First-year students: How to prepare successfully for your semester start

Written by: Christina Pichler, Feb 09, 2023

After your A-levels, you are starting a new chapter. Studying at a university or university of Applied Sciences is a fantastic and educational experience. However, especially in the beginning when everything is new and unfamiliar, many first-year students feel overwhelmed or lost. That’s completely normal since it’s a big adjustment to start university. Therefore, we have gathered tips for first-year students that will help you adjust to your new routine.

1. Tip: Housing – Shared flat or student accommodation?

Many students want or have to leave their homes at the beginning of their studies. Depending on your budget, offers and personal preferences, you can choose between your own flat, a shared flat or student accommodation close to university.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages for you:

Living in your own apartment is expensive, time-consuming, a big responsibility and change because you need to take care of everything – from weekly grocery shopping and cleaning to administrative tasks.

A shared flat is a good alternative if you enjoy living with other people and sharing the workload. Usually, a shared flat is relatively affordable, not as time-consuming and if you get along with your flatmates, you will have a lot of fun.

A student accommodation is the most practical and usually most affordable option. After signing your license agreement, you don’t have to handle anything else. Operating, heating and energy costs as well as internet are usually included in your rent. So, you don’t have to worry about contracts with energy suppliers or other service providers. Furthermore, you have your own refuge, but still the option to connect with other students.

In this extensive article, we show you the differences between shared flats and student accommodations! Here you can read all about the advantages of a (STUWO) student dormitory!

We recommend starting to think about your housing situation and looking for an accommodation before starting your semester.

2. Tip: Socialising and networking

It’s important to establish your own social network to feel comfortable at university. Your peers can give you tips for lectures and exams and on top of that, they will make your classes more fun and less daunting. You will be happy to see a friendly face in class.

However, we know that it’s especially hard for first-year students to establish new contacts. Most types of studies at Austrian universities have a so-called study entry and orientation period (STEOP). Mostly first-year students attend these classes and don’t know anyone either. So just sit next to someone who you find charismatic and start a conversation. If you like them, you can exchange contact data and sit next to each other in the future. Here are some tips for making new friends at university!

Oftentimes, there are mentorships for first-year students, where more experienced BA students or MA students act as advisers to freshmen during their first semester. Inform yourself about this type of programme at your study representation and use this opportunity to meet first-year students in smaller settings.

Nowadays most study programmes have a Facebook group. In this group, students share lecture notes, scriptures, past exam questions, recommendations for teachers and classes, job offers, advertisements for shared flats and more. Joining this group definitely pays off!

Moreover, many universities offer tutorials for first-year students, where tutors answer any questions about the study programme, semester planning, course catalogue, study organisation, etc. You will meet many freshmen that are also looking for new contacts. Here’s an article on how to make new friends at university!

3. Tip: student ID, semester ticket, canteen card

When registering at your university you receive your student ID immediately or within two weeks per mail, which you might have to validate after paying the ÖH fee. You should do that at the beginning of the semester since you need your student ID for exams, student discounts and more.

As soon as you are registered at university, you can buy a semester ticket for public transport. Students get discounts almost everywhere, for example for the climate ticket, semester ticket or vacation ticket. If you have a very long commute, then you might receive a tax exemption for your commute. You can find more information in our article “Tax tips for students”!

If you are at university all day, you need some food as well. Your first destination therefore should be the canteen, where you will get fresh, warm and cheap meals. Every university organises its canteen differently, sometimes you need a canteen card or sticker, sometimes your student ID is all you need.

4. Tip: time management & organisation

Probably the most important point for a good start into your first semester is a great timetable. You should plan it before the beginning of the semester. The syllabus for your degree usually includes a commented study programme with recommended classes for your first semester. Search for and pick these classes in the course catalogue. Most of the time, you have to attend lectures from the study entry and organisation period (STEOP) in the first semester. The course catalogue also includes deadlines for registering for classes!

STUWO tip: We recommend an app for your timetable to keep a good overview. The Studo app shows you the course title, teacher, classroom and deadlines!

After figuring out your timetable, you can prepare for your classes by getting the recommended exam literature. The literature is indicated in the descriptions in the course catalogue. If you start reading the textbooks early on, you aren’t as stressed during the semester. Your student ID is also your university library card!

Moreover, you should buy necessary materials in time. Here is a list of the essentials:

  • Weekly planner or pocket calendar for exam dates, deadlines, homework, etc.
  • Notepads, notebooks, booklets, etc. for your notes
  • Pens, highlighters, post-its, etc. for well structured notes
  • Laptop, tablet or similar devices for online research, theses, etc.

Furthermore, you should attend all of the information and introduction events at your university since you receive important information on study programmes, registration deadlines, exam periods and more.

5. Tip: Financial situation

Housing costs, living costs, university-related costs and other investments can be a strain on your budget. That’s why it’s important to evaluate your financial situation beforehand.

How high are your expenses?

  • Rent + ancillary costs (operational costs, heating, warm water, electricity…)
  • Insurances (personal liability insurance, health insurance…)
  • Tuition fees and ÖH fees per semester
  • Groceries
  • Transportation (car, gas, car insurance, climate ticket, semester ticket…)
  • Phone contract, internet or WIFI
  • Study material (scriptures, textbooks, notepads…)
  • Clothes
  • Excursions and leisure

The Austrian Agency for Education and Internationalisation estimates that students pay roughly 1,200 € per month. This overview includes all the categories of estimated living costs.

How high is your income?

  • In many cases, parents finance their children’s studies completely or partially. Talk about your financial situation with your parents beforehand.
  • Family allowance: Until the age of 24, students or their parents can claim family allowance.
  • Study benefit: Students whose parents cannot support their studies financially can get a monthly support payment from the government.
  • Scholarships: There are different types of scholarships in Austria (e.g. scholarship based on academic achievements, graduation scholarship, mobility scholarship…).
  • Student loan: You receive monthly instalments and start paying off your loan after graduation.
  • Mini job: It’s usually easy to have a mini job during your studies.

Think about your financial situation before starting your studies. Here are types of study financing in Austria!

6. Tip: Contact student representatives

There is a great support system for all questions or problems students may encounter. You should take advantage of these consulting services in your first semester:

  • The Austrian Student Representation (ÖH) can help you with any kind of problem (study financing, study law, discrimination, psychological problems…) and has many offers (information centre, helpline, tutorials, writing mentoring…).
  • The study representation provides counselling for questions related to your field of study (syllabus, exam modalities, registration deadlines, internships…).

7. Tip: Enjoy your life as a student

Your life as a student does not only consist of studying, exams and theses! You will stay motivated and concentrated if you balance out your stress and tasks from your studies with sports, leisure time, relaxation and good friends!

  • Attend sports courses at the university sports institute (USI). You can get a great workout for little money! Here are the most popular courses!
  • You can get a discount on museums, cinemas, cultural and leisure events. Plan your next adventure!
  • Take advantage of the quiet atmosphere in libraries or the comfortable surroundings of a study café for your next study sessions! Here are the best study cafés in Vienna, Graz and Linz!

We have the best excursion tips and restaurant recommendations in our category “leisure time”!

A little bit of planning and organisation is all it takes for a good start into your life at university so that you can enjoy your life as a student! You can find more helpful articles with tips for your everyday life in our category “student life”!

We wish you a lot of fun and success!


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