University is completely different to High School, but that’s not a bad thing! One of the smallest little changes that made me love University from the moment I started, was not having to wear a uniform. It was mufti – all day, every day – it was amazing! If you’re still at high school and must wear a uniform, you know what a difference Mufti Day can make; the vibe is just different, it’s casual and fun. Now imagine that every day!

You’re in control

At university, you make the decisions about your education. You choose the courses you take, you choose which timeslots you’d like to have your classes, and you even choose whether to attend lectures! No one is marking the roll. If you’re completely burned out and just need to relax, why not have lunch or coffee with friends? You can watch the lecture recording at home, who’s stopping you! University isn’t just a school for you to adjust to, you can make it your own, you choose your own destiny.

The average week

That’s some of the fun stuff you can expect at university, but what’s the average week like for a STEM student? Not everything is optional right?

Correct, there are some things that are compulsory, so that you can graduate with the major of your choice. Here are some things you can expect in an average week, that are common to all STEM majors, whether it be: Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics.

Three things to expect at University

1. Collaborative learning

One of the things I love about STEM is the collaborative learning. You didn’t sign up for a law degree, you’re never going to be asked to churn away at a 4000 word essay by yourself, to submit in two weeks. You will be working as a team or group in labs.

  • If you’re a science student you’ll probably do a lot of your experiments in pairs, at a lab desk with other pairs! You can solve all your problems together, and talk to other people who are in a similar position to you. It’s a great place to meet other people, and loads of fun!
  • If you’re an Engineering student, you’ll probably complete a major project with a group. You’ll be putting your minds together to solve interesting problems, like building strong bridges with limited materials, or building robot hands, or remote control cars!
  • If you’re a technology student, expect to do some of your design work in teams, you won’t have to solve all your problems alone.

Since, all of these group tasks have you working with other people, you will gain valuable experience working with a team, and help make University a whole lot less stressful. You don’t have to be clueless by yourself like in other degrees, you can be clueless as a team :). All those questions you might have about building locations, due dates, enrolment, whatever it may be, you’ll have someone you’ll get to know really well over a semester to talk to.

2. Lots of little things to do

University Life: XKCD

University Life: XKCD

You’ll always be doing little tasks. STEM subjects rarely have subjective questions, most questions have a right and wrong answer, and that means a lot of questions. Expect to be completing: tutorial problems, preparation for a lab, or online quizzes on the daily.

You’ll never be given a huge task to complete. This may sound amazing, but it may not be great if you’re not a good time manager. Make sure you do a little bit each day, otherwise before you know it, you’ll have a lot on your plate, without even realising it! Not a deal breaker, just a warning!

3. Heaps of contact hours

Also unlike a law degree, you’re going to have a lot of contact hours (Contact hours are the total number of schedule classes you have). Since STEM subjects have lots of tutorials and labs, this means you’ll probably have a 4 or 5 day week.

A 5 day week? Big deal.

I guess this is normal if you’re coming from High School. A lot of people at university, don’t have classes every day, some only need to go 2 days a week! Sorry to break it to you, but that’s not likely with a STEM degree. So, if you’re wondering why your timetable looks so crappy compared to your friends, that’s probably why.

Get Involved!

All that extra time at university doesn’t need to go to waste! Try and make the most out of everything. If you go to lectures, ask questions! Talk to people in the lecture theatre, socialise. Get involved in extracurricular projects. If you’re a STEM student, there’s heaps of interesting projects going on throughout the year: building a solar car, robot soccer, or joining a hackathon to try and find innovative solutions to problems. There’s always something out there you’ll be interested in.




Vamsi Srinivasan is looking to uncover the next hidden truth of the universe. He was fascinated by the beauty of Physics and Mathematics during his HSC. Now, he’s in his third year of a dual degree in Physics/Computer Science. Vamsi wanted to share his passion for Maths and Physics and has been an Art of Smart coach for the past 3 years. He coaches students in Physics as well as all ranges of HSC Maths from General to Extension 2. In his spare time you can find him watching Tennis or listening to his favourite podcast ‘Hello Internet’.