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Hitting the books


You hit the books to get to uni, and you can do it again. BUT (and it’s a big ‘but’) it will be different, it will be challenging and you will have to manage yourself, your time and commitments like a boss.

We know there will be days of doing nothing (– it’s allowed!), some days packed full of work and probably a few essay-writing all-nighters, you may even have moments of questioning why you began this at all … but we can guarantee any way it pans out you will be OK.

Transition time

Studying at university requires that you are self-directed and take responsibility for your learning. You should be aware of the wide range of support services that are offered at your uni has. Taking advantage of these services, asking for help, and being open to changing your habits will improve your chances of success.

Study skills workshops

There are plenty of workshops and tutorials on offer at university covering topics like essay writing, referencing, research, presentation skills and computer skills. Check with the library or student services to find out what workshops you can attend to assist with developing your study skills. These might even be listed on your uni’s app.

Using the library

The library is a very important source of information during your time at university. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the different sections, and different borrowing rules. Enquire about online library access, which is handy for accessing journals and papers.

Writing for university

Trying to get your head around concepts like academic writing can be a bit overwhelming. Your university will have online tips and tutorials to transition you to the skills required for university level for note-taking, critical thinking and essay writing. Ask at your university library if there are essay writing and study workshops you can join.


Referencing where you get your research from is a valuable skill to learn and can have a huge impact on your marks. There are different referencing conventions, such as APA and Harvard. It’s important to find out what referencing style is expected of you, as different subject areas have different referencing requirements. Your university library will have explanations of referencing styles and offer tutorials in the different referencing systems.

There are some very good websites like www.citethisforme.com and www.endnote.com to help with referencing. Many universities will provide these programs for free while you are studying with them. Microsoft Word also has a referencing function and there are tutorials on the internet to help learn how to use it.

Note taking & study advice

When you attend lectures it’s a good idea to take notes. You can’t be expected to remember everything you hear, especially when you are being introduced to so many new concepts. Keep your notes concise by summarising what you see and hear into key points.

When revising your notes, don’t just read them, but ensure you understand the key concepts and can explain them in your own words.

If lecture notes are available in advance it can be really useful to print them out and use them during the lecture to take further notes and highlight important information.


Plagiarism is a serious offence at university. It is important to always acknowledge and reference any words and ideas you use from textbooks and other sources. Turn it in is an online resource you can submit your essays and assignments to and have them double checked for plagiarism. Check it out at www.turnitin.com

It is also a serious offence to have someone else write an assignment for you. Don’t fall for scams that ask you to pay money to have your assignments done for you.

Plagiarising or having someone else complete your work can result in a subject fail, or even being expelled from the university.

Back it up baby!

Remember to always save your work! An external hard drive is a worthwhile investment. If ever you are having computer problems, start with turning it off and back on again (rebooting it) before you panic – sometimes it’s is all you need to do. If you are having issues with your university website, university email account or library website, remember IT support is available at all institutions.

Look for student friendly deals such as the student friendly version of Dropbox

Good Study Habits

Different people have different study habits. Some people find study groups helpful, others like to make flash cards and study alone. You will need to find out what works best for you. Think about where and how you think best – are you an early riser, do you find music calming, do you focus better outside or inside?

Your student services centre will be able to provide you with information about online study programs and face-to-face workshops.They will also be able to put you in contact with tutors, student study groups and workshops, and may be able to help in how to approach lecturers.

Your uni will also have online guides, resources and information to guide you through your first few months of uni, assessments, essays and so on.

Here are some examples from our education partners:
Southern Cross University
Swinburne University of Technology
University of Wollongong


Each subject will come with a list of which textbooks you need. Textbooks can be pricey and there will be some you might not need to use much. You can wait until you need each textbook before buying them, or ask your lecturers which textbooks matter most. You can also borrow or rent textbooks to help make your study more affordable.

Buy – If you have the budget, buying your own copy of a textbook means it’s on hand whenever you need it. Find out from your lecturer if you really need the newest version of a book – some newer editions may not be too different from the old one. If so, buy an older, cheaper edition. Some students share textbooks to save on costs. You will need to trust the person you are sharing costs with and set up a fair system for using the textbook. Another way to save a bit of money is to become a life member by joining the Co-op Bookshop for $25, to get discounts on purchases and special offers.

Buy secondhand – Students advertise second-hand textbooks on campus and online noticeboards. Websites like www.studentVIP.com.au and www.zookal.com connect sellers and buyers of secondhand uni textbooks. And be on the look-out for Facebook pages for buying, swapping and selling textbooks and resources.

Borrow – If you are really organised you can borrow textbooks or other reading materials from your university library or a public library. But you’ll need to get in quick and watch out for late fees. Check with your library to see how many copies of a textbook they have and if there is an ebook version.

eBooks – It’s also worth investigating whether a book you need is available as an ebook either from a library or for purchase. Advantages of ebooks include remote access, enhanced searchability, no bulky books to carry, they are often cheaper and some include assessments, quizzes and lecture slides. The disadvantages of ebooks include IT issues, no on-selling and some people find them more difficult to read and take notes from.

