Surviving the First Week of Uni at UNSW

If you’ve clicked into this article then I’m assuming you’ve just found out that come March, you’ll be studying at UNSW. Congratulations! Whether or not UNSW was your first preference is of no concern, it’s still one of the best places to study in Australia (that’s right the whole country) and is definitely a place you can brag about getting into.

My first piece of advice may seem a little blasphemous but after a month of uni you’ll understand my logic. Let the HSC go. I was given this piece of wisdom and it has definitely served me well. I know your last year was spent agonising over ranks and tests and it seems unfair that all that hard work should be immortalised in an ATAR mark that becomes redundant the second you get into uni but, alas, that’s the truth of the matter. If you discuss ATAR marks at uni people suspect you’re trying to judge their intellect or that you haven’t let go of high school. Either way, not cool. This social rule was the only preparatory advice I had before my first week at UNSW and let me tell you every synonym for the words manic and awkward don’t begin to cover what that was like for me. In order to help you guys avoid the chaos I’ve created a guide complete with all things I wish I knew when I was a first year student.



Accepting your UNSW offer is the easiest thing in the world. Just go to, click ‘Accept Online’ and follow the prompts.  Make sure you keep your letter of acceptance close by because it contains important information you’ll need. As the website will tell you, accepting online is a two part process. The first part is simply confirming your offer so that a place in your degree is secured. Once you have done this you can commence the second part, updating your personal details and enrolling into classes, at your leisure. Make sure you keep your student number in a safe place, it’ll play a huge role in your life at UNSW and losing it would be disastrous.

At UNSW we students are tasked with signing up to classes and creating our own timetables online. This is both a blessing and a curse. I recommend finding your program in the UNSW Handbook and discerning what classes you need to be taking in semester one ASAP. Those who enrol early get the best class times. Most people will tell you to start thinking about the future of your degree now. I say phooey. Your first semester will be hard enough without worrying about the elusive ‘future’. If you have any leeway with choosing subjects then pick something you find interesting now not something you think you might find interesting later on. In the first few weeks of semester you can drop a subject without academic penalty (see the Key Dates timetable) so it’s super easy to get out of a bad commitment. You’ll have to pick up an extra subject down the line but you’ll be happier for it and by the time you need to pick important degree-shaping subjects again you’ll be more in tune with your academic aspirations.

If you find yourself needing enrolment assistance I suggest going to your designated Academic Advising session (this information should be in your letter of acceptance). You should also check out this Enrolment tips & Guide page. If you’ve decided on your courses and creating the perfect timetable is your qualm head to Rectangles UNSW, it’s a marvelous website that will create an automated timetable for you.

Student Cards

Student ID cards are super important at all universities. UNSW students get their ID cards from FM Assist, which is on upper campus. Photos are taken so make sure you look decent and don’t forgot to bring another form of identification, a driver’s license is ideal. It doesn’t take long to actually get your card but during O-week and the first week of class the lines can be monumental. While ID cards are important they aren’t pivotal to your first week or two at uni (unless you need to borrow books straight away). If the line is too long and you can’t or don’t want to get your ID card at the time you planned don’t stress, just go back another time. Don’t forget that if you’re studying full time then you’re most likely eligible for a concession sticker. You get this sticker at the same time as your ID card so make sure you find and fill out the correct form (it’s actually more of small rectangle piece of paper).


Getting to Campus

People often have the misconception that UNSW is really far away and difficult to get to. They’re wrong. UNSW is one of the easiest universities to get to via public transport and although it’s all taken by 9am, street parking is not impossible. The most common way to get to campus is to catch the UNSW express buses (891, 895) from Eddy Ave , Central Station. These buses are prepaid only so get a ticket. Travel Tens and MyMulti passes are the most economic options. During the first few weeks of semester the bus lines at Central may seem huge and scary but trust me buses come frequently and you won’t be in line for more than 15 minutes, the bus ride itself only takes that long.

There are plenty of other ways to reach the UNSW main campus and COFA, go to this site UNSW Transport, for more details.

Getting to class

Funnily enough getting to campus is nowhere near as hard as finding your way around campus. I recommend printing out a campus map and taking it with you during your first few weeks. Highlighting the places you need to be will also make your life easier. This may seem geeky but trust me, the campus is HUGE and although there are help points all over the place looking at your own map can’t be worse than being exposed to the elements while staring open mouthed at a giant, public map. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for directions. I can assure you that we seasoned students will be more than willing to help. How to spot us? We’ll be the ones walking around with a purpose and without a map.


Making friends

Making friends at uni can be daunting but it is by no means hard. Remember that everyone is in the same boat and will be more than willing to at least have a conversation with you. If you’re the extroverted type the easiest way to make friends is to start a conversation with the person sitting next to you in lectures and tutorials. You’ll also be amazed by how many friends you can make in the coffee line. If you’re the type of person who wants to gag at the thought of speaking to a stranger while you're waiting for your double-shot latte (I was) the best advice I can give is to look approachable and try to befriend a like-minded soul. It’s much easier to make friends with another sweaty-palmed 18 year old than with the crazy, purple haired, old-looking dude.

Although some of your school chums may brag about how many friends they made their first week in, if that isn’t the case for you don’t worry! Some degrees are close knit making it easy to form peer groups. Others, especially Arts degrees, are much broader and making good friends can take time.  The best advice I can give is this: it’s ok to do things on your own at uni. Eating lunch alone in high school may be a huge faux pas but it’s really common in all tertiary institutions. When you get to uni you’ll realise that no one looks twice at the people lounging by themselves on a patch of grass while they eat, read or sleep (yes sleep).

Joining clubs and societies

All new UNSW students should head to O-week it’s super fun and you get tons of freebies. However, if you are keen to get into sports or become part of clubs and societies then O-week is a must. Sporting groups and club ambassadors are overly attentive during this week and will bend over backwards to sign you up or give you advice. Once semester gets started you’ll find them less and less willing to spend 20 minutes trying to win you over (hey, it doesn’t make them bad people. We all have classes to attend).

Check out the O-week website for more info.


The UNSW campus is made up of three main parts: upper, middle and lower campus, and amazingly enough it’s possible to get a good bite to eat and a great coffee from each section.

Lower campus

The best place to get coffee on lower campus is Coffee Republic. It’s conveniently situated right next to the Roundhouse and an ATM. The service is quick and friendly and, best of all they sell jumbo sizes.  If it’s food you’re after then walk further north and head to JG’s Café where you can get fresh salads, pastas and sandwiches. The prices are on the expensive side but the food is worth it.

Middle Campus

The Quad is no doubt one of the best places on campus to eat and socialise. You’ll run into many a mate here.  The first level is a food court where you can get food ranging from sushi and yogurt to hot chips and greasy noodles. On the second level you’ll find Q-Lounge, one of the greatest places to get coffee, muffins and pastries on the entire campus. The staff are awesome and they’ll come to know your name if you visit often enough.

Upper Campus

Located on upper campus is UNSW Fare, an arcade food court. Before entering this passageway of deliciousness you’ll encounter a café called Biblio, this is where you should buy that much needed hot beverage. The food at Biblio is always tasty and fresh but it’s over priced and should only be an option when you’re in a rush.  Inside the arcade is the Stockmarket, hands down the best takeaway on campus. The Stockmarket offers huge DIY salads from $7.40 as well as epic pastas, juices and soups. It’s so popular that come lunchtime there is usually a line out the door! People trek from lower campus to eat from this joint so I definitely recommend you give it a try at some point.