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Advice for first year uni students on how to study at university

How to tackle study as a new student.
Three students using a tablet and smiling together the quad at UniSQ Toowoomba.
About to embark on your university journey? It’s a significant step - one often filled with equal parts excitement and nervousness. If you’re a first year uni student, you may have a lot of questions running through your mind. Is university hard? What’s the best way to approach study? How hard is it to pass first year at university? Sound familiar? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone! Maybe you’ve just finished high school and are starting your first degree, or maybe it’s been years since you last studied – no matter where you are in your journey, we have the university tips to help you navigate your first (and subsequent!) years of study like a pro.  

So, what’s our main advice for first year uni students? We’ve broken it down into four top tips to help you level-up and prepare your study skills for university. 

Time management 

One of the main differences between high school and uni is that university study requires you to self-manage your study load. It’s up to you and you alone to make sure you keep up-to-date with your study modules, hand your assignments in on time and basically stay on track!  

Like most people studying at uni, you probably have other life commitments to keep on top of while you study. Family life, work life, social life – the juggle is real! So it’s important to make time management a priority from the onset. Especially if you are someone who wants to thrive rather than just survive throughout their university experience. Scheduling designated time for study is the secret behind how to get ahead in university. Time is precious! So, knowing where your time is allocated each week will help you maintain a healthy study/life balance and remain focussed on your goals. Create a schedule (and stick to it!), set reminders, eliminate distractions and get into a routine that works for you. You’ll soon get into a good rhythm and reap the benefits of your organisational skills!  

Prioritise tasks  

Every so often, we all reach a point where it feels like we have a million tasks to do and not enough time to achieve them. At times like these it’s important to be able to use your skills in... prioritisation! So, where do you start?  

First things first - get your to-do list out of your head, and onto paper, onto your phone, onto your computer - whatever method works best for you. Even when you're in a time crunch, taking a few moments to collate a list of all your tasks will be worth every second in the long run. Because having everything in one place will let you get a holistic view of what you need to achieve. When making your list, note down how much time each task will take and their associated deadlines - you can then order each task on your list, marking them as high, medium, or low priority. Repeat this process daily, weekly, fortnightly as you see fit. This is important advice for first year uni students especially - as forming valuable habits from the very beginning of your learning journey will pay off big-time during your study years. 

Note taking

Is there ‘best practice’ when it comes to note taking? Should you follow a particular process? Effective note taking is a very important skill to have - and a great transferrable skill at that! While some elements of note taking are personal (maybe you are partial to the good ol’ pen and paper, or perhaps you prefer more technological methods), there are certainly some tips and tricks behind constructive note taking. Structure, headings, referencing – perfecting your note taking technique early on will help you all the way through your study journey. Not sure where to start? The good news is that the UniSQ library has a number of resources that can help answer any questions you may have around note taking, as well as how to study at university in general. 

Study groups

Wondering how to get ahead in university? Joining (or forming!) a study group is not only a wonderful way to help you achieve in your studies, it’s also a great way to form connections with your peers. Studying alongside people in the same boat as you can be a very motivating and supportive experience.  

At UniSQ we understand the value of collaboration and the exchange of ideas with others. Our Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) are study groups facilitated by an experienced former student of a particular course. These sessions provide an opportunity to engage with others and allow you to understand not only ‘what to learn’, but ‘how to learn’. You’ll receive support and guidance from someone who has been there before, while interacting with classmates to better understand the content and learning objectives for a course. A great recipe for success! 

Time to get started

And there you have it! Our top tips for first year uni students! Whether you are embarking on undergraduate study, entering one of our pathway programs or starting a postgraduate degree, these tips are a great place to start.  

Is university hard? While there will always be times during study that are more academically challenging than others, if you can follow these simple university tips around how to study at university, then you’ll be able to thrive as a first year uni student!  
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