That’s me in the back of both of these photos as a fresh faced, and slightly less fresh faced, fresher…
It’s officially been three years since I started university and graduation is only a month away. Freshers’ is in full swing; new students are creeping around and looking like fetuses (I swear Freshers are getting younger every year…), drinking away their student loans, and avoiding that one person who always seems to be having a breakdown in the kitchen.
I’ve learned a lot in three years, not all of it strictly related to my course subject. Here’s my guide on surviving uni if you’re starting or returning this year:
- Get all of your partying and slacking off out of your system in the first year. The first year grades hardly ever count towards your actual degree grade so you can afford to goof off…but it does determine whether or not you can go on to do your second year. Proceed with caution on this one.
- It’s better to attend all of your lectures BUT…most lectures these days are audio recorded. Most lecture slides are uploaded online on your university website too. If your university is one of those that uploads class resources online then it doesn’t matter if you miss a lecture or two. Don’t rely on catching up online most of the time though – some lecturers are tardy with uploading resources (accidentally and on purpose.) It’s better to attend lectures so you can ask any questions you need to and join in discussions to help you better understand the content.
- Email your lecturer BEFORE class if you can’t/don’t want to attend. You don’t have to tell them you can’t be bothered today, you can lie and say you’re sick if you don’t want to go…just as long as you email them! When attendance makes up some of your grade, doing this is crucial because you might find that your lecturer will mark you as present anyway for explaining your absence before class.
- Write up your lecture notes after class. I didn’t do this in my first year and it left me with hurriedly written notes that didn’t make any sense, that I couldn’t read, and just didn’t understand. By the time I went back to my notes weeks/months later when I needed them, I had forgotten what any of it meant. Writing your notes up after class means the subject is fresh in your mind, you have neater, more thorough, and far more helpful notes for when you need to go back to them for essays.
- Make your written notes fun. Write jokes in them, use colour, use sticky notes, use stickers, use anything that will make them more interesting to look at as you read them back. Plus colour and decoration is more likely to help you remember a piece of information as you write it. Just don’t sacrifice the quality of your notes for decoration.
- Second year is so boring! The partying days of first year are over but the importance of third year isn’t upon you yet. It’s a comfortable middle ground with new topics to learn and new experiences are coming your way…but on the whole it can be so dull! Do what you can to make it more interesting without letting yourself fall behind in class.
- Don’t leave all your coursework and revision two weeks before it’s due. Just don’t do it…I’m having horror flashbacks to second year just thinking about it…
- Schedule regular one-to-one meetings with your lecturers and tutors. Especially in the weeks before you hand in coursework or take an exam, and after you receive grades/feedback from said coursework and exams. It’s a good opportunity to get advice on what you can do better and go through parts of the module you’re struggling with. Since it’s on a more personal and tailored session than what you can get in lectures and seminars, it’s more likely to help you. When I started making and attending one-to-one sessions, I went from getting 2:2 and 2:1 grades for my work (which were brilliant) to getting firsts – which was even better! I seriously urge you to make these appointments because lecturers and tutors don’t want to see you fail or fall short of your abilities as much as you don’t, so they will be more than willing to have these sessions with you.
- Writing your dissertation doesn’t have to be stressful…as long as you don’t let it. Pick a topic you enjoy and know plenty about/know there are many academic texts about for research, start planning early, and make a schedule to arrange your time effectively. Writing something you’re passionate will always make things easier and more fun. Get the relevant support from your lecturers, tutors, and friends and never spend an all-nighter trying to write it. As explained with number 8 on this list, tutor support is invaluable, meanwhile sleep aids in concentration. Stuck on an element? Rest, go to bed, ignore it. Come back to it fresh-faced and you’ll find it easier to tackle your essay. Brainstorm your ideas so you know how to link each section to the next. DON’T LEAVE IT UNTIL THE FINAL FEW WEEKS BEFORE THE DUE DATE. Writing my dissertation was the most fun I had in the whole three years because I enjoyed it and I kept on top of it – I was surprised by how easy I actually found it, even if it was daunting to begin with.
- You’re going to love the whole experience. I didn’t think I’d like university, let alone love it. In the weeks and days leading up to my first day I was having panic attacks every day and I would’ve done anything not to go. When I came home on that first day, I wanted to drop out – I was so sure that university life wasn’t for me. Quickly I began to love it, I enjoyed every moment, I made fantastic friends, and I never wanted to leave. It’s the most fun three years I’ve ever had and I wish I could go back and do it all over again. Enjoy it and embrace it.
Are you a Fresher or a returning student? What are you looking forward to most or what have you enjoyed the most so far? Let me know and I wish you all luck over the next few years!