(disclaimer: my university does not look like that. that was just the venue for my graduation)
You’ll have heard me say this before. My undergraduate experience has been some of the best years of my life and I truly believe it has shaped me for the better. But it has also challenged me, mentally and academically and all the other ‘cally’s’ you can imagine. I thought I would write a little “how to guide” or just talk through my own experiences, and what I’d learned from it.
The doors are open! Enter newbie (and most likely friendless) fresher.
The first week is one of the hardest you’ll encounter. Socially speaking. Like most people, you’ve started a new chapter in your educational life but this time, your surroundings will be different. Because unlike high school and college, you’ll be starting on this journey without the familiar faces you’ve grown up with and the idea of going it alone is scary. Like when you really think about it- how do you make friends again? It’s quite simple really. Firstly, remember this- everyone is on the same boat as you. Everyone is feeling that first day anxiety without their friends and chances are, they’re thinking the same thing. So here’s my advice: every person you see looking at you or you meet the eyes of, smile. Be willing to speak to people. More importantly, be wiling to get to know the people on your course since they’re probably who you’ll be spending a lot of time with. But having said this, don’t expect to be BFFs by the end of your first week. Remember, friendships take time to grow.
Your first year probably doesn’t count.
I think this applies to most uni’s (well I’m just going to assume so since my first year didn’t count). What do I mean? Well, to progress onto your next year and to achieve your desired degree classification, each year (particularly your 2nd and 3rd year) counts towards your degree. The weighting of each year might be different according to the different universities but generally, the grades you achieve in your third year are worth 75% of your overall grade for your degree, whereas second year is weighted to be 25%. Thus, a combination of those two years will determine your grade. Generally, first year isn’t worth anything so therefore, if you did horrendously in your first year, don’t sweat. Your grade isn’t going to go towards the grade for your degree. But having said this, don’t waste your first year by not bothering to do work. Here’s why:
- The lectures will contain useful information for the next year. I cannot stress this enough! I’m not saying to memorise everything you learn in first year but, it’s best to keep note of the key concepts and topics you’re covering. You don’t want to go into second year blind. Especially since it’ll count.
- Use first year to practise your writing. You’ll be surprised how important your style of writing is when it comes to exams and assignments. If you ever look at the grading criteria, you’ll see “grammar” and “cohesion of writing” or something along those lines. Even though it won’t count, still use those assignments to practise your style of writing, and continue to improve it so you’ll be able to get those higher grades! You’ll be all ready for second year! You’ll be surprised just how many people just miss out on 2:1 or 1st in their assignment due to their writing style!
Did someone say FREE lunch?! Get a loyalty card.
Perhaps not all universities have this but if yours does- grab one! These loyalties are a god send if you remember to swipe your card after you purchase your food. You get a certain amount of points for every £1 you spend so whilst it might take sometime to collect the points- it will be worth it! Pretty soon you’ll realise that you have enough for a meal! Note: you might be able to get some free points (like £2 worth) if you activate your card.
Don’t like it? Take action!
So it’s week three and you’re sitting through this module and you realise, it sucks. You hate the content and you’re struggling to see this module through to the end. DON’T WITHER ANY LONGER! Speak to your programme head asap! I made the mistake of waiting too long to change my module but the moment you feel like something isn’t right for you, trust your gut. Change your module. Remember, you are paying for this education. You are going to be in debt. Take control of your education.
Your lecturers are here to help.
Don’t get anything in the lecture? Put your hand up! Chances are, someone else is also confused and are probably wishing for someone to ask the question. Do them, and yourself a favour. Put your hand up!
Unsure of criticism? See your lecturer!
Lecturers always say to see them if you ever want to talk about the comments on your work. Majority of your classmates won’t but take advantage of this. Go see your lecturer to clarify some comments, especially if you have another pending assignment soon.
Find that grading criteria.
Again IF your uni does this, take advantage of it. My lecturers always released a grading criteria when we had assignments to do which clearly stated what we needed to do to get the grade we wanted (not in mega detail but just a brief summary). I WISH I looked at this more during my second year, I truly believe I would’ve done better but if you are able to access these- LOOK AT IT. SMELL IT. BREATHE IT! Your first is practically right under your nose and you’d be silly not to take advantage of the grading criteria which TELLS YOU what the LECTURERS WANT!
Stay organised. PRIORITISE!
Procrastination can prove to be incredibly annoying, especially in dire times where you have tons of assignments piling on your to do list. Before you freak out and do something you regret, make a note of which assignments/exams are due in/take place first and the allocate sufficient time to each of those tasks.
Don’t think there’s not enough time? Think again. There are 24 hours in a day. Minus 8 for sleep and probs 5 for being at uni, you are left with 11 hours. Minus another 3 for relaxing, you are still left with 8 hours. That’s 8 hours to do work. Now times 8 by 5 (week days), you have 40 hours on your hands. Don’t tell me there isn’t enough time. It all comes down to how you prioritise it.
Where there’s work, there’s also time to chill.
Remember, it’s good to be studious. But don’t over work yourself. Your lecturers don’t expect you to go home and stick your nose in a textbook. It is just as important to relax and take some time off than to work. Allow your brain to rest. Go shopping. Have a meal out with your friends! Do nothing for a few hours. It’s okay.
Every uni has their own preferences for referencing work. Find the one your lecturer’s want you to use in your assignments and perfect it. If you get this wrong in your assignments, you will actually get marked down, and you don’t want that, especially in your final two years.
One app that got me through referencing was RefME which was a lifesaver! I highly recommend this app- it saves you time by referencing for you.
I understand this has been quite the rambly post but I promise you, it’s important! If you have any other questions about university, or completing an undergraduate degree, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments section.