The A-Z of what makes uni different to school

You’ve probably heard that uni seems like a twilight zone away from school, which immediately makes you think of a place populated with horses with hands and hovermobiles…or is that just us? But what are the actual things that make uni all that different to school? We’ve put together a simple list of what you can expect: of which hand-wielding horses driving hovermobiles are not one.

A – Assignments

Spoon-feeding is definitely a thing of the past at uni, and there won’t be any past papers on which to construct your essay. Although this seems daunting, it’s also absolutely exciting to be able to think on your own two feet, and take your study in a direction you’re passionate about.

B – Beer

In what kind of beautiful world can you move straight from your 10:00am lecture to the bar? This is university life, where students can do what they want, at all hours of the day. Including choosing drinking over studying.

C – Coffee

Moving onto another beverage: although this one can be more addictive than the latter. All of a sudden you won’t remember the days you used to wake up before 7:00am for school, and won’t even be able to start studying (read: open Facebook) without caffeine. The barista is where most of your cash will end up going at uni.

D – Doing well

Talk to any current uni student and you’ll hear how they almost failed their first semester at uni. It’s not because they were too busy indulging in the letter B, but rather because doing well no longer involves rote-learning your essay. A tip for succeeding in this first semester where others might not, is to talk to some students in the year above you, to see what techniques they’re using to do well: whether it’s doing the extra course readings, learning how to reference properly, or borrowing the good books from the library before anyone else does.

E – Eating out: no more chiko rolls from the school canteen

There is an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to eating food at uni. Whether you choose the many outlets at uni, or choose to venture to its surrounding suburbs, you’ll be spoilt for choice. But you’ll also be forking out a lot on a daily basis. Some tips for cutting down on your spending budget are to seek out the free sausage sizzles that usually happen on campus now and then, or to go back to the humble homemade sandwich.

F – Friends and how to make them

Making friends at uni aren’t as easy to come by as friends at school. Where you’re thrown together in the confines of school, you’re bound never to see the nice person you sit next to in a lecture again, due to the sheer size of uni. Some tips for making friends at uni – direct from current uni students who have spent a few too many lunchtimes alone (read: every uni student ever) – include joining clubs and societies in the first week of uni. Actually attending the meet-and-greets offered by clubs and societies will ensure you leave with at least one new friend, with the prospect of many more. And plenty of great friendships have been forged over how boring the Powerpoint in a lecture is.

G – Getting help

Whether it’s financial help, health help, study help or career help, your uni’s got it. Your university offers a lot of free or cheap services for students who need some financial or even legal help (when paying rent and uni at the same time gets tricky, for example), students who are after a medical practice or just someone to talk to, or students seeking advice for getting ahead career-wise, make yourself familiar with what services are on offer. Uni is a big place, but it doesn’t mean you need to feel lost.

H – Homework: DIY

There isn’t anybody who can help you with this one except yourself. If you put the effort in to write down some notes during the lecture and keep up with the weekly readings, your homework for that upcoming assignment is more than half done. Don’t be left with 5 weeks worth of homework before you start catching up.

I – Independence

No uniform, no compulsory attendance of lectures, turning 18 and potentially moving out of home. University is like all your Christmases have come at once. It can also be hard to get used to, with no-one pushing you to get your essay done in time or turn up to class. Work out how you’re going to enjoy your independence and not let it drag you down along the way.

J – Juggling uni and work

That independence thing can kind of be annoying. How are you supposed to enjoy your independence – move out of home, explore the world – when you haven’t got two dollars to rub together? Getting a job is fun, but not when it takes over your life. Think about what jobs might suit your uni timetable, and talk to your boss early about a flexible schedule when it comes to exams, instead of leaving it to the last minute.

K – Killing time

In between this independence and working for the money, you’ve got barely any time to play the new Diablo any more. Procrastination is the ultimate tool of the university student, so make procrastination time fun. Find some new blogs to read, go for a jog or pick up a book instead of stalking the girl you just met at Friday night’s party on Facebook. Procrastination has the word ‘pro’ in it, so it has to be a positive, right?

L – Lectures

Sit in a room with lots of other people and have someone talk at you. Wait, didn’t that just happen to you at school for thirteen years? It’s probably going to be worth your while listening to some of what’s going on in a lecture and making some notes, because it’s most likely going to be in the exam. Sometimes lecturers use youtube to make their points, and that’s mildly exciting, isn’t it?

M – Moving out

If you’re moving interstate for uni or just moving out of home because you can, chances are you are going to have a great time. You might want to consider learning to cook, clean and do your washing from Mum before you leave, and steal the old plates, cutlery and cooking utensils your relatives don’t need any more to save on cash. Then head onto to find your new place, and go to to locate your new furniture! Check out our student housing section to see where you can live.

