What to know about uni before O-Week

I want to start by saying, I have no credibility to be writing this post, in no way am I perfect at being organised. I am the queen of procrastination but at the end of the day, I have managed to make it to my fourth year of uni and all of my to-do lists somehow get completed on time. If being organised is your new year’s resolution then here are some things you can do to prepare for a successful year at uni.

A student is only as good as their tools

This is probably my favourite part of preparing for the year ahead, stationery shopping. I buy a lot of pens because at least half of them I know I will either lose or they will be duds and run out quickly. Highlighters are also an essential item. I usually allocate one colour per subject, which helps me to separate my notes and if I have an exam for that subject I will take designated highlighter into the examination with me in the hopes that the colour will help me remember something useful. Other students I know buy books that have separated sections for each course – this also looks really useful.

Get a life planner

All my friends know about my life planner, I carry it with me everywhere I go and spend a lot of time decorating it while also organising my life. If you aren’t as crazy about an organiser as me, you can always use the calendar on your phone or a wall planner. I recommend writing out the dates your assignments are due very clearly, so you can easily give yourself enough time to make an action plan. It’s also useful to write down the topics of each lecture with the relevant required reading. This way you will always know how many readings you need to complete each week, or if you struggled with a particular concept you can quickly see what readings applied to it.

Create goals

When I say goals, I don’t mean unrealistic ideas to torture yourself with while you continue to procrastinate. I mean sustainable and achievable goals. Nobody else knows you better than you, so be realistic and make an action plan on how to get there. That being said, it is good to challenge yourself (within limits) and continue to improve your skills. Make a list of your goals and tick off what you have achieved as you do the tasks, revisit your list often to see what you could be avoiding or potentially improve on.

Look after yourself

Social work and I’m sure many other health professions, can be emotionally demanding at times. Uni is a good time to practice self-care and create your own personalised self-care routine. Test out what works best for you, it could be starting a new hobby, going to bed earlier, making sure you spend time with your loved ones, meditating, cooking, exercising, taking a power nap, or if you’re like me watch an entire season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whatever works for you to have a mental health break, build time for this into your weekly routine. University can at times be stressful, time intensive, and it can take a lot of mental strength to get through the semester, so be kind to yourself.

Make friends and explore the campus

It’s hard to get to know your peers while sitting in a tutorial or lecture. Ask them if they’d like to hang out after class or see if your faculty/school put on any events you could go to so you can get to know some new people. Having connections with people who are going through the same thing as you can make it easier to go to class or start an assignment. The campus is huge, I have been going to UQ for three years and still don’t know all the names and locations of many of the buildings. Obviously, it’s vital to know where your classes are, so get some friends together with your timetable and download the UQ NAV app to find out where you’ll be going.

Make sure you also check out the coffee shops and places to eat that are close to your classes. This may be a life saver if you sleep through your alarm, are running late, or just haven’t had enough time to get your dose of caffeine. Also, spend some time looking for study spaces on campus, or even somewhere you can sit with your friends in the break between your lecture and your tutorials. Knowing the campus will make your transition to uni much easier.


Getting started is the worst, especially when you feel like the assignment seems so large you don’t know where to start. The best thing you can do is get started; read the criteria marketing sheet, write a plan, look for presentation inspiration, or simply talk to your uni friends about the topic to get some brainstorming ideas.

Remember to take scheduled breaks to stretch your legs, make a cup of tea, have a chat with your loved ones. Do whatever you need to do, just make sure you get away from your assignment for a little while and come back with a fresh mind. One big lesson I recently learnt is to not make myself feel guilty when I take a day off from studying. So if you know you’re going to sit and watch an entire season of Arrested Development, simply recognise that and enjoy the time to relax. Your study timetable should allow for these instances and it is mentally much healthier to simply enjoy your time out so you can go back refreshed. That being said, you can’t always get away with this, you may never have the motivation to do some uni assignments. Luckily for me, I have found that motivation isn’t what gets you through uni, a balanced routine and persistence is the key, so sometimes you will have to be strict on yourself and get cracking.  

Referencing and proof-reading

If you’re new to uni it’s important to get familiar with the kind of referencing style you are required to use and keep your resources handy. I have a go-to file on my computer which includes things like the APA referencing guide, and the Australian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and Practice Standards. You will quickly figure out your own go-to documents which you use regularly, save them all in one file so you can quickly access them.

As for proof-reading, there will be some assignments that you never want to see ever again and the thought of reading them again may bring tears to your eyes. Hang in there, read it a few more times to check for simple errors which can greatly affect your marks. It is also a good idea to find a proof-reading buddy – someone who can proof-read your assignments and vice versa. That fresh set of eyes can make all the difference!

Getting all of the above together from day one can seem like a lot and I’m not saying you have to be perfect, however, these tips will hopefully set you up for a balanced and enjoyable uni semester. The challenge for me this semester is to see if I can take my own advice.

Last updated:
30 January 2017