28/09/12 - Freshers Week Extravaganza 4: Studying

[I am so sorry I missed yesterday's blog post - I had one half-written and intended to finish it, but I've been struck down by the dreaded Freshers flu and just was not up to it.]

And of course we can't forget the most important aspect of university, the reason you're there in the first place, what you worked so hard for all those years of high school: a higher education.  As important as all the other stuff is - the independence, the socialising, the new experiences - ultimately a degree should be what you're focussed on.  It's an easy thing to lose sight of.  I won't deny that I often do the same.  I know the temptation to roll over and smack that alarm clock into submission after a heavy night.  I know the feeling of dread when you look out the window and see the torrential rain/driving wind/dangerous icy aftermath of snow, and the urge to return to your nice warm bed with a cup of tea.  I know the leap of joy when you realise that your lecturer puts all their lecture notes, word for word, online and you never have to leave your bedroom again.  But believe me, you'll regret all those lie-ins come results day.

Most first year courses only require you to get at least 40% in all your assessments in order to progress to second year.  I know there are a lot of discrepancies between different universities and different courses, but the majority operate this system.  My main piece of advice is do not use this as a set-in-stone rule.  If you focus on scraping 40% in first year, second and third will come as quite a shock.  I can't count the number of times I've heard, and even said myself, "If I get forty, I'll be happy.  I only need forty."  It becomes every fresher's mantra.  And yes, there will be some essays that you worry will only just get you that much-coveted forty.  Nine times out of ten, it's never that bad.  If you've put in even a little bit of effort, you should do better than barely passing.

Keeping your notes organised is key.  My personal system is to use an A5 simple reporter's notebook in lectures, making sure I put the date and module title at the top of each new set of notes or I get really confused.  Then I write all the notes up neatly on A4 lined paper before separating them into a different ring-binder for every module.  I do my best to keep on top of this, or my notes are all messy and it makes revising and essay-writing really tough.  Personally, I find that writing and rewriting information gets it embedded in my brain, but use whichever method is easiest for you (and if you have any handy note-taking tips, leave them in the comments!)

I feel like a hypocrite with this next point but try and do your work in advance of the deadline.  Pretty obvious, I know.  But it's a rule I have never abided by.  It's one of my worst habits.  I'm always the girl doing marathon sessions in the library, downing Relentless and black coffee with Pro Plus, and sobbing silently into a pile of textbooks.  I will reluctantly admit to pulling all-nighters before a deadline, and last year I wrote two 2,500 word essays in the space of forty-eight hours.  That was horrendous.  This is the point of this piece of advice: do not make my mistakes.  It's not big, it's not clever, and it will leave you looking zombie-fied for days afterwards.  

I find that keeping track of deadlines and other commitments is easiest when you have a calendar or diary to make note of everything in.  At the Freshers Fair, my university provides huge wall-planner posters which a lot of people take and never use, but without mine I would be a lost cause.  I keep it above my desk and write everything on it.  I also have upwards of two diaries on the go at any time - my academic planner from uni, my personal handbag diary with social commitments, and another one just to be on the safe side!

Everyone reacts differently to certain methods of revision or organisation - I won't get into the whole visual learner, kinetic learner, blah blah that they always shoved down your throat in school...but it's true!  These are just my personal tips and I've tried to keep the advice as general as possible.  Please share your own handy hints in the comments, and let's help everyone have a wonderfully productive year!