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Stories from UOW

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so UOW student Susie Alderman has shared 6 things she wishes she knew about uni in Year 12.

With three years of university under my belt and a fourth year rapidly approaching, I’m almost considered a veteran at this uni stuff. Over the past few years, I’ve had a wild and exciting ride and learnt a whole lot along the track (sometimes the hard way).

I’m no prodigy, but here’s what I wish someone had told me.

1 – No one is ever going to ask about your ATAR once school is over.

Sure, Year 12 is one of the most important years of your schooling life, but it’s not one you should have to look back on as the most stressful. The ATAR isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, it’s merely an indication. What relieved stress for me was getting in to UOW through Early Admission. I had a place guaranteed at UOW before I even sat my HSC exams. How’s that for a weight off your shoulders? And in the case that you don’t get in early, or your ATAR isn’t high enough to get you into the degree you want, there are other pathways, like UOW College. I finished school five years ago, and I can’t even remember what my ATAR was.

2 – You can still travel even if you’re #broke.

If you’re anything like me, you probably find yourself stuck between having an insatiable desire to see the world, and a bank account that doesn’t quite match your sense of wanderlust. Luckily, UOW has one of the best exchange programs I’ve ever come across, with plenty of financial support options. It’s as simple as sitting down with one of the awesome exchange staff members and after a 10-minute convo you’ll be on your way to studying (and travelling) in your dream destination without financial stress. For me, that looked like two incredible months studying in Spain as well as roving between Morocco, Portugal and Paris. Next year I’ll be heading off again, this time to Mexico for six months! Vamonos!

3 – Scholarships aren’t just for straight-A-students.

While we’re on the topic of finances, let’s talk scholarships. One of the biggest misconceptions I had in year 12 was that only the really smart kids got the scholarships. Oh, how I was wrong! Take 5 minutes to get on the scholarship website and enter in your details – you might be surprised by what’s available. There’s everything from sport and community involvement to women in STEM, equity and so much in between. Each year, thousands of dollars of scholarship money goes unclaimed due to lack of applicants, and I know where I’d rather that money to be… (in my travel fund!)

4 – You don’t have to wait till you finish uni to start building a career.

The one thing I really believe university offers is opportunity. The trick is, spotting the ones that tickle your fancy, and saying yes to them. In my experience, my degree itself has been less about the piece of paper at the end, and more a vehicle for opening doors and creating opportunities, all while I’m still in the process of learning. One example has been a small jewellery business that I’ve grown through my connections at uni – where I make my own jewellery from laser cut repurposed wood that would have otherwise been wasted. It’s called Lazy Susan if you want to check it out!

5 – Uni is flexible.

As much as we plan it to be, life really doesn’t always run that smoothly, and hiccups happen that can really put a spanner in the works. You might get here and find you hate the degree you started in and need to do some reshuffling. You might need to take a few months off to have a bit of R&R and get back on your feet. Maybe you need to drop back to a part-time schedule to leave more space for a job. University is what you make it, and unlike school, your routine can be completely customised to suit you and where you’re at in your life. I’ve had brain surgery twice while I’ve been at uni for goodness sake! And I’m still on track just fine thanks to the flexibility and support of the academic staff.

6 – Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

In the first few weeks of uni, it’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of O-Week, moving in and staring a new schedule. You’re going to meet stacks of new faces every day, and be smacked with a hectic new social and academic schedule which will be different to anything you’ve ever known at school. During this time, and for the duration of your life for that matter, it’s very important to be gentle on yourself and give yourself time to adjust. Those first few weeks or even months are going to be a tester, but you’re in luck. At UOW there’s some awesome wellbeing support networks on campus that are free for students to access. I’m talking counsellors, doctors, dentists and an amazing wellbeing centre that hosts brilliant free events specifically designed with mental health in mind. My favourites are the free yoga and yoghurt sessions; name a more iconic duo, I’ll wait!

All story credit goes to Bachelor of Communication & Media / Bachelor of International Studies student Susie Alderman.

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