I’m now into week 7 of my new university course after I decided to fully embark on the career change I alluded to some time ago. I’m now officially a student paramedic at Victoria University and I’m going to try to use this blog to chronicle some of the more important aspects of my Uni experience in the vague hope that it might help someone else going through it to.
I’m pretty lucky. I’ve had a fair bit of life experience before this point – given that I’m soon to be 40, that’s 20 odd years out of school. So I tend to view Uni quite differently from some of the youngsters who are there because their parents want them to be rather than themselves wanting to be. I think it really helps to want to be there – mostly because at University you’re left to find out a lot of the education for yourself. And unlike High School, lectures are not compulsory at Uni (some things like Practical Sessions and Tutorials are, but lectures are not) so it takes self discipline to turn up and listen. Self discipline is really quite easy if you’re there because you want to be rather than because you’re forced.
If I had to give one tip for this article, it would be this. Attend Orientation Day – no really. If your University puts one on for you, go to it. You’ll discover a vast wealth of information that you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise know. It’ll give you a chance to meet and speak to your new lecturers, and meet up with some new mates who will probably end up going through the next three years with you. And you’ll need mates for this new experience too – don’t be an island, mates can help remind you about things you might forget and they’ll have strengths in areas that you don’t and vice versa. You can help each other with study areas and a bit of a social life helps your motivation too.
Remember that tertiary education is not secondary education. You won’t be spoon fed everything. Indeed, sometimes your lecturers won’t even help you if you ask them (though most of the time they will, it rather depends what they’re trying to teach you). You will need to use the library. You will need to buy at least some of the books they recommend because you’ll need to put in some extra studies around things you don’t quite understand fully. These things can add up costs wise so make sure you do have a bit of an up front slush fund if you can. If you’re lucky enough to live in Australia you may well qualify for the Austudy up front payment.
Speaking of Austudy, if you are able to claim it, make sure you do so well in advance because Centrelink are appallingly slow. They’ll cite all manner of excuses for why your Austudy claim has been delayed. They’ll range from bushfire to flood, to your case is not normal and had to be sent to a special claims officer for processing. Get it in way in advance so you don’t spend weeks without income, or with reduced income.
Also, if your course has any special requirements like police checks or working with children checks you must ensure you leave plenty of time for these processes to be done in time. The police or other relevant authorities will be swamped with applications for these things by other students and the response times will blow out. Your University probably won’t care if your dog ate your application, or for any other excuse you might come up with so do yourself a favour and make sure you start this process way way way in advance so you don’t miss any deadlines.
And finally, on the note of deadlines, don’t leave your assignments / homework until the last minute. Ever. If you want good grades you’ll absolutely need to make sure you put in the work. This isn’t High School and your lecturers will not accept excuses (unless they’re really really good ones!) for late submissions and things like ‘my internet went out while I was doing the referencing’ will not cut it. They’ll look at you and wonder why you left until the deadline to do the referencing. Or they’ll say ‘shouldve used the library then’. Which of course, if you leave it until the night before it’s due, you can’t. Get assignments underway as early as possible. Get them finished as early as possible but DON’T hand them in too early. You never know when that golden nugget of information will arrive into your brain at a lecture and if you’ve already handed in your assignment you can’t go back and tweak it. The catchwords for this section :- Start Early, Finish On Time, Hand In On Time.
I hope these tips have provided some insight into the beginnings of new University life. If there’s any questions you’d like answered please do feel free to leave comments and I’ll discuss them in the next update. I intend to give some more Student Paramedic specific information so watch this space!