Transitioning from school to university

Coming from school to university can be challenging, especially when you realise that you are now responsible for your own learning and keeping yourself on track.

What to expect from your courses

You can expect to attend lectures, tutorials, laboratory sessions and seminars at university.


  • Are often held in large lecture theatres with hundreds of other students.
  • Are for you to listen to and take your own notes.
  • Are where you will get the content (or, what you need to know) for your course.

Tutorials, seminars and laboratory sessions

  • These are usually a smaller group of students from the same course.
  • Support the material that is being covered in lectures.
  • Will often be activity or discussion based where you can ask questions.

Readings and other course material

  • Usually provided via Canvas or by other means, e.g., course readings book.
  • Will be related to the material covered in lectures.
  • To keep on top of the readings and other material it is important to develop a good study routine.

What you are expected to do while studying

One of the main differences between school and university is the expectation that you will be responsible for managing your own time. Attendance at lectures is usually not kept, and lecturers are not likely to be keeping track of where you are with your work.

It will be your responsibility to keep up with your course readings, assignments as well as studying for tests and exams. Often students are working part-time, have family commitments and other arrangements so it is a very busy time.

As you become familiar with university life, you’ll gradually feel more comfortable in your new role. Listen to what University of Auckland students say about their own initial expectations and experiences.

To help you to organise your study commitments, you can create your own timetable that includes time for attending lectures, tutorials, completing your course readings, working on your assignments and engaging in independent study.

You need to be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. You will want to ensure that you prioritise tasks to use your time in the most effective way.

It is very easy to become side-tracked with other things going on in your new life as a university student.

There is a lot of unstructured time where you do not have scheduled lectures or tutorials, but this is not free time and you should use this time wisely. It is important be able to recognise those times where you are spending too much time on other activities instead of your studies, i.e., procrastinating, and learn how you can manage your distractions to keep yourself on track with your studies.

At university, there will be many times where you will be required to work with others to collaborate on class-related activities or an assignment.

The benefits of group work include:

  • Learning how to work with others to achieve a specific goal.
  • Being exposed to points of view that are different to your own.
  • Understanding that there are many ways to achieve a task.
  • Using different skills and approaches to a task which can lead to creative solutions to complex issues.

To get best out of working together, it is helpful to understand how to work in a group for the successful completion of group tasks.

Understanding what motivates you can be helpful to keep you on track with your studies and meet your study and learning goals.

Tips for keeping yourself motivated with your studies:

  • Understanding your why by keeping your end goal in sight (with some milestones along the way).
  • Getting into a good study routine.
  • Trying different approaches to studying so that you can find what works for you.
  • Maintaining a good work-life balance and not letting your studies take over your life.
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