First year: The "culling" phase

University - the promised land of forward thinking, education and the transition into adulthood. Rest assured it is a "promise" because University in reality is actually a wake up call. The transition from high school to university to the working world is full of challenges and the first year of university has become a challenge for many. In a way it is the year that an institution can either funnel or "cull" their number of first year students.

Most certainly a lot of universities offer a four year undergrad with the first year being more of an introduction into their future majors, but making the cut is still tough. And what about the unprepared individuals who are thrown into the deep end of a three year bachelors degree? They are the ones most at risk to face the big old boot.

Bridging courses and summer/winter school all have rolls to play but making sure you keep on track is important because you want to use your extra time to work or perhaps have a well deserved rest. Orientation week is great because you learn how to properly pour a beer and find your route to the campus canteen. But the few individuals who actually take time out of their school holidays to enter into a university preparation program are really a rare breed. With the worldwide cost of education at an all time high and colleges/universities being run with strong business acumen, it’s about time that students endeavor to be a bit tougher when entering into a study program.

 Here are some cool ideas to help you steer from being a university first year dropout:

1. Research and ask questions: actually making the effort to find out what you are going to be studying towards along with researching the course outline is really NB. Exploring career opportunities that can be pursued with your qualification is also a must! It is all about getting direction, this will at least provide relevant goals that one will be heading towards whilst handling challenges that arise when studying.

2. Using the university facilities: there is a reason why an institution provides a timetable -  it is the system that allows you to manage your time in a worthwhile (effective) manner. When you have a gap hit the library or study hall, get working and focus on your course material. Naturally you are also expected to have a life outside your studies but prioritise your study time.

3. The wake up calls: when the lecturer starts your first course lecture with the time old speech “look to your left-then to your right…those people aren’t going to be there next semester!”- take the warning seriously because it is more than often true. High school is over and it is every person for themselves so don’t expect any hand-holding or spoon-feeding from your mates or lecturers.

Your first set of results are a good measure of how you are academically performing and what improvements need to be made, treat every test/exam as important because every point counts.

4. Studying in a group: this may or may not work for individuals, and it strongly depends on the course work you are learning. In first year of studies this can be a distracting factor because your mates tend to be in these groups so have some discretion when choosing a setup like this.

5. Getting tips: the people who know what they are doing are the lecturers and the assigned course tutors, they have first hand information of what is needed to be covered in the coursework. Times change, meaning course structures don’t always remain the same year by year, therefore be vigilant on how you use advice from past students who are offering tips.

6. Extra help: Universities will tend to pile on your workload in first year, it is a pressuring factor that amounts to a large number of dropouts. It also helps streamline an institution’s faculty intake and create more space for new students. At the end of the day good academic results is important for any institution and making sure individuals pass well is part of their mandate. Most universities will have extra tutorials to help students who are struggling with their academics so making use of such opportunities is always a good thing.

The bottom-line is that whatever you are reading towards in your studies, an institution has the facilities and infrastructure to empower you correctly - you simply have to be strategic and tap into these resources. First year is a hard year but the following years are just as tough...if not tougher. It is all about putting in the hard work and making sure you finish what you started. It is an awesome training ground for the big bad working world and also a nice buffer before you enter into a full time career. So enjoy your university or college days no matter how much of a challenge they are - it will still be an awesome experience!