Secondary students

Information for secondary students

 Being prepared

We have asked university students about their university experiences, what has made their time at university successful and what they wished they could have known in year 12 to help them prepare. See our Factsheet For Prospective Students and Getting Ready For University Brochure for more information.



•  3/4 of new university students have unrealistic expectations about the amount of study they are expected to do at university

•  The recommended amount of study at university is 8-10 hours per week per subject

•  This is double what is expected of students at high school and is equivalent to a full time job


Understanding that the key to being successful is only dependent on the amount of work you are prepared to put in. You do not have to be the smartest person to complete a degree but you do need to be committed and put in the effort


What does this mean for you?

•  You will need to commit up to 40 hours a week to study (full-time)

•  As an adult learner you will need to take the initiative, no one will be checking up on you to make sure you are keeping up with the work

•  You will need to learn to manage your time and the newly found freedom



•  Just because you complete Year 12 doesn’t mean you are fully prepared for university study

•  70% of students report that the standard of university work is different or extremely different to school work

•  Our survey shows that only 45% of students felt that school adequately prepared them for university study


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?

•  You will need to adapt to a more independent learning style

•  Be proactive in developing your study skills – go to university workshops to help you develop the skills to succeed, eg; research, analysis, writing and time management skills

•  Keep up with the workload



•  Finding a balance between university, work, social life, family and other commitments is important

•  Most first year students (75%) expect to be able to work and study but only 50% are able to

•  Take care that other commitments don’t impact on your studies, 45% of students had outside commitments that negatively affected their learning


It was important for me to try and find a balance between university, work and my social life….if I have a balance I won’t be rushing assignments and adding stress.


What does this mean for you?

•  Don’t try to do too much on top of study! Balancing work, study and your social life is a challenge

•  Prioritise study over other activities initially until you adjust to the expectations of university



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

•  First year classes may be significantly larger than those you have previously experienced

•  This means less one on one time with individual students, less feedback given on assignments (30% received feedback on drafts) and longer time to return work (50% report 3-4 week turnaround)

•  If you need help, talk to someone about it, 25% of students said that talking with university staff helped their decision to continue at university

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


Making friends within the first few days of orientation – (it was) important to have that support from the beginning. I know many people who have dropped programs just because they did not make friends from the beginning.


What does this mean for you?

•  If you feel like you need more feedback from university teaching staff, don’t be afraid to ask for it

•  Be prepared to seek feedback and support from other sources as well eg student support services, transition and advisory services, language /writing centre & online forums

•  Go to Orientation activities (over 60% of students said these were useful or really useful



Students who have made it beyond their first semester have shared these tips for success with us when asked – What was important for making your university experience successful?

  • Understanding that the key to being successful is only dependent on the amount of work you are prepared to put in. You do not have to be the smartest person to complete a degree but you do need to be committed and put in the effort
  • Balancing my other commitments such as work and sport with study. Finding enough time to relax. Starting on assignments early.
  • Making sure I was organised with bus routines so that I was not late for lectures. Being diligent in my studies and handing assignments in on time. Asking questions about things that I was not sure about
  • Having a support network that I could rely on for both academic purposes and also personal issues that may happen in my time outside of university
  • Having good independent time management skills, knowing how to research properly (e.g use databases) and having friends and social groups are all important for making my university experience successful
  • The open days helped me a lot, as did orientation week. I think that these days gave me a more realistic idea of what would be expected from me at university

University Terminology Explained

Understanding the terminology used at university can be like learning a new language.  Follow the following links for Glossaries specific to UniSA, 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 updatrs, or to contact staff regarding this research, please email us.

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