*Disclaimer – this is based on my personal experience of spending the last 4 years in university and I only hope that this provides high school leavers some insight into the things I wished I knew when I started out in university

A huge congratulations to anyone out there who have just completed their HSC, it is a tough year to get through and I sincerely hope that you’re all treating yourselves to a well-deserved summer break.

For anyone starting their new semester this year, University is going to be some of the best and hardest years of your life. You are unleashed into the world of adulthood where no one will follow up with you if you haven’t completed an assignment or remind you that you have an exam coming up next week.  Although this may be a daunting experience, being able to choose what you want to learn and take it all in at your own pace can be an amazing learning experience.


Managing your schedule and your semester

The flexibility that comes with tertiary education means that how much you study and how you plan your semester is really up to you. In an ideal world, you will have the time to have your lecture notes and readings done on time before your tutes every week, still have the time to hand in assignments on time, manage a part-time job (or two) and see all your friends. And some people really do seem to be able to do that. But I like most people, cannot pull that off and I’ve come to learn that that is ok.


  • The key is to prioritise and know what needs to be done before a certain time and what can be done later on.
  • Work out what study method works best for you – Do you learn best with handwritten notes? Flashcards? Diagrams?
  • Write out when you’re quizzes, mid-semester exams, assignments are due on a semester planner (every uni will be handing these out during orientation) because unfortunately, no one is there to remind you


Timetabling 101: 6 hours of High School ≠ 6 hours of University Classes

For some strange reason, 6 hours in high school was something I could get through but 6 hours of continuous class in university is one gruelling day. Gone are the days of luxury where there are allotted time for recess and lunch.


  • As you are in charge of selecting classes, although unfortunately sometimes we aren’t given a choice, keep in mind that breaks aren’t scheduled for you
  • Whether you prefer to have a whole day of class with as few days as possible spent at uni, or have a few hours spread out over a couple of days if your degree allows for that flexibility, that is entirely up to you
  • Don’t forget that the chances are the timetable you want is the timetable everyone wants, especially in your first year where many of the subjects are common across several degrees, so getting on top of organising your timetable should be a priority


Take your time. Do it at your own pace.

This might be one of the biggest things I wished someone had told me before I started university. In a university with 2 semesters, the full-time load is usually 4 subjects a semester. But depending on how you want to spend your years at university it is perfectly ok and sometimes recommendable to do 3 subjects a semester or even 2. And yes, this extends your degree which for some people after 13 years of schooling might be the last thing they want, but the amount of work you are required to put in during university can be overwhelming and with everything else involved in thriving through young adulthood it is definitely something worthwhile considering. 

NOTE: some subjects require prerequisites so if you do choose to ‘under-load’ as it is called, please make sure you check that you are doing the right subjects in the right order. Consult the relevant degree handbook or contact your university to check if you are unsure.

Once again, congratulations to anyone that is about to start their university degree. I wish that you all take on board what you need to aspire to your fullest potential. Some people breeze through university and I have nothing but admiration for those people. I found for me that university can sometimes be a challenge but I can say for sure that I have come out of my undergraduate degree better educated, more resilient with a passion for utilising my skills to contribute to society and its people. Please don’t ever forget that education is a tool to help you aspire to greatness and it is not a measure of how great you are.

All the best and enjoy!

Article was written by Sola Ogata