6 Things I Wish I Knew About Uni When I Was In Year 12

Written for The Stand, UOW

With three years of university under my belt and a fourth year approaching at a rapid pace, I’m almost considered a veteran at this Uni stuff. Over the past few years, I’ve had wild and exciting ride and learnt a whole lot along the track (sometimes the hard way). Studying in the field of Communications and Media and International Studies, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been involved in widespread, practical university experiences during my time so far, and with that I’ve picked up a few ins and outs of Uni life that I hope you might find useful. I’m no prodigy, but here’s what I wish my teachers told me about Uni when I was in year 12:

  1. No one is ever going to ask about your ATAR once school is over.

Sure, Year 12 is one of the most important years of your schooling life, but it’s not one which you should have to look back on as the most stressful. The ATAR isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. You see, that little number that arrives in your email around mid-way through December is merely an indication, and in my case, was completely insignificant. I got into University through Early Entry, which meant I had a place guaranteed at UOW before I even sat my HSC exams. How’s that for a weight off your shoulders? And in the case that you don’t get early entry, or your ATAR isn’t high enough to get you into the degree that you’ve always dreamt of, there are other pathways to university that make it totally possible, such as UOW College. I finished school five years ago, and I can’t even remember what my ATAR was.

2. You can still travel even if you’re #broke.

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself stuck between have an insatiable desire to see the world, but a bank account that doesn’t quite match your sense of wanderlust. Luckily, UOW has one of the best exchange programs I’ve ever come across, with a range of financial support options which make it super simple for you to get out there and get travelling without stressing about finances. It’s as simple as sitting down with one of the awesome exchange staff members and after a 10-minute convo you’ll be on your way to studying (and travelling) in your dream destination. For me, that looked like two incredible months studying in Spain as well as roving between Morocco, Portugal and Paris. Next year I’ll be heading off again, this time to Mexico for 6 months! Vamonos!

3. Scholarships aren’t just for straight-A-students.

While we’re on the topic of finances, let’s talk scholarships. One of the biggest misconceptions I had in year 12 was that only the really smart kids got the scholarships. Oh, how I was wrong! Moving to Uni can be a stressful time financially, especially if you’re like me and moving far away from the comfort of home, into a completely new environment. Take 5 minutes to get on the scholarship website and enter in your details- you’ll be so surprised by the variety that are available. There’s everything from sport, community involvement, women in STEM, equity and so much in between. Each year, thousands of dollars of scholarship money goes unclaimed due to lack of applicants, and I know where I’d rather that money to be… (in my travel fund!)

4. You don’t have to wait till you finish uni to start building a career.

This is a bit of a tricky one. For some people, they’ll spend their three years at uni going to every single class and lecture, doing all their readings perfectly, and graduate with amazing. The only problem is, when they get out there into the ‘real world’ they find they’re totally inexperienced and unequipped for what may lie ahead. The one thing I really believe university offers is opportunity. The trick is, spotting the ones that tickle your fancy, and saying yes to them with enthusiasm and passion. In my experience, my degree itself has been less about the piece of paper at the end, and more a vehicle for opening doors and creating opportunities, all while I’m still in the process of learning. One example has been a small jewellery business that I’ve grown through my connections at uni – where I make my own jewellery from laser cut repurposed wood that would have otherwise been wasted. It’s called Lazy Susan if you want to check it out!

5. Uni is flexible.

As much as we plan it to be, life really doesn’t always run that smoothly, and hiccups happen that can really put a spanner in the works. You might get here and find you hate the degree you started in and need to do some reshuffling. You might need to take a few months off to have a bit of R&R and get back on your feet. Maybe you need to drop back to a part time schedule to leave more space for a job to help pay the bills. University is what you make it to be, and unlike school, your routine can be completely customised to suit you and where you’re at in your life at the time. I’ve had brain surgery twice while I’ve been at uni for goodness sake! And I’m still on track just fine thanks to the flexible support of the academic staff.

6. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

In the first few weeks of uni, it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of O-Week, moving in and staring a new schedule. You’re going to meet stacks of new faces every day, and be smacked with a hectic new social and academic schedule which will be different to anything you’ve ever known at school. During this time, and for the duration of your life for that matter, it’s very important to be gentle on yourself and give yourself time to adjust. Those first few weeks or even months are going to be a tester, but you’re in luck. At UOW there’s some awesome wellbeing support networks on campus that are free for students to access. I’m talking councillors, doctors, dentists and an amazing wellbeing centre that hosts brilliant free events specifically designed with mental health in mind. My favourites are the free yoga and yoghurt sessions; name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait!

Published by susiealdermann

Fifth Year Bachelor of Communications and Media/ Bachelor of International Studies (Dean's Scholar) student

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