How to survive uni: Advice for mid-year entrants

How to survive uni: Advice for mid-year entrants

Hundreds of new students enjoy all O-Week has to offer at UniSA’s Magill Campus (Image Source: University of South Australia’s Facebook page).

By Josh Brine | @Josh_Brine

It’s O-Week and the new study period is almost upon us, which can only mean one thing: mid-year entries.

Yes, a new crop of first-year students are preparing to begin their journey at university.

Whether they are straight out of high school and willing to spend nearly $20,000 on a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA) while they work out what they actually want to do with their lives or starting a new degree after messing it up the first time round, they are all bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and ready for the new semester.

Little do they know what they are in for.

Having survived two and a half years of uni, I’d like to think I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade that I wish I had known heading into my first year.

But what is the point of knowing all this info if I’m not willing to share it with the people who need it the most?

So, here is some sage advice for how to get yourself a degree without losing your sanity.


Readings and textbooks aren’t as required as you’re told they are:

When I first started at UniSA, the most overwhelming thing was keeping up with all those ‘required’ readings.

Dozens of pages of dull, boring passages were assigned in all of my classes; it was hard to find the motivation to keep up with it all.

So, after a few weeks I stopped doing them and it didn’t impact me at all.

My grades stayed the same and my understanding of the topics was just as good.

The only thing that has changed is that I no longer spend hours every week boring myself to tears.

So, since the second semester of my first year, my rule has been: if I can make it through the first assignment without readings or textbooks, I don’t need to bother with either of them.

I kind of view textbooks like optional extras in a car; they are a scam that aren’t worth what you pay for them.

You’d probably be better off taking the money you would spend on textbooks and setting it on fire –  at least that would give you a bit of warmth.

Learn the art of essay bullshitting:

While you almost certainly got your first taste of waffling when writing essays in Year 12, once you get to uni you must refine it into a fine art.

It is easy to bullshit your way to a pass, but it takes true expertise to trick tutors into giving you credits, distinctions or even the vaunted high distinction.

Only politicians are as talented as final-year university students at saying so much without actually saying anything.

The greatest essay bullshitters are able to thread together superfluous words and random quotes to create a piece so confusing that even the marker, an expert in the area in which you are writing, is fooled into thinking you have some idea of what you are talking about.

Most of my essays now contain so much waffle I might as well lather them in maple syrup and icing sugar before handing them up.

Steer clear of exams at all costs:

We all remember Year 12; the stress exam time brought about is something that has scarred me for life.

Even hearing the word exam makes me feel anxious.

So, since I started my degree, I’ve avoided courses with exams like the plague.

Now, I understand this strategy is not possible for everyone; you can’t make it through a lot of degrees without doing a couple exams.

And to those of you in these degrees, I am truly sorry and wish you the best of luck.

I’ll be thinking of you cramming from dusk till dawn, day after day during the exam period, while I kick back and relax with all my assignments handed up and in the rear-view mirror.

Don’t leave work until the last minute:

We’ve all been there.

After weeks of planning out what we are going to put in the essay and how we are going to manage our time to most efficiently complete the assignment, we are overcome with the terrifying realisation that we only have two days before the deadline.

While the feat of finishing something in a couple of days was possible, if not the norm in high school, even the best wafflers struggle to produce passable work in such a short amount of time once they get to uni.

Sure, in first year you can rely on them giving you the lifeline of an extension you most definitely do not deserve, but don’t expect this kindness to continue forever.

Don’t wish your uni days away:

Finally, and definitely most importantly, don’t take uni too seriously, and certainly don’t wish for it to be over.

Almost all students get themselves anxious and stressed, and forget to just enjoy the moment.

University is our last glimmer of adolescence, where we can pursue our dreams and look to the future with optimism before facing the monotonous melancholy of modern adulthood, and the crushing weight of responsibility it brings.

So, whenever the stress of constant assignments and exams is all becoming too much, just relax and remember the motto that unites undergrads all over the world: “Ps get degrees”.

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