Beat’s Ultimate Student Survival Guide

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It’s a time to take a second and think – what do I want to do with my career, what am I interested in and how do my interests translate into a professional environment? Don’t fret, we’ve all been there and the flood of course options can be overwhelming. One thing’s for certain, you will always have choices and Australian Catholic University is simplifying the process. To get you off the ground, we’re breaking down the nitty gritty to bring you a practical guide on how to nail being a student, because it’s easier than you think.

Results are out: what now?

Nobody likes being reduced to a number – even a high one – so don’t worry about how your ATAR stacks up. Take your time to put your joy or dismay in perspective and stop scrolling course lists like it’s your newsfeed – you now have to make a decision. 

Don’t let yourself be bamboozled into a course you have no interest in. Picking what you love, linked to an idea of a career you think you’d love, is always the best policy. Try to work out what your course entails on a day-to-day basis and substantially understand course structure by reading the syllabus.

I didn’t quite get what I wanted – help!

Okay, so your path to your dream neurosurgery degree has hit a roadblock; don’t panic, we can still make a doctor out of you yet. You might have to take an alternative route to reach your desired goal and it matters to have plenty of thoughtful preferences on your list – pick options that draw on your strengths. 

Don’t be afraid to hedge your bets on a course with an ATAR cut-off higher than your score – you may qualify through bonus points racked up via your school subjects or be able to slip through via alternative entry requirements. ACU also offers alternate entry schemes via pathways courses. If you don’t have a prerequisite ATAR of 70 for a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood and Primary), you can enrol in an ACU bridging unit.

Balancing uni and your social life

Your social life at university is as formative as your academic one, and it’s important you don’t neglect it. Try having a schedule to make it possible to cover your academic, social and work bases without letting it all crumble to pieces. University is an overwhelming life package, and there’s no shame in not being able to handle it sometimes – foster your support network and know your university counsellor. 

Universities are filled with like-minded people and they won’t bite. Don’t be afraid to say hi to your lecture-seat neighbours and if you have some time between classes, grab some lunch with them. There’s a good chance they’ll have similar interests and there’s a new friendship right there.

Exams are coming: do not panic

Exams are not the end of the world. They can make up to 50 per cent of your semester weighting but don’t let that number crowd your preparation. Don’t overstudy and make a SWOTVAC program. Set aside time for breaks throughout the day and make sure you eat lunch. 

Incremental study throughout the semester will obviously make your exams a smoother experience, but there’s also very little chance you will spend your time at university without cramming at least a few times. Studying on the morning of an exam is not a very effective approach – not much will soak in and it’ll only make you more stressed. On exam day, channel your favourite ‘90s rapper with a baggy tracksuit, bring a water bottle, and be comfortable – it’ll do you the world of good. 

Moving from afar? Not to worry

Moving interstate or overseas to start university for the first time can feel like a double jump into the abyss, but it’s an experience many have gone through before you. For ACU Bachelor of Arts student Emily Fawns, moving from relatively rural Bathurst to Sydney was initially disorienting.

“When you walk down the street in Bathurst, you say ‘hi’ to so many familiar faces, but in Sydney you barely see anyone you know,” Fawns says.

For Fawns and many others, the little home truths are the things that help the most: being familiar with public transport and the local area while living in catered for student accommodation eases the transition. 

“I have begun to create my own little family within the building, which helps when I’m missing home,” Fawns says.

Life transitions evoke a smorgasbord of emotions, though they eventually result in personal growth, as we learn to psychologically adapt to our environment. 

An ACU success story

Still feel like you need inspiration? It can be hard to visualise the career you’re working toward at university, so it helps to hear a story like that of Anne Marie Reddan. 

Reddan was set on her path of study after a gap year experience in Uganda showed her the harm of unqualified volunteerism. To help create sustainable change for disadvantaged youth in the country instead, she studied a Bachelor of International Development Studies at ACU. The degree gave her the theoretical framework to start her charity Yimba Uganda, beginning by providing widows and single mothers with the means to purchase a goat, whose kid would be distributed to another family in the community.

Reddan has been able to achieve incredible things through her ACU education but such heights shouldn’t daunt you. Everyone paves their own way through university and every path is unique. Don’t get flustered by inevitable comparisons, just embrace it – your desired path will eventually present itself.