University: Getting on your feet and staying there

Katrina B
University: Getting on your feet and staying there

NCEA results. Whether they be good or bad - you’ve got them. Now, what’s next?

We’re assuming that most of you have applied to universities and are now wondering when you can start enrolling for your papers. Hopefully you’ll be giddy and excited to start another journey in your life. But maybe you’re also feeling some jitters. School was all you knew and now you’re thrown into this whole new world. Of course, some of you - who have older siblings or friends- will be a bit familiar with how university works. But there will also be some who have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. That’s fine! Whether you’re familiar or new, you’ve entered through the door now. It’s just all about navigating this new room.  

Choosing your university and degree:

After you’ve got your marks it’s usually just a waiting game for that acceptance letter. They’ll start arriving in a few days. If you want to be proactive - you can calculate if you’ve got your University Entrance based on your rank score as compared to the rank score required to get into your degree.

 A few days later, you’ve got about 10-15 emails from different universities saying all the same thing. ‘Congratulations! We are pleased to acknowledge the acceptance of your offer of place blah blah blah’. If your careers advisor was like mine, she’d have pushed you into enrolling into different degrees and in different universities to keep your choices open.

You probably thought about which degree and university over the summer and just opened that specific email and disregarded all others. Good for you! But to the people who are still unsure here are three things we need you to think about before deciding which uni and degree you want to pursue:

1.) Passion - This is specifically for your chosen area of study. You’ve heard this a thousand times, but it needs repeating - choose what you’re passionate about! If you’re good at something (say writing essays) and studying Arts is also your passion - then double whammy for you! But if writing essays is not your forte but the thought of studying the humanities makes your heart skip a beat - do it! You can always a learn skill; but you can never force yourself to love something you just don’t like.

2.) Friends - For me (and perhaps for most of you) it was all about moving away from the parents and experiencing freedom. Not one second did my mind seriously consider how I’ll maintain my relationship with my friends. Definitely, you’ll meet people in university. But please, keep and foster your relationships with your high school friends! They’ll be the stability you need in this new phase of your life. We know some people actually need to move away because they don’t live in places like Auckland, Wellington or Dunedin. And of course they’re thinking about: learning things that are actually interesting!, moving away from parents!, freedom!, etc. etc. But rarely we see high schoolers transitioning to university think about how they’re going to nurture their relationship with their friends from school.

3.) Money - University is expensive. And we're not just talking about tuition fees and textbooks. Coffee, the ‘occasional’ lunch, plane or bus tickets to go home during break - you name it. It piles up and suddenly you’re broke. For example, I’m from Auckland and I was seriously thinking about going to Victoria to pursue a BA/LLB but Dad, ever the reality-check, laid everything out to me realistically. They wanted to pay my university education (even when I told them I could do it) and I realised that moving to Vic was going to break the bank. So I decided to stay put in Auckland and study here instead. Again, some of you have no choice but to move - but to those peeps who have that choice- be realistic about the financial costs. Don’t just look at how much the tuition fees are and the cost of living - add them up and voila! Also realise that there’s so much more to living by yourself - cost of going out on Friday nights, gym membership, a brunch date with friends, etc. 

Enrolling in your classes:

You’ve accepted your offer of place. Now it’s time for the fun part - enrolling in your classes. 

Before we start, we need to have some background knowledge.

1.) Papers = subjects. How obvious, you say. You’d be surprised how much that confused people when they first started in uni. It had to be said. 

2.) Most papers are run throughout only one semester. It’s unheard of to have a full year paper in your first year.

 3.) You usually take 4 papers per semester. Some students are encouraged to take 5 papers in a semester to either catch up or stay on track with your degree. However, if you can avoid it, just take 4 and take papers in summer school instead. Please, please, do not take 6. We know the paper might sound interesting - but you’ll kill yourself.

Okay, now that’s done. Into the gritty part.

Hopefully in the email the university sends you - you’ll get a link to a student portal. Click on it. Look for an enrol button and it’ll take you to a site where you can look at different papers you can take.

Most degrees often have compulsory subjects and you just click on those. But to those that do not and you’re suddenly filled with hundreds of options, here’s a suggestion. Tick about 6/7 papers you’re interested in or you want to major in.

Then research them! Look at reviews on Student Course Review, search the paper in the university website and you’ll get some official information (such as how the paper is weighted) and also check the university library website for past exams. If you’re trying to get into Law or Medicine and have a real weakness on exams - this is a must.

Now that you’ve finished researching, make your 4 options. Look at your potential timetable, if you’re happy send it to cart and you’re enrolled! We suggest you do semester 2 as well because they tend to get full if you apply later.

And….you’ve done it!!

You’ve accepted and enrolled into your classes. It might still feel jarring but that’s okay. It’s new. Its supposed to shake you off your rockers a little bit. 


And finally, some tips:

1.) Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer. No. Keep your student id number, university email and login and password even closer. This is your main way to communicate in the university. You will not encounter a lecturer or a tutor who just asks for your name - they want your id number or your university email.

2.) Reiterating what we said above, universities run by semesters. With approximately a month break in between. ‘How short!’, you say. ‘How grueling,’ we say. University is short - much shorter than high school. But the content you need to know and the time doesn’t match up. Keep this in mind and either get ahead or don’t fall behind.

3.) General education. If you’re not familiar with it - general education is a requirement and is unique only to the University of Auckland. It’s main purpose is to make sure students get to experience a subject out of their discipline with the intent to broaden their knowledge and skills. Enrolling in a general education in the first year is up to you and the nature of your degree. You do not have to take a general education in your first year. 

4.) Apart from lectures, you will also have tutorials. This is like a classroom setup where you get to discuss what you did in the lecture. Attend these! Tutorials allow you to talk about what you’ve learned in a familiar and more comfortable setting.

5.) Do your readings! Lectures and tutorials are not enough. You need to do them! We know some are a drag - but to actually understand what your lecturers are talking about a bit more - you need to read what they assigned.

6.) Do not be afraid to ask a question. Whether this be raising your hand in a lecture theatre, talking to your lecturer after a class or emailing. If you have a question do not stay silent.

7.) Enjoy! Not just university life but what you’re learning too. University is supposed to be more than just a tool to get you a degree and a job - it’s supposed to ignite your passion. Make you think broader and differently.

University is an exciting time. We hope this article has made it a bit easier for you to transition from high school to university. There’s so many things we wish to say and tell but we think that most should be learned as you progress.

Enjoy it. Don’t take it for granted. We’re not sure if it’ll be the best 3-5 years of your life. But it’ll be the most enlightening ones. 

-Written by Katrina Bernadette for Momentum Tutoring