More High Distinctions, less nervous breakdowns - it’s what all uni students aim for.

Achieving such things, however, is often easier said than done. Success comes down to proper preparation to start the semester off on the right foot and get settled into good habits. Many of us though, especially after a four-month break, are at a loss at how to do this.

In order to have a productive and (mostly) stress-free semester, here are our best tips on how to prepare for the return to uni, leaving you free to worry about other stuff, like actually having something interesting to say in the tortuous tutorial introductions:

Buy your textbooks and course reader

Yes, it hurts having to fork out $300 for a textbook. Often we tell ourselves we’ll decide whether or not we REALLY need the textbook after a few weeks of class, in these cases though generally it never ends up purchased. Whilst you may save you money, it’ll cost you precious marks.  So just fork over the cash, grin and bear it, and you’ll have a head start if you begin ‘priming’ yourself for upcoming topics. Also, the earlier you decide to buy textbooks the more likely you are the get a good second hand deal before they’re all snatched up by other poor, struggling uni students as hungry for a bargain as you are.


Do the pre-reading. If you want to utilise uni break to make sure you have more luxurious free time during the semester and don’t spend it in procrastination induced panic spiral, do the pre-reading. This will give you an advantage, as this will ‘prime’ you to understand the information better when actually going over it in class, allowing you to retain it better and reducing the need for last minute revision. This will also help you to see the links between topics and start thinking of ideas for assessments way in advance.

Do the course pre-work

Doing uni work before you’re officially back at uni is probably the last thing that you want to do. Despite this, getting a better grasp of the topic when you’ve got nothing to do instead of binge watch House of Cards on Netflix will be much better for your mental health. It will also allow you to seek help if you don’t know what’s going on early on, rather than when you’re swamped in work in the middle of the semester. Going through the topic early and completing any course work will give you a comprehensive understanding of the topic and allow you to flag any potential areas of trouble to work extra hard on during the semester.

It will also ensure you actually have something to contribute in tutorials, saving you from the awkward silences and the terror in which you pray your tutor doesn’t call on you to answer when you have no clue what’s going on. This will get you major brownie points from your tutor that could eventually translate into the deciding mark that takes you from a credit to a distinction. Participation counts!

Set up a study schedule                                      

If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Use the time before you go back to map out your weeks and slot in study time. If you start planning this out straight away, it will make you more likely to stick to it and get in good, sustainable study habits that fit easily into your schedule and still allow you to fit in social commitments.

You can use apps or iCal but in most cases, actual pen to paper planners tend to work best, as they allow you to view your weeks better and nothing beats the satisfaction of ticking tasks off your to do list. Note down when assessments are due and work backwards, breaking assessments down into small tasks week by week so you aren’t caught unaware and end up having to pump out an essay at 3am in the morning, a not-so treasured rite of passage for most uni students.

Planning will allow you to schedule your study around your life rather than the other way around. Look for gaps in your schedule and find easy ways to fit in studying throughout your day without sacrificing other commitments, such as reading our study notes on your commute, or staying back at uni for a couple of hours a week to get some study done.

Through creating a study schedule and planning out your weeks during the semester, you can avoid falling behind on uni work and drowning your sorrows at the uni bar.

Read your syllabus

Perhaps the most important step, but one that many of us neglect until forced to glance at it in our tutorials. The syllabus is the stressed uni students best friend. Take note of when your assessments are due, how much they’re worth, as well as required reading and plan accordingly.

Go to your first lecture

If you skip your very first lecture it’s highly likely that you won’t end up attending any of them, putting you behind and leaving you with an ever-growing pile of lecture recordings that you’ll tell yourself you’ll catch up on and never will. Going to your first lecture won’t only lessen the chance of you skipping out on an entire semester’s worth, it’ll also allow you to get a comprehensive overview of the subject and important dates and information. If you’re the type of student who’s going to skip you’re lectures and there’s nothing we can say that’ll convince you otherwise, at least go to the first one.

Set goals for the semester

By setting goals for what you want to achieve for the semester, whether it be to participate more in class discussions, to getting above a distinction on all your assessments, these goals will keep you motivated allow you to make your study plan accordingly. By having these goals to stride towards you’re much more accountable to yourself and are more likely to stick to good study habits throughout the semester. Make sure they’re specific and time based in order to make them more achievable and take small steps each study session to achieve them.

So utilise these tips to get settled into good habits at the beginning of the semester in order to make that a distinction average an achievable goal and prevent settling into the “P’s get degrees” mindset.


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