Once you've been here a couple of weeks, your whole new life as a student becomes easy. But - until then - what the...? How do you know what you want to do? What do all the things mean - papers, tutorials, internals...? What if you hate what you've chosen to study and want to make a complete change? Here we'll give answering this stuff A Good Go.
If what you want to know isn't here, let us know. We'll add it in!

What things mean

  • A paper
    - we're not sure why it's called this, but a paper is the name of each separate course you're taking
    - at first year all the papers (don't say courses) start with 1 - so POLS101 is a first year paper. POLS201 is a second year paper, and so on.
    - the first four letters of the department the paper belongs to is at the start of the paper name - so POLS is Political Studies
    - you take a set number of papers to fulfill the requirements of a course of study; some papers you have to take, and some are your choice.
  • Types of degrees
    - Undergrad
    the most common is the Bachelor degree - the BA, BSc, BComm etc. If you have done well in your first couple of years of study, you might get invited into the Honours degree course, involving doing an extra paper or two, and possibly a fourth year of study - and you would then come out of it with eg. a BA(Hons).
    - Postgrad diploma/ Diploma for graduates
    Two different things! According to the University's webiste (link below): A Postgraduate Diploma such as the Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) consists of 400-level papers. The DipGrad consists of 100-, 200- and 300-level papers. You have to be a graduate to do a DipGrad, but the DipGrad consists of undergraduate study, not postgraduate study. So (this is OUSA speaking again...) if you're a graduate who might want to do some more papers, the Diploma for Graduates might suit you.
    - Masters degree
    A Masters degree is a postgraduate degree of 1-3 years that does not have to valiantly open out a whole new field of knowledge, but can show how well you can research and study something existing. It can be upgraded TO a PhD if you're onto something brilliant. Many fields (back out there in The World) prefer people to have Master's as well as a Bachelor's degree as it shows you can nut things out and research well. If your Postgrad Diploma is going well ( a fourth year worth of papers you may have chosen to do at the end of your BA as you wanted to get it done inside 1 year), you may be invited to upgrade to a Masters degree
  • lectures, tutorials, labs
    - A lecture is the main form of getting info to you that you need to pass the paper. The lecture is what you most associate with Uni study: where Dr World-expert-in-the-field-with-a-dozen-books-to-her/his-name talks for 50 mins about an aspect of the topic and you scribble furiously to get it all down.
    A lecture is most usually held in a Lecture Theatre and (unless only four other people are taking this paper) will be full of people from everywhere.
    (There are unwritten Seating Rules : mature students at the front, hungover people at the back, everyone else somewhere between...)
    There's usually not much chance to ask questions in a lecture (but this doesn't hold back some of the mature students - look at 'em go!! If not for them, the questions you were too awkward to ask would forever remain mysteries). Which is why there are:
    Tutorials - tutes - are smaller groups of up to 15 or so people from your lecture (you all get assigned to a tutorial group) which is usually taken by a postgrad student studying under the lecturer for the paper.
    In a tutorial, you are set disucssion topics and additional readings. Tutorials are a good guide to the things you NEED to know for exams. You can also ask any of your questions here. Both Lecturers and Tutors will have office hours, which are the best times to ask them your questions.
    - Labs are the practical sessions of (mostly) science or language courses. You get to put what you have learned into practice, or to learn to do practical things. They may be held in place of tutorials in some papers. Again, these wil be smaller than those gigantic lectures.
  • Majors, minors
    - A major is what you decide to get your degree in. When you say to somebody "I am studying Biology at University", you are telling them Biology is your major and most (but not all) papers you take will be for this topic.
    - At Otago you can also choose if you want (in most courses anyway) a minor.
  • what's this mean?
  • what can go wrong?
  • what the ?

What others say

  • University is easier than you think it's going to be.
  • A little work reaps rewards.
  • If you miss a lecture it's about $40 down the drain, even if you already know the stuff and it's boring
  • People streak through your lectures (* BSNS102 fully lol)!
  • It's more than a little awkward when you're late for a lecture, if you walk through the ground floor doors anyway.
  • It's more awkward when you walk into a lecture and remember that you're not in that lecture theatre and there's a huge swarm of 2nd/3rd years all staring at this 1st year that just walked in, looked around, and walked out...
  • Sometimes the books they make you buy aren't necessary
  • You're paying $000s to study here - make sure you get every cent worth!

What OUSA says

  • Take note of the last date you can change papers without penalty and - if you realise you're not going to like the course you've chosen: change to another course. It's YOUR LIFE!
  • If your chosen course allows it, take a range of papers in your first year - you never know until you're tried it exactly what's going to interest you. We have known people change their whole course and career plans on the basis of one first year paper they took to try something different.
  • Make a time to talk to your Careers Office while you're still at High School. There's also a Careers Office here at Otago Uni, and lots of different kinds of advisors in each Division.
  • The University has a Student Learning Centre that will help you brush up on skills and save you from masses of stress
  • The University libraries - they're cool! Instead of doing what most first years do for the first few months (memorising the route in the libraries to the three or four things they need regularly) take a tour, or browse about for an hour or so. You can read the latest magazines there! Watch dvds on everything! The libraries are the Uni's best kept secrets.
  • Check out the Student Christian Movement textbook sale in the first week of semester one each year - you may be able to get that $300 compulsory course text for much less
  • You're paying a lot of money to be here - many of you will be racking up a student loan you have to pay back for much of the first decade of your working life, or longer - get as much out of your study as you can!
  • OUSA is your independant advocate. Our Student Support Centre is completely separate from the University. If you hit a wall in your study life come and see us - we are good at helping people disentangle themselves from walls!