Tertiary study is a real learning curve

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Students at Auckland University.
Students at Auckland University.

it's a real learning curve!

After school, the way you study changes heaps -- and it's up to you to re-learn how to learn.

So you're heading off to study at a university, polytech, private institute, or wananga? For many, it is an exciting start toward a dream career and a chance to leave home, explore a new city and meet new people. But for most, it is also a nerve-wracking experience. Tertiary education providers understand that the first year of study can be a difficult time for new students, and are fully prepared with tools and strategies to help make the transition a little easier.

No one looking over your shoulder

Julian Rosser, a student recruitment adviser at Massey University's Albany campus, says one of the biggest differences between school and university is that there is a lot more freedom and that students generally spend less time in classes than at school -- but there is a lot of work to be done outside of class.

"There are no uniforms, no bells, and often, if you don't turn up to class, no one will know.

" Of course, not turning up to classes isn't a good idea, though, since you're spending thousands of dollars to be at university."

One of the other most important learning curves is about being self-motivated, which is especially important if you are away from home.

In a room with 200 strangers

Paul Fenton, the director of student learning and engagement at Auckland University of Technology, agrees with the need for self-directed learning.

"You have to be in charge of your own study schedule, what you study, when, and where -- no one will do this for you. It is expected that you will be able to read and interpret course outlines and that you are able to organise your timetable so you can complete these tasks on time.

"It is also not unusual to find yourself sitting in a lecture theatre with 50, 100, or even 200 or more students -- this is a big difference from school teaching settings. You may also have to attend smaller group tutorials, which are more like school, and you will be expected to work in groups with people you do not know."

Help is there -- but you have to ask!

There are plenty of places and people you can go to for guidance, and their first lot of advice is to make sure you do use the assistance on offer. Jon Stokes, from Te Wananga o Aotearoa, says you should get to know your tutor, do your assignments as soon as you can, stay focused on achieving your goals, and find out what support is available.

"Talk to friends and whanau who have already completed tertiary studies to get their advice. What did they do? What would they do differently? Join study groups for your papers or programme to help build support networks and to help each other. Make sure you also make time to get involved and have fun, and whether you are studying at a polytechnic, wananga, or university, there will be a number of ways that you can get involved in the community of your tertiary provider."

The big O

Orientation is on the calendar for most tertiary institutes, and it is definitely a good idea to make it to the day (or week) so you can learn how your new college works and where your classes are. You might even make a few connections with other first-year students, doing the same course as you.

Your first 40-hour week

Another adjustment to make is the amount of time you need to spend in class, completing assignments, researching information and preparing for exams. A full-time student should spend around 40 hours a week doing course-related work (including lectures, tutorials etc) which is a big time commitment.

Fenton says it is a good idea to talk to your friends, family, and wider social network to let them know that you need to focus on being a successful student, so their support and understanding will always be appreciated.


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