Adjusting to university life: how the study year is structured

You will find that your child will need some time to adjust to the difference between university life and their high school experience. If you can understand how the university year and your child’s study programme are structured, then you can better support them with this change in their lives.

The university year

The university year is divided into two semesters (like school terms). Semester 1 runs from late February/March to late June, while Semester 2 runs from mid-July to mid-November.

Exams take place during the final weeks of each semester.

Settling into university life

At university, it is the student's responsibility to stay motivated and hand their work in on time, and for many students this is a big change from high school. It can take a while for students to get used to the unfamiliar environment and processes of tertiary study, while they also balance social activities and making new friends.

Remember to check in with your child - ask how they are finding things and if there is anything you can do to help them settle in.

  • Recognise their study workload can be like a full-time job – they might feel stressed juggling deadlines and exams
  • You can give them recommendations from your experience so they can develop their time management and organisational skills
  • If they are still living at home, it’s ideal if you can provide them with a quiet, private study area
  • Ask them about their studies and encourage their efforts to help them stay motivated
  • Encourage them to read our information for new students

Checking in with students on their progress can help to motivate their achievements.

Degree structure: what to expect

If your child is studying full-time, their degree should take them around three years to complete. They will need to pass certain requirements each year to be able to move to the following year.

Some degrees like law or midwifery are very structured, with a lot of compulsory courses. Others have broader options, so students can choose from different subject options after completing any required courses.

Courses and classes

Your child will usually enrol in three to four courses each semester. Most courses take one semester to complete, but some courses take two semesters. These courses are worth more credits (points) towards the student's degree.

Students will have classes to attend for each course during the semester. It's important for students to go to class if they can, as it increases their chances of passing a course. A student is also expected to do extra study outside of their classes.

All AUT courses have an online component and having access to a computer is important.

Many courses post their lecture notes online, but it depends on the programme and the lecturer. AUT has computers on campus that students can book to use if they don’t have access to one at home.

Computers are available for AUT students to use on campus.

Study advice and support services

Your child will need to organise their time and workload to meet deadlines – most students need to do about 40 hours of study a week, which is the equivalent of a full-time job.

Read our information on study support for our students. The Student Hub is a great starting place for students to ask for any assistance – from wellbeing to study help, they can point your child in the right direction if they need it.

We offer some of the most comprehensive student support services in New Zealand – from orientation programmes for new students to academic support and budgeting help. AUT takes a proactive role to help our students succeed.

How do university exams and assessments work?

Take a look at our article about exams and assessments for further advice and guidance for parents and whānau so you can continue to support your child as they progress through their university life.

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