Preparing for Your First Year at University

Well done! You have successfully completed high school and are now eagerly awaiting to embark on the next step of your life – starting university!


You may be feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety, particularly if you are attending a university, college or another tertiary institution far from home or your friends are not attending university with you. This is normal! 

Here are some practical tips to consider to ensure that you are as well-prepared as possible to prevent adding unnecessary stress:

Before University Starts

  • Ensure that all necessary documentation and payments required by the university are up to date as early as possible.
  • Attend all orientation or induction events hosted by the university. These are a great way to meet new people, as well as familiarize yourself with the campus and where you’ll need to be on your first day.
  • If you are commuting, ensure that you know the route, bus or train stops and where to park if you will be driving. Organise a parking token if necessary. 
  • Ensure you have the required resources for your course – you will get a list of all textbooks and requirements which it is best to try and obtain early in the semester so you don’t fall behind. 
  • Buy the necessary stationery – plenty of pens and notepaper if you like to take lots of notes!
  • Pay attention to all communication from the university for your first day instructions. 
  • Start setting an alarm clock, particularly if you’ve got into the habit of sleeping in since the end of school. You need practise and discipline for your new routine????
  • Ensure you have some comfortable shoes – most campuses are vast and you may have to walk a lot (or run) between lectures! What good are pretty shoes if your feet are aching?
  • If you will be living in res, or away from home, make sure you give yourself enough time to move in before university activities start. 
  • If you are living in self-catering digs, buy food for at least the first week.

The First Day (& Week)

  • Set your alarm clock to ensure you will wake up on time.
  • Have a small, healthy breakfast to provide power for your new routine. 
  • Arrive at your first lecture early. This will give you time to get a good seat and time to check the other students out!
  • Become familiar with your timetable and the campus layout so you know where all your lectures are and how much time you’ll need to get there. 
  • Make adequate notes during lectures (or record the lecture on your phone if you can). 
  • Be friendly to the other students (most of whom are feeling exactly like you are) and smile. The 3 best ways to start a conversation? “What are you studying?” “Where are you from?” “Which res are you in?”
  • Get into good study habits from the beginning – once you get home after class, read through your lecture notes to see if you have any gaps in understanding. The university workload is far greater than high school, so you need to keep up from the beginning. You’ll get through the whole high school curriculum of a subject within a month at university!
  • If you are living away from home for the first time, establish some good routines. Ensure you are cooking and eating simple, healthy meals. A fast-food diet will soon lead to weight-gain and illness, as well as impact you ability to focus in lectures. 


From Week 2 Onwards

  • Continue establishing healthy habits – exercise if you’re used to it or start exercising if you’re not. This increases oxygen to your brain and helps you concentrate better.
  • If you have to work with a budget for the first time, be responsible with it. Chat to your parents, older siblings or older friends if you’re not sure how to set up your budget.
  • Join some clubs – take up some new interests or continue with established ones. Hobbies are really important for your mental wellbeing, plus they’re a great way to make new friends!
  • Keep in touch with your family regularly (especially if you’re living away from home, it can be hard on your parents and siblings and they will want to know that you’re okay). 
  • Keep up to date with your assignments and assessment projects – the volume of varsity work is great and you will find yourself pulling plenty of all-nighters if you don’t keep up!
  • If you feel like you’re falling behind or struggling, chat to a friend who is competent in the subject or consider engaging the services of a private tutor who has successfully walked the path ahead of you. They may have done the exact course (or a similar one) to what you’re struggling with and be able to identify with you, as well as give you course-specific tips. 

It is best to address all issues sooner rather than later before they get out of hand. Whether you’re struggling with academics, homesickness, depression or anything else, reach out and accept the help from friends, family or professionals. Please do not struggle alone. This will help you adjust easier to the big and exciting life change that is your first year of university and ensure you remember this year as something positive and rewarding!


Wow! If this was too much information for you, remember these 3 main tips:

  1. Keep on top of your coursework from Day 1. If you’re struggling, get a tutor.
  2. Keep a healthy lifestyle – exercise, sleep and eat well. 
  3. Be sociable – make new friends in your course or varsity clubs, and keep in touch with family and friends if you’re going to university away from home.


This article first appeared on, and was written by Natalie Wilke, BrightSparkz Staff & Blog Writer