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TheAtomicBlade Offline
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Starting Uni: Survival Guide - September 18th 2017, 01:26 AM

So I know when I started uni it was scary. So I'm making this thread during my free time (aka procrastination) to pass all my knowledge onto you young folk.

Just a PSA: Some of this stuff is from my experience. So just keep that in mind

Applying to Uni

Before you start your awesome uni life, you need to apply. Every uni has its own process, but as a rule of thumb:
  • US Universitites need more essays than the UK or Australia
  • Essays are more important to your application in the States and Canada when compared to other countries

Now that we have the country rules of thumb out of the way, you need a list of unis to apply to. Personally, I used the: 2, 3, 2 policy. What this states is you have 2 Reach/Dream colleges, 3 Pretty sure I'll get in colleges, and 2 safety, I'm sure I'll get in unis. Now its important to consider what is realistic for you. Not trying to be a downer, but Harvard is a Dream for everyone basically. And, if you have a 1.5 GPA, applying to Stanford, or UCLA is a waste of your time and money. Consider your grades, but also, the teaching style, life in the city, tuition and living costs etc, when making this list.

You should keep an eye on the deadlines. There are a bunch of things like early decision, early action, regular, late, deferred applications. Now I'm not getting into that since it will take forever to really give you heaps of information on it. What you should do however, is visit the university website and look at their dates and what are the outcomes of each round. Some unis have early decision and/or early action as binding. It means you CANNOT reject their offer.

The essay questions depend on the uni, but also, they generally need you to write common app essays. Some universities may offer you alternative essays in place of the common app, but I strongly urge you to write the common app. It makes multiple applications easier. This is a link to the common app website.

Boom you're done applying!

What do after application

So you've written all your essays, and paid the application fees and sent off all your documents to the unis. Now what should you do? Well, if your university has interviews you should prepare! Google provides the kind of questions they may ask. Use it. Think of answers to questions. Something I liked to do was write out the questions I would ask a student and jot answers to them. It is a great way to prepare.
You should also get some practice using the means of interview. If the interview is via Skype, have mock interviews using Skype. If its in person have mock interviews in person. Have a friend/teacher/parent/career counsellor help with this. Looking good and being comfortable with the medium helps; since like we all know, confidence is always a plus.

If you're a lucky fella with no interviews, well, you should first double check and make sure there are no supplementary essays that are labelled "optional". Really, if you're applying to the USA, Canada, and some universities in Asia, UK, and Australia, the optional essays help. Its just another way for the uni to get to know you. Write them out, even though you're probably groaning, sighing, and cursing me and/or your uni of choice.

Hey I got in!

Hey congrats on getting in! Now that you're in Uni, there is still stuff to do. You may need to put a deposit down, to hold your place. Some unis may also require you to meet a certain offer. In Australia and the UK, nearly every university offer is conditional. You need to meet requirements for your admission to be valid. EG: Lancaster University needs you to have " Minimum of 3 GCSEs grade B or 6 to include Mathematics, and English Language grade C or 4" to get an offer. Even if you have a conditional offer, if you don't meet the requirements of the offer, you lose your seat. So study hard.

If you're in the USA or Canada its a bit easier. The unis generally won't rescind your offer. This obviously excludes massive drops. For example if you apply with a 3.9 GPA and drop to a 1.5 they probably will rescind your offer. However, they generally give you a chance to explain. If you fell very sick, or just had bad exams, and have great grades everywhere else they may still give you a chance to stay, provided you meet grade requirements at uni.

So basically, don't slack off. Yes its harsh and you just wanna hang out and chill with your mates, but hey, keep your grades up and do it. You're nearly in!

Now all the formalities are done and I'm at uni!

Welcome to *insertuninameofyourchoice*.

Well, so you're the freshman. Daunting isn't it. Specially if you're in a new place with no friends or family. Now before you freak out and run back to the airport, take a deep breath. You're gonna be fine.

If you're living in a dorm, there probably will be Residential Advisors (RAs). The RA has the job of trying to help you adjust to uni. They often organise events for new students to adjust to the dorm/living area and meet friends. Plus they are generally a wealth of knowledge on assignments, where your class is etc. Talk to them. It may be a bit daunting specially since they are in their second or third year, but they are there to help.

If you're not in a dorm, you're not going to be alone forever. Most unis have orientation week. During this week there are campus tours, club fests, and just heaps of events. Go to as many as you can. Its a great way to meet people and get friends. True story, my closest friends are people I met at O-week. Its not the case for everyone, and you will probably not be in touch with people you met at O-Week unless you share classes, but you will nearly always meet people you're gonna hang with. Don't worry about meeting your best friend and setting up a "squad" for want of a better word. Just hang out you'll be fine.

