Get good at learning.
And have fun with it.