UCAS applications, waiting to hear back from universities, exams, results day - you have to jump through a lot of hoops just to get into university! It’s no wonder that Fresher’s week is so important. It is a great way for students to finally relax and enjoy the moment they are in.
However, some students fall into the trap of thinking that this is the real university experience. Once in this trap, it is very easy to do just enough at university to get by. Continue reading to find out how to be an active student and how to make the most of your studies at university.
1. Attendance matters
One of the most noticeable differences between school and university is the complete independence students get. Most courses will not have any attendance lists or registers for lectures and seminars. Some courses, such as Medicine and Mathematics, may be stricter and have registers going around throughout the lecture to ensure attendance is closely monitored. However, if your attendance is not recorded, it can be very easy to get into the habit of skipping classes unnecessarily. While missing the occasional lecture is not a crime, and perfectly acceptable if you are ill or physically unable to attend, skipping multiple lectures in a row will lead to you falling drastically behind your fellow peers. If your grades are lower than you expected, or you are struggling with the work you are being set, try to improve your attendance. You will probably see your grades increase as a direct result!
2. Use your Lecturers
Speaking to your lecturer about work might be a little daunting at first. You are wildly confused and here is a professor who has limitless amounts of knowledge on this subject. All lecturers will have office hours throughout the week. This might be open, or they may require you to sign up in advance or send them an email to check their availability. Whatever the process is, always try to schedule a little meeting before you submit an assignment to discuss this further. Your lecturer will have lots of ideas and open your mind to make your essay that much better. They may also say what you need to improve on in particular to ensure you are getting the best grade possible. Your lecturers are there to help you so make sure you utilise their skills as much as possible.
3. Speak to your peers
Studying at university can feel overwhelming, exhilarating, frightening and enjoyable all at the same time. If there is anyone who is able to relate, it is those who are right there with you studying the same course. Depending on your course, it can be really helpful to go over key concepts or ideas with others. If you are studying a heavily theory based subject, discussing these ideas further and in a simpler way can help to really solidify your understanding. Or if you are studying a language, going over painful grammar rules can help to clarify concepts and come up with helpful or funny ways to remember them.
4. Make a timetable
Even though you may be keen to embrace independent study to its fullest and would rather avoid a fixed timetable at all costs, it can make all the difference to your studies. Having a timetable to clearly see all of your upcoming assignments, deadlines, exams and lectures can help to give you a better understanding of how much time you have. It is easy to think you have lots of time, when in reality once your course starts, it really doesn’t stop. If there isn’t a reading that you need to have completed before your seminar, you may have a speaking exam coming up or even a 3000 word assignment looming over your shoulder. If you are caught off guard by any upcoming assignments, you will be forced to rush them in an effort to hand them in on time. While some may thrive under pressure, your best work is probably not going to be the essay you stayed up until 4am the night before trying to complete. Your timetable will allow you to spread out your assignments and your revision to maximise your free time and reduce your stress about your studies.
5. Make your course your hobby
It may sound pretty strange. Your course is just your course, so why would you need to make it your hobby? However, at university, you are no longer a child in school. You are essentially developing into a researcher in your own field. This means that your lecturers will expect you to have a genuine interest in your subject outside of what they are teaching you. So, what does it look like to make your course your hobby? Depending on your course, this could look like watching subject specific Ted Talks, listening to an educational podcast that covers your topic, attending exhibitions or installations, researching theories you may have heard mentioned in a lecture or reading more non-fiction books centred around your subject.
As with any advice surrounding your studies - there is no one size fits all approach. As you get more used to university life, you will be able to see what tips would work best for you. Not everyone will thrive with a timetable, however that same person may really find it beneficial to speak to their lecturers and form a study group with some coursemates. If you find that you are not getting on well with a particular tip, it is worth adapting it to suit your lifestyle. Most importantly, these tips should help you to be enthused about your course and make your studies enjoyable!