Congratulations to those that have just begun their tertiary education. Whether you're a school leaver or a mature age student, at university or TAFE or a private institute like the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, we've no doubt the first couple of weeks of the semester have made you aware of just how different tertiary education is to primary and secondary.
I've started four courses in my time as a tertiary student. I've been through TAFE and university. The latter as both an undergraduate student and, as of the past couple of weeks, a postgraduate student. Each time I've witnessed how, after the first month, many students pulled out because they couldn't hack it. Because they couldn't motivate themselves. Because they felt like they'd chosen the wrong course. For whatever reason, a significant number of students disappear from campus early on.
Now, there's no advice we can offer you if you've started a course only to find it's not what you were expecting aside from the following. Firstly, you can pull out of a course within the first couple of weeks and not owe a cent to anyone. Secondly, if you dislike the course but feel you can stick out the year - well, the full 26 weeks you'll actually be on campus - you can always stay where you are and, when the second semester hits, put in an application to transfer to something you actually do want to do. I did the latter when I found myself hating the Bachelor of Network Computing.
Hopefully, though, a newfound lack of interest in your chosen field of study won't be an issue. What probably will be an issue is the difficulty of the transition from secondary education. University in particular is very different, requiring much in the way of discipline and motivation. No one - not your tutors or your lecturers or anyone in student services - will hold your hand. That's not to say the environment is cold and cruel. Assistance, be it in the form of counselling or classes on essay writing, is there if you need it. It's just your responsibility to seek it out.
Turning up to class
Not bothering to turn up to class is something many students are guilty of. It's not always out of laziness. Sometimes we have to work. Particularly when you start postgraduate courses, the university will tell you that they don't like the idea of you juggling a job and a full-time course. Now, that's all well and good for a professional academic, but the reality for anyone living out of home - yours truly included - is that there are bills to pay. Telstra isn't going to hold off on demanding its thirty bucks for line rental simply because you're determined to get straight High Distinctions. Realistically, there are times when you're going to have to sacrifice study to get by.
However, you need to make up for it. Lecturers typically upload both audio recordings and PowerPoint slides. Keep up with them. Read the assigned text and, if you're able, any texts the lecturer recommends as further reading. The libraries on large campuses - Monash University's Clayton and Caulfield campuses, for instance - are open reasonably late, so getting there at some point during the week shouldn't be too hard.
If you can make class, ensure you do so. Particularly the tutorials and seminars, as these are often more valuable than the lectures. Indeed, in some instances I've found it physically impossible to be at the lectures of a given subject for most of a semester. So long as I read the assigned texts and take a squiz at the lecture notes, I get by just fine in the tutorials.
Essentially, if you can make it to class you should. Even if that means waking up earlier than your lazy arse would prefer. If you can't make it to class, you should do everything in your power to keep up with the class. Keep an eye on the unit's message board, as sometimes there will be important announcements about assignment topics, submission dates and mid-semester tests that were also made in classes. Stay in touch with your lecturers and tutors.