The Goldie Column: Survival Tips for University

We are now approaching the end of year where for high school students, it’s that time of year where they have to decide what they want to do when they leave school next year. For some people it’s to get in the workforce and start working. For others it may be taking an OE. For most people though the next step when graduating high school is doing further studying at at university or polytechnic. For a person with a disability, there are further challenges when it comes to making the transition to university study.

After having barely survived my first year at university I feel somewhat qualified to create this list. I am not a teacher or an educational specialist. I do know however what it is like to leave high school, move to a completely new environment, new city, new campus and an unfamiliar way of life. I know for most people it’s the unfamiliar part that scares a lot of people. Being autistic myself I know that I like routines, I don’t like it when unexpected things occur and I get very anxious when I don’t quite knowing what situation I’m getting myself into.

So starting at a university was going against all these rules for me and this time last year, I was pretty anxious. I was anxious about whether I would enjoy university at all.

Through my expertise of studying at a university for one and a half semesters, I have come up with five tips to help you survive uni.

1. Make the most of all the resources available to you.

At most universities there are disability departments where people are literally getting paid to cater to your everyday needs, make the most of this!

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

This is one I have struggled with throughout my time at uni. Part of it is because of a bit of a pride issue, I’m well aware of my disability and I don’t want to seem weak asking for help but it’s something I am slowly getting over. There is nothing weak about asking for help. It means that you are engaged with your learning and it shows a tutor that you are willing to go the extra mile in having a full understanding of an idea.

3. Don’t skip classes

It may seem tempting to skip that tutorial at eight in the morning and have a sleep in, but all you are doing is putting pressure on yourself. You now have to catch-up and the time consumed in catching up takes more time then just getting up early and going to class.

It’s just not worth it.

4. Everyone feels the same way as you

Sometimes when we work ourselves up, we start feeling that no one knows what we are going through.

Well, sorry to tell you, you’re not that special.

Everyone who starts uni is in the exact same position as you. They are nervous, shy and anxious about entering a new environment. The person sitting next to you is probably feeling exactly the same as you, disorientated with the new surroundings. By talking to others you quickly realise your not alone and this leads to my last tip.

5. Socialise and Make Friends

My last tip is probably the most important one in terms of having a positive university experience. You go to uni to expand your thinking, but part of the uni experience is meeting new people and making friends. Having social anxiety this was once again my worst nightmare, to have to go and talk to strangers! I tell you though it’s not as bad as it seems. It’s always a bit awkward at first, having to make small talk but most of the relationships I have developed at uni starts with me seeing someone sitting on their own and me getting guts to go to them and ask them how their day is going and introducing myself. A good starting point is talking about university work, ask them how they found the lecture, how much work have they done on their upcoming assignment. A general observation I’ve made is that people like to complain about how tough their lives are. The same goes for students. Even if you really don’t care about how difficult they found the exam, If people feel like they have someone that’s listening to them, if people feel they have an audience, they will put on a show and they will feel valued and appreciated.