Howdy peeps! Welcome to my blog. And to your blog. I am Bec. I am a seasoned La Trobian (aka La Trobe student) and a Connect Mentor Leader. I am here to ride with you through your first semester at La Trobe, to give you some pointers about university life – some specific to La Trobe and others not so much. By the end of week 13, with my help, you will feel confident with your studies, have a few friends to count on, and be happy in knowing uni isn’t really so hard, and you’ll be ready to do it all again in semester two!
This is my second shot at uni: the first time was a giant mistake. I tried uni straight out of high school at one outside this fine Victorian state. If it had any transitional steps to help me get started, I totally missed them. I didn’t know anything, and usually found things out too late. For example, I didn’t know there were subjects to sign up for, and I needed a rough schedule of what tutorials I wanted to do, so I was one of two or three stragglers who signed up for whatever was available, and ended up with clashed classes, missing out on things I wanted and a very long, spread out week of classes. I also didn’t know that unlike high school, there would be no teachers monitoring me to make sure I got assignments done. Sure, I knew I had to hand in assignments, but I thought as long as I was turning up to classes, that attendance counted for something. Just like school. Well, university isn’t school and attendance is a big part but it doesn’t usually count toward your final grade. What I sucked at most, however, was setting aside study time, which despite having both worked and played sport, I had not managed to perfect in high school. Even though that lifestyle is supposed to teach you to be more organised. No, my habit was to put off all study until the last minute. Like many of you I’m sure. Anyway so at uni this behaviour continued and I missed a bunch of deadlines for assignments, missed feedback and failed or got pretty bad grades for most of my classes. The one thing I did do right was socialise – I spent every day in the bar! I sure had a lot of friends! Perhaps too many, because one day my course convenor told me I was paying for a very expensive social life and wasn’t getting much education. I deferred and eventually quit, because I didn’t like what I was doing. I tell you all of this so you can learn from my mistakes, and be comfortable in knowing that La Trobe is different, and very supportive of all the things you will soon face.
Had I been at La Trobe, I’m sure none of that would have happened, because there is so much help on hand. La Trobe offers lots of advice online for you to read over before you even set foot on campus. So to ensure you don’t start off on the wrong foot like me, read over the New Students page on La Trobe’s website (from the homepage go to Current Students and see the top article for newbies). There are features on enrolment, orientation week and best of all the Ready4Uni section, which has the answer to any question you can think of. That way you will be well prepared for Enrolment Day. (It also has a useful section for your parents and partners to help them understand the new chapter of your life.) Think about how excited you are right now. You got accepted to uni! It’s your next step toward independence, learning about the world, and building your career. Well Enrolment Day is that first real step after getting your acceptance letter (and reading my blog, of course), where you get your questions answered and your uni experience becomes real. There will be faculty staff and enrolment helpers on hand to help you figure out your subject preferences and class schedules and how to enrol. With a schedule of preferences all ready, signing up for tutorials will be easy. These happen online around the time of O-Week and just after, so be sure you have your student email set up so you can watch for prompts from your subject lecturers and tutors. You can do that once you’ve enrolled and received your Statement of Account by post, which will have your username and password for all uni log-ins.
O-Week is a must. My first uni didn’t have an O-Week like La Trobe does. Make sure in the New Students section you read about what La Trobe has in store for you that week, as not only is it where you will meet your course convenor (head of your course), your fellow course students and other students, and your Connect Mentor, it will also be the place to go to learn about the different aspects of being a student, including how to study and time management to balance all your commitments like family, work, sport and study, as well as how to balance finances and how to work the LMS which is the online classroom. There are also free breakfasts, lunches and dinners available and opportunities to meet the different folks of our clubs and societies, including the more cerebral kinds and the sporty ones through the Sports Centre. You also get to take a tour of campus with your Connect Mentor, who will also answer any questions you have and introduce you to your first friends on campus. And you should definitely sign up for a library tour or take the library trail self-guided tour to learn all about how to make the most of our library, must of which is available to you online.
When I started at La Trobe, I had learned from past mistakes, so I went to O-Week, and made sure I was completely informed, reading a little bit about everything and attending many of the events. It helped me so much in feeling more comfortable and familiar on campus over the first few weeks of classes. I had learned to study better, how to ask for help and what services were available to talk to staff about options if I needed extra help. Imagine if that had happened during my first uni experience, I could have gotten the help I needed to become a better student, and if I still had trouble with my class, maybe I could have been advised into switching into another course instead of dropping out altogether. The Bachelor of Arts for instance is a great course that offers a lot of flexibility to try out different subjects you are interested in so that you can figure out a major or just transfer into something more specialised later.
Anyway La Trobe is there to help you get as much info as possible before day 1 of classes even start! That’s why it’s important to attend an Enrolment Day and Orientation Week. My other big tip is to make the La Trobe website your best friend! The search engine isn’t the greatest – you may as well learn that now, I know they hope to fix that soon – but if you familiarise yourself with the different tabs under the New Students and Current Students pages, such as the library site, the timetables and handbook pages, Ready4Uni, Careers, Get Involved and scholarship pages and the email and LMS quicklinks, you will be ahead of the pack and have a great deal of your questions answered without having to figure out who is best to ask. There’s more information about these pages in my third blog.
Oh and be sure to look over all the scholarships available, because a vast majority of them are targeted to school leavers and first year students – that’s YOU! They require a bit of effort in the application, but that literally pays off when you get some extra money toward your studies.
You can also like the La Trobe Facebook page to keep updated on campus news as well as ask questions, as both staff and our Connect Mentors are on hand to help you out.
Stay tuned for weekly blogs published Mondays from now on to help you prepare for the uni semester, get through O-Week, and then survive weeks 1-13 and exams.
*If you are interested in becoming one of our first year bloggers, email James Wood (firstname.lastname@example.org) telling us a bit about yourself including your course and why you want to be a blogger. We are looking for a handful of first years to share their experience with our readers, and it’s a great way to get know other students and also earn some experience toward getting a La Trobe Award and building your CV.