Rent – Renting textbooks is another option. These websites will rent uni textbooks for the duration of the semester:

Google Scholar

When you are researching an assignment, Google Scholar is an awesome free academic tool! Go to the Google Scholar home page at www.scholar.google.com and select settings on the top right. Now click on Library links on the left and type in the name of your university. This will link nearly all the databases your university provides students with to one simple search tool.

Tips for knuckling down

Uni isn’t like high school, you’ll be on your own and no one will be chasing that late homework, assignment or assessment. Breaking the year into chunks can make it more manageable and a lot less overwhelming. Mark important dates such as assignment due dates and exam periods in a diary or on a calendar – and make sure you look at it regularly.

A deadline is a deadline!

Deadlines are part of university life. They include assignment due dates as well as census or withdrawal dates. Census dates are important as they dictate when you can withdraw from a subject without incurring fees. Mark census dates in your calendar and set an alert on your phone to make sure your academic record doesn’t end up with a ‘Withdrawal Fail’.

If you have any questions or doubts about any aspects of your study, including timetabling, deadlines and census dates, or you’re concerned about picking the wrong classes, make sure to go see your faculty staff – they are there to help and answer questions.

Weekly planners can help your week run smoothly and will assist with your time management. Decide if you prefer to keep on track through a paper or digital diary (or maybe both) and write everything down so you don’t miss deadlines. A weekly timetable can help you see how many hours you have available after classes and any job commitments to allocate to study and leisure.

Breaking the year into chunks can make it more manageable and less overwhelming. Mark important dates such as assignment due dates and exam periods in a diary or on a calendar. This will allow you to see your semester or year more clearly and allow you to plan trips home or fun activities with friends without taking on too much and overwhelming yourself.

10 Tips for successful study

  • Buy a hard drive or invest in Dropbox and BACK UP ALL YOUR WORK. You wouldn’t believe how many students lose work that wasn’t backed up.
  • Learn how to reference and which referencing system your subjects use. Get on to this early as it will never go away and is required for every academic assignment. (NB: some students have been marked down and have even failed assignments because they have not referenced correctly!)
  • Be on top of your tutorial and class sign ups. That 8am tutorial option is still there for a reason… Book in early to get what works best for you.
  • Keep on top of your study, assignments and readings. Don’t leave things until the last minute… you’ll always regret it.
  • Be sure to check the attendance requirements for each of your subjects as some lectures and tutorials are compulsory and if you miss classes you can fail.
  • Your relationship with your lecturers and tutors will be much less formal than high school.
  • You won’t be spoon-fed at university and most lecturers and tutors will not chase you up for an assignment. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but remember the initiative needs to come from you!
  • Plagiarism is a HUGE academic crime at university! Don’t cut and paste from the internet or copy someone else’s work. Do your own thinking and produce original work for every assignment.
  • Use websites and software like www.turnitin.com that help check your assignments for plagiarism, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
  • Never give up. When things get tough just stay calm, keep going and remember to ASK FOR HELP.

Ask for help

There is no shame in realising you are not coping as well as you would like. Struggling with an aspect of uni – whether it be social or academic – takes courage BUT you need to learn to speak up. You are the only one who has the power to change the circumstance for yourself. There is plenty of help out there as long as you make the move to acknowledge it. Unis have help on hand because you are not the only student who would have encountered this issue, feeling or circumstance.

Some options and support available if you need help include:

Distance Education – Most universities offer the option of distance study. This means you complete the bulk of your degree online and don’t need to attend face-to-face classes every week. Check with your course coordinator to see if this is an option for you.

Deferment – You can defer your course at the beginning of each semester if you are unable to continue at the time. Most universities allow deferment for up to 18 months. When you defer it’s like you are pressing the pause button on your degree and you are often able to pick up from where you left off at a later date. Make sure you check your university’s rules on deferment and consider all your options before initiating this step.

Census dates – You will hear the word “census” a lot when you begin university. What it means is the last day you can withdraw from a course or subject without being charged a full semester of fees. Each census date may be different so make sure you check your university calendar and mark this date in your diary, even if you think you won’t need it.

Changing courses -We don’t all get it right the first time and at some point in your degree you might be wondering if you have picked the right course. Don’t panic, there’s options to transfer to other degrees at university. Speak to a career advisor or your course director to find out how you can change courses. Don’t stop showing up to your current classes though, as flunking can limit your chances of transferring to another course. Besides, you could be eligible for credit points for the subjects you have already completed.

Check out our advice on our Health & Support page or find some great advice in the following article links

This advice is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation, needs or goals. You should consider whether the advice is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.