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December 13, 2011 / uniexpectations

The end of the year is here

The university teaching year is over, students have scattered to begin their long summer holidays…. it is a good time to look back over the year and reflect on how students managed their first year at uni.

We asked students –

          What was important for making your university experience successful?

                                                                                                                                                       and here is what they told us…

Read more…

August 31, 2011 / uniexpectations

Facts for new uni students

Our project is starting to move into a new phase, we now have some results to share and have started getting our results out to S.A. schools and Universities. We want to be able to share information with school students to help them feel more prepared for the differences between school and uni study. There have been some surprises in the first round of data analysis, as well as some results that track along as expected. Here’s what we are telling new uni students….



Almost 90% of new students expect to perform as well or better at university than at high school but only half reported that they did. One in five students said they performed much better than they expected.

Three-quarters of commencing students have unrealistic expectations about how much time they expect to study. The recommended amount of study for university subjects is 10-15 hours per week per subject (including class time). This is equivalent to a full time job.

(The things that helped me were..) “To plan homework, assignments well in advance and to always be organised. Also to attend all lectures and tutorials – this helps to gain all information needed to complete each assignment with success.”



Whether you’ve come to university straight from school or not, you will need to be active in learning new skills and adapting to a more independent learning style.

“Learning to study and function independently. Took a long time to get used to not being looked after like at school. Also hanging in there and not just giving up. Completing a year of study changed my outlook a bit as I felt like I had achieved something and that I could finish this degree. There was light at then end of the tunnel.”

 Over 70% of continuing students report that the standard of university work is different or extremely different to school work. Over 2/3 of new university students still believe that their university teachers will provide all the materials needed for their learning, but in reality you will need to learn to source information yourself.

“Having good independent time management skills, knowing how to research properly (e.g. use databases) and having friends and social groups are all important for making my university experience successful.”



Attending classes is important for your learning, not surprisingly, over 90% of university teachers believe that students should attend all classes, but students also support this with over 70% of students indicating it was important for their learning to attend all classes.

Learning to find a balance between uni, work, social life and family commitments is important in your first year. Many students (73.8%) expect to be able to combine study and work in first year but the reality is that only 51% are able to do this.

Outside interests are important and can help balance study and personal life, but take care that outside activities don’t negatively impact on your results, 45% of continuing students agreed that they had outside commitments that negatively affected their learning.

“It was important for me to try and find a balance between university, work and my social life. …if I have a balance I wont be rushing assignments and adding stress.”



Many new students underestimate how much they relied on support from their teachers at school. Over 80% of new university students had unrealistic expectations of how much time teachers will spend preparing, assessing and teaching classes. You may not realise it, but university teachers have complex roles which include research and conference attendance in addition to their teaching.

It is up to you to seek out support from the services available at university, this may also include fellow students. 80% of new students agree it is important to have a close group of friends for support at university. If you need help, talk to someone about it, one-quarter of continuing students said that talking with university staff helped them to decide to continue at university.

“Making friends within the first few days of orientation – Important to have that support from the beginning. I know many people who have dropped programs just because they did not make friends from the beginning.”

Feedback on drafts of assignments is generally not given in the first year, although 95% of commencing students expected feedback on drafts, only 27% of students actually received it. Therefore you need to seek out extra feedback if you need it or are struggling with the skills needed to complete an assignment.

“…asking questions about things I was unsure about so that I was better able to understand what was required of me.”

We will be sharing more data results soon! We would love to hear your comments about these results. Leave a comment below or email us on:

July 12, 2011 / uniexpectations

help is there if you need it

“Is there any way you can help my son?  He’s on the verge of leaving University.  He thinks he has ‘blown it’. He’s dug himself into a hole he can’t get out of”. 

So pleaded a parent in Week 2 of Semester. 

I learnt that the first year student travelled a fair distance to campus, had become lost in the unfamiliar maze of buildings in Week 1, and then gone to the wrong lectures.  The result?  He didn’t go to lectures in Week 2.  He felt dumb, exhausted and overwhelmed and thought he couldn’t catch up on the work he had already missed.  And to top it off, he seemed to be the only one to have come from his high school to university. 

Most tertiary students can relate to some of the above, but do survive the initial weeks of confusion and anxiety.  Take note mid- year entry students……we know that if you persevere through the first six weeks you are likely to stay and succeed!

Here’s some good news

  • Almost nothing is irretrievable once you have accepted an offer to University; there are almost always options to your dilemmas
  • You belong at Uni; Universities only make offers to people they believe will succeed
  • If you think you have enrolled in the wrong degree you can almost always transfer into something else; talk to a Course advisor or counsellor
  • Student support services exist for all students; they are there to help, not judge so find out where they are and use them
  • Students who get involved with peers and campus activities are more likely to stay and succeed so don’t be shy; there’s a place for you


Always talk to someone at University before making any serious decisions.  Talk to a course advisor, a student support officer in your Faculty or a counsellor at the Counselling Service. Build networks with peers and academic staff. 

Be proactive in asking questions and seeking assistance.  Remember-there’s no such thing as a stupid question.  Balance your studies and paid employment with leisure activities.

And have fun. 


