Information for parents of secondary school students

This project is investigating the gaps between what students expect before they begin university and what they experience once they are at university.

We have prepared a Getting Ready For University Brochure and a Factsheet For Parents Of Prospective University Students which outline the key findings from our research. It also contains tips from first and second year students about how to get through the first semester at university.



School and university workloads are different

• Students are expected to study 8-10 hours per subject per week (twice that expected at school)

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

• Most university staff (80%) and students (70%) report a difference or extreme difference in the difficulty and standard of work required at university compared to school


Completing a year of study changed my outlook a bit as I felt like I had achieved something and that I could finish this degree. There was light at the end of the tunnel.


What does this mean for you?

• Your child will need to commit up to 40 hours a week to full time study

• They will have different types of assignments compared to school

• They will need to learn new skills eg independent research, academic writing and referencing

• Encourage them to attend university workshops on these topics



• University is a different learning environment where students are expected to be independent learners

• Over 70% of university students indicated they had to adapt their learning style

• University teachers will not provide all study materials and students need to seek out additional information to support their studies


Understanding that, unlike school, a lot of learning must be done in your own time – I learnt the hard way that you need to read up on topics BEFORE the lectures about them and before pracs and tutorials. Figuring out how to balance everything was the hardest part, but once it was balanced it made my experience more successful.


What does this mean for you?

• Remind your son/daughter they will be responsible for monitoring and directing their own learning at university

• University is an adult learning environment and no-one will be checking to see if they are keeping up with the workload



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

• First year classes tend to be significantly larger than what your son/daughter would most likely have experienced at school

• This often 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)


High school could have helped me prepare for university better! In high school I had a lot of feedback from teachers and numerous drafts, at university I rarely get enough feedback and no drafts at all.


What does this mean for you?

• Let your son/daughter know that they will need to seek out additional feedback from other sources such as peers, tutors and via university support services

• Encourage them to join study groups and utilise the university’s online resources.



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

• Universities have dedicated support services freely available to all students

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


I think the main thing early on (that made my uni experience successful) was the face-to face support, such as tutors and people in the learning and teaching unit sitting down with you and explaining things so I could fully understand things. That was the most important thing…


What does this mean for you?

• Talk to your son/daughter about support networks and how important they are

• If they need help it is important they talk to someone about it before it’s too late

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


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 Adelaideand 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 to contact staff regarding this research, please email us.

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