Well Tort, I've met people but now its study time

OK first up this is going to be hypocritical given that I'm procrastinating while writing this but anywho

Your primary point of contact is your Tutor or TA (depending on how your uni has its study session). You can of course approach your professor, and I encourage it, but remember they teach heaps of people and often do other stuff like research so their turn around time will 9.75/10 times be greater than your TA or tutor's. Whoever you contact ask your questions. Its their job to help. Sure you will meet some douchebags. Every single uni has em, sorry to say; but still ask your questions. Get doubts cleared up. If you are embarrassed to ask during the class, email them or go to their office/consultation hours.

Study groups can go either way. If you work well in a group and the group you're with is a good group, yay for you. Otherwise don't bother. Find what works for you. Personally I like to snag corners in the library and work quietly. Assignments are done with mates though.Utilise the facilities offered by your uni for studying. Most unis have study spaces, which are great to work between classes. They often also have study groups, run by students. Super helpful if something didn't make sense in class.

Also, it always helps to have someone proof read your work. Even if the content is great, bad spelling, not justifying your text, forgetting to double space, silly grammar error all can make an essay that could be an A, a B or even a C. Just get anyone a friend, roomie, partner, your Tutor or TA or prof if they're willing, to read over it.

All work and no Play makes Jack a dull boy

Don't think Uni is all about study. Sure its important, but so is being social, staying fit and mentally sound.

Nearly every uni has a gym. It may be worth joining it; even if you don't want to hit the weights, you can take group classes. Working out provides heaps of benefits that I am too lazy to type, so am gonna link you too here. Plus, you get to meet people. Also even if you're someone who hates sport and loves to study, think of this, exercise helps improve your brain functioning, so there.

You may also want to go to parties. Heaps of unis have parties hosted by frats and clubs. Now depending on your country's laws, you may or may not drink etc. Remember to exercise caution and be safe. Have fun but never at the risk of hurting yourself or someone else. On the subject of parties, there may be a lot of hooking up and sex happening. DO NOT FEEL PRESSURED. If you're not comfortable with whats happening at a party leave. Also, remember if you do hook up with someone, use condoms. You don't want to pick up an STD. I'm going to say this again though, DO NOT DO SOMETHING YOU ARE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH, AND DON'T MAKE ANYONE DO ANYTHING THEY ARE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH.

Unis also often have mental health services. If you feel like you need this support use it. There is no shame in asking for help. The APA has stated roughly 1/3 university students in the USA have trouble functioning due to depression. Source. Please seek help if you need it. There is no shame in it. I have used the services provided by my university because I couldn't cope at a point.

There are also academic services. If you're not performing to a level that you feel is satisfactory you can book an appointment with these services. They may also have walk in services. This can be a time to try and understand why your performance isn't at its peak and how you can get there. Plus, these services often have great advice (like study spots, and groups you didn't know about).

Other cool stuff

You need to ask around at your uni, but often they have cool stuff. Free food, maybe a job, financial aid, heck maybe even a meet people board game session. Ask around. Follow facebook pages/websites. You'll be surprised to see how much awesome stuff you find. Plus, given that students don't have heaps of cash, its always great to find cheap and free stuff eh?

Also, you may want to hold off on buying your books right away. Some times you don't even need em for a class and then all that money that could go towards coffee or a midnight burger run is down the drain. If you realise you don't need a book, just remember that you can sell it second hand. Ebay, uni boards etc are great places to advertise. If you're meeting the buyer to sell the book, pick a spot that is safe. A cafe, the library, any place with people is a good place to do it.

Unis also may offer you a job. Keep a look out for that. Generally a uni job is good money, and DEFINITELY a tick on your resume. Do remember they are competitive so don't get disheartened if you didn't get the job. If you want a job keep applying. Sometimes you can't get one on campus and thats fine. If you want a job keep applying. Something you should remember is that unis often have careers offices that can massively help. They can help from making your resume look good to choosing your subjects for the jobs you want. You may need to ask around since it can be a bit tricky to find them, but definitely give it a shot. It also may be worth asking a prof if he/she needs an assistant. A freshman undergrad is honestly probably not going to get the job, but it never hurts to ask. At least it puts you on their radar.

Well, thats all I've got to say for now. I'll probably add on to this post as I think of things and/or see recurring trends. Ask questions below if you like, I'll try to reply ASAP.

Enjoy your time at uni, its really awesome.


PM me if you ever wanna talk. Send a message my way.
And remember, you matter. You're awesome. You're beautiful. Stay strong, the world will get better.

May The Force be With You.
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Re: Starting Uni: Survival Guide - September 21st 2017, 11:48 PM

very thorough! thank you for writing all this!

the last bit made me think that, sometimes you can find free college books as a pdf online. And sometimes the professor allows you to buy an earlier edition if it's cheaper. Also there's a copy of most textbooks in the school library. So you can ask about that and how long you get to use it for (here, the textbooks on reserve are 2 hours in the library but that's ample of time for free scanning.) Sometimes I've had classmates lend me their scanned pages! If your uni has a board where assignments are posted etc, there might be a list of email addresses of your classmates. Definitely use it! it saved me so much trouble when trying to form study groups and in other situations!
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