Written by: Audrey Stratton

Transition Advisor, Transition and Advisory Service, Student Support Service, The University of Adelaide


June 22, 2011 / uniexpectations

First semester survival guide

Week 1

The first week of university can be a time of ‘information overload’. Students meet tutors and classmates, and get course information booklets which detail assessments, due dates and course objectives.

Tip: Course information booklets are crucial to success at university! Read them!


Time management  

The biggest obstacle many students face is time management. Juggling work, family and sporting commitments can be stressful and difficult. Most assessments are due at the end of semester and there is a tendency to start the one that’s due first but there may be two bigger, more complex assessments due the day after. If you do not have a plan, you’ll have too much to do all at once.

Tip: Make a study plan! Write down the due dates and double check them!


Read and Research 

Assessments probably cause the most anxiety in students. Some students submit a beautifully written, well-researched assignment but receive a poor grade because they failed to address the required task. Read the assignment task very carefully. Also read the marking criteria, very carefully. If you have met all criteria in both, you will do well.

Tip: underline key words, and address the entire task as well as the marking criteria and ensure you have met all requirements.


Resources and referencing 

Finding appropriate resources efficiently is a skill all professionals need. While Wikipedia and Google may provide useful information in some cases, resources published by experts in the profession are far more valid! Using journal articles and other peer reviewed articles, referenced correctly, is essential.

Tip: Ask the library for help – they have tours and tutorials for internal and external students about using all resources, including databases. This will save time and be far more appropriate!


Ask for help

Finally, if it is a struggle ask a peer, a tutor, or go to campus central or the university’s website. The university will have a Teaching and Learning Unit (or equivalent) for assistance with computer use, study plans, assignment writing, university policies and financial and social support.

Tip: Don’t wait til the due date to ask for help!

 The university wants to create graduates with excellent abilities. If you ask for help you will be surprised at what is available. Good luck!


Author: Tess Smith, Dip App Sci (Nuclear Medicine), Grad Dip Med Rad, Tutor, Lecturer,University of South Australia

May 24, 2011 / uniexpectations

First impressions don’t always last

Many of us spent the first few weeks of university dazed and confused, grappling with new terminology, the somewhat obscure locations of lecture theatres and the relative freedom from school bells and accountability- at least that’s how I remember it!

We have heard from many students who tell us that feeling overwhelmed is a common theme…..

“University life for me was very overwhelming in the first couple of weeks and got quite stressful with moving to Adelaide, making new friends and actually concentrating at uni. I must say I didn’t think it would be this hard and it is pretty full on”

“Absolutely daunting! Being a mature aged student I was unsure about how I was going to adjust to studying again. Could I use my life experience to a full advantage or would it disadvantage me? Where could I find support if I needed to and doing most of my degree external- would I cope!”

Three words to describe the first semester…. “Scary, stressful and rewarding”

But the good news is that for many students, the stage fright starts to diminish and the light starts to shine at the end of the tunnel. Students who have made it beyond their first semester have shared these tips for success with us when asked – What was important for making your university experience successful?

 “Understanding that the key to being successful is only dependent on the amount of work you are prepared to put in. You do not have to be the smartest person to complete a degree but you do need to be committed and put in the effort”

“Balancing my other commitments such as work and sport with study. Finding enough time to relax. Starting on assignments early.”

“Making sure I was organised with bus routines so that I was not late for lectures. Being diligent in my studies and handing assignments in on time. Asking questions about things that I was not sure about”

“Having a support network that I could rely on for both academic purposes and also personal issues that may happen in my time outside of university”

“Having good independent time management skills, knowing how to research properly (e.g use databases) and having friends and social groups are all important for making my university experience successful.”

“The open days helped me a lot, as did orientation week. I think that these days gave me a more realistic idea of what would be expected from me at university”

 We would love to hear your impressions of those first few scary days and how you survived- leave us a comment below or email us on:

April 20, 2011 / uniexpectations

What do you expect?!

Welcome all!

Welcome to the blog for the Student and Staff Experiences and Expectations Project. This project is a very unique and collaborative research development that is exploring the gap between student’s expectations of university and the realities of university life and study.


Why are we blogging?

We want to tell you about what we are up to, share our results, and generate discussion on related topics. We will have many guest bloggers who will share their stories of university life, their challenges and their successes. We want this blog to have an impact on the wider community and to find out your impressions of the university journey.


Setting the scene….

Think back to when you started university… maybe that was a mere 10 weeks ago or perhaps it is much further in the past! Do you remember those first few confusing days/weeks/months? Did you find out the hard way that university was not what you expected? Did you feel that you wanted more time with lecturers/tutors, or expect that you would get lots of individual attention? It doesn’t take long to realise that in a class of 600 first year science students, that won’t be happening !

We are asking students about their university expectations and finding out what they actually found when they got to university. We have already collected over 6000 surveys from first year uni students (across the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, and the University of South Australia)!

Ultimately, we want to help school students gain a better grip on the realities of university, in the hope that they will be more prepared, and more likely to stay on and succeed.

Of course, there is a huge body of work going on behind the scenes so if you would like to read more on the project- have a look at our website


What’s your story?

We would love to hear about your own expectations and experiences of university life, leave a comment telling us what you expected and how it turned out!


Need to know more?

If you want to share the journey with us – sign up for email notification (on the right hand side), email us or leave us a comment!