N – Narnia

You will definitely visit Narnia sometime during your university education. The wormhole is located in the right-hand si– …actually, not true, we just couldn’t think of anything for the letter N.

O – Opportunities: knowing how to find them at uni

How did I not know I could apply for that scholarship? Can I play social sport for uni? Where can I find out about going on exchange? Who knows how I can get work experience before I finish uni? Knowing about all the cool things available to you at uni is hard work, especially when you only find out about these things after the fact. First of all, some of the answers to these questions are on our website so you can sort out how to use your time at uni before you get there. But second of all, don’t be afraid to talk to older uni students about what’s on offer, especially students studying in your faculty, as they might have the inside scoop on what’s available specifically for you.

P - Parties

If you like fun, you probably like parties. If you like the idea of parties with people you’re doing your degree with, or people who share your interests, then you’ll definitely like university. The student union sees a lot of clubs and societies organise social events for their cohorts. Everyone from members of the Jane Austen Society to members of the Skiing Society are having fun. So join a club and get it on the action with people you actually get along with, as opposed to those high school parties mainly filled with the dregs of society.

Q – Queuing: bureaucracy

Unfortunately, uni is only 90% parties. You’ll soon find out that the other 10% is dedicated to perils of uni bureaucracy. Want to change your timetable? Just fill out these five forms. Looking to quit a subject? Just get a signature from the Head of Department who’s never in her office. Hoping to borrow that library book for one more week? You’ll have to return it right now, wait 24 hours, fill in a form and pick it up in two weeks’ time. Okay, so it’s probably not that hard to borrow a book, but steel yourself for a few too many forms.

R – Referencing

At uni, you’re suddenly you’re thrown into a world where just writing down the author and the title of the book you got the quote from just won’t do. Plus you have access to hundreds of more types of resources: academic articles, recordings, sound bytes, films and ancient (read: not available on the internet) newspapers. Plus there’s about 10 different systems for referencing, not just one. You’re going to want to sit in on a free library session to learn how to reference properly, otherwise you’ll find yourself losing easy marks in your first essay.

S – Student exchange

The chance to study overseas existed at school, but at uni, you have a lot more independence. You can choose to study at a whole range of unis internationally, live in a college environment or rent out an apartment, travel and study independently and even find a job overseas. All for the cost of a normal semester at your uni, plus the extras like flights, accommodation, insurance and travel money. Definitely check out whether you can go on exchange before you start uni, so you can begin planning ahead.

T – Turning up

With some lectures available online, why would you bother? Well for starters, you’ll probably spend 80% of your time at uni lying in the sun and hanging out with friends, so that’s a good reason to get out of bed. Second of all, most tutorial classes make it compulsory for you to turn up to most of the classes. Plus learning from a lecture online is not the same to looking at the Powerpoint and getting the handouts in the real class. Turning up will be good for you, we promise.

U – Union

The student union at your uni, if there is one, is responsible for creating fun. It provides the resources for clubs and societies to run, for food outlets to feed you, for parties to be held, and for students to represent the University and be a part of how the University is run. Although these activities are available to everyone, most unions will charge members a fee to get discounted prices on all they have on offer. Check out what you can afford, and weigh up whether you’ll benefit from being a member (the answer is usually yes).

V – Voting

You’ll be turning 18 at some point, which means you can vote. But why wait for a political election? University offers you many chances to vote: voting for the students who run for union, voting for whether the Rubik’s Cube Society should buy more Rubik’s cubes or not, and personal voting on whether or not you attend your lecture. Adulthood never felt so responsible.

W – Work experience

In between earning enough money to get by and studying full-time, you’re probably wondering how you might have time to work for free gaining work experience on an internship. It’s not easy, but work experience will go a long way to preparing you for what lies ahead after uni. Suss out organisations and companies you’re interested in working at, and give them a call to see if they’d have space to take on a volunteer. This way, you’re getting a foot in the door at a place you love, so it doesn’t seem like extra work. Even if this tactic doesn’t work, a lot of employers are looking for students who have showed the initiative to gain an internship, so find something that you’re going to enjoy and stick at it for a few months. You don’t want to come out the other end of uni wishing you’d thought about getting some work experience earlier.

X - Xylophones

There will probably be less xylophones at uni than there were at school…important to keep in mind.

Y - Youth Allowance

Youth Allowance is a scheme offered by the federal government to give students a leg up after they've turned 18. Eligible students will receive fortnightly cash payments to help them out with living out of home expenses, uni expenses and all those other fussy things you have to pay for like textbooks and transport costs. To check out whether you can be eligible for Youth Allowance, visit the Centrelink website here.

Z – Zzz: sleeping in

All hail 11:00am lectures, where the sun is actually high in the sky by the time you have to wake up. Even better are recorded lectures, which you can choose to watch from the comfort of your own home. Unless you have an 8:00am Statistics class. Then sleeping can be done in the lecture theatre instead.