High school teachers and counsellors


Working with South Australian Secondary Schools

In mid-late 2011 the project team visited a small group of secondary schools to talk with senior secondary students, teachers and counsellors. The purpose of these visits was to share some of the results from the project including information about the transition to university life and the realities of settling in to university.

Staff from schools were acknowledged at a ceremony held at the University of Adelaide in 2012

This select group of schools benefited from being the first to learn the results of our extensive surveying of commencing first year and continuing university students across Adelaide and the issues they face at University. We have prepared a Factsheet For School Staff that summarises some of these issues. Also take a look at  our Getting Ready For University Brochure.



• Most university staff (80%) and students (72%) report a difference or extreme difference in the difficulty and standard of work required at university compared to school

Having zero prior knowledge of database searching or journals made research (and therefore assignments) very difficult. In addition to adjusting to university and more complex content, I had to learn about academic literature and teach myself how to find/use it.

• 75% of new students have unrealistic expectations about the amount of study they are expected to do at university

• University students are expected to study 8-10 hours per subject per week (twice the amount of study expected at school)


What does this mean for you?

• You can help your students prepare for university by communicating the differences in workloads and expectations

• Students will encounter different types of assignments at university and will need to learn new skills such as independent learning, research and referencing skills



• Students will need to become more independent learners and develop new skills to succeed at university (over 65% of university students reported they had to adapt to a new way of learning)

• Universities run workshops to help students develop the time management, organisation, study and academic skills needed to succeed at university


… I had no idea what to expect and it was very different to high school. I had to get used to the more independent learning that we had and I had to research the topics in depth in my own time


What does this mean for you?

• Remind students that the environment, learning style and academic expectations will be different at University

• Encourage your students to be aware that they will need to take charge of their own learning

• Tell your students that no-one will be checking to see if they are keeping up with work or submitting assignments



• Just because students complete Year 12 does not mean they are fully prepared for university

• Over 50% of students and staff agree that school does not adequately prepare students for university

• Universities run preparation workshops for students throughout first year to bridge this gap


O’ week helped me to find my way around uni, and get a feel for what uni was going to be like. The uni website, and hearing from friends and family also helped to prepare me for uni and make my experience successful.


What does this mean for you?

• Encourage your students to attend open days, orientation and transition activities

• Encourage your students to seek out and access support and advisory services

• Tell your students not to be afraid to ask for help!



• University tutors and lecturers have complex roles, typically spending less than half of their time teaching

• First year classes tend to be much larger than what your students would most likely have experienced at school

• This means less one on one time with individual students, less feedback given on assignments (Less than 30% received feedback on drafts) and longer time to return work (60% report 3-4 week turnaround)

• 80% of new students agree it is important to have a close group of friends for support at university

• 25% of students said that talking with university staff helped them decide to continue at university


Making new friends that had similar interests to mine that I could study with and get help if I needed it. This was important as I could discuss assignments and tests (with) people who were in a similar situation to myself. My peers maintained my motivation over the semester and contributed different points of view and aspects to my learning.


What does this mean for you?

• Talk to your students about support networks and how important they are

• Encourage your students to start building their own support networks with university student services, tutors and friends

• Tell your students they will not receive the same amount of feedback as they do at school, and they will need to seek out additional feedback on their work if they need it


University Terminology Explained

Understanding the terminology used at university can be like learning a new language. Follow these links for Glossaries specific to UniSA, The University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

Follow this link to a Glossary of terms for the First Year Student Expectations and Experiences project.


Want to know more?

To be added to the SSEE project mailing list and be among the first to receive results and updates, or contact staff regarding this research, please email us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *