Things that I learned in my first year at university
1. Some people are not there to work, they’re just joking around. Don't waste your time with them and try to meet the people that really care.
2. One semester passes at the speed of light. Start from day one and try not to let anything unrevised for too long (one week is considered too long).
3. Your teachers will be your saviors. They are the ones who know everything so make sure you have a good working relationship with them (let them see you know stuff and are willing to work) and then when you’re having more trouble learning something they will gladly help you.
4. Be consistent with your routine. A routine helps you get started more easily and defeat the inertia and laziness. Organizing my day as a working day, with study starting at 10 in the morning and classes in the afternoon, helps me focusing on the things I have to do, not waste time, and also have tiny pieces of time during the day to treat myself.
5. Treat yourself. Sometimes I take the bus instead of the metro because I like to watch the views. Sometimes I buy a cake for lunch. Sometimes I take a break in the park and, at the end of the day I go on a walk. Make sure you don’t forget yourself in the middle of everything. You’re the most important thing!
6. Find things that motivate you. A nice looking library, a park, a playlist, everything is valid as long as it makes you ready to work.
7. Choose your group wisely. When making group projects make sure you choose the people who really want to work, and if they don’t talk to your teachers, they will advise you. Also, don’t be afraid to make a group project on your own. You will survive, trust me! And you will learn a lot!
8. The front seat is the best. Choose a good seat in class where you can see and hear your teacher and they can hear you. The front seat is my favorite because it is easier to ignore everyone else and focus on the class.
9. Exercise. Really! Do something like walking every day, or yoga, or whatever you prefer, but make sure you move. It helps your brain and your body.
10. Have fun. At least every week or twice a month, go somewhere you like or visit a new place. Play the tourist and take your mind away from the work. That’s the way to keep your mind sane.
Sometimes you need to get real with yourself. Don’t pretend those tabs of youtube videos and fanfiction take precedence over that maths homework you need to get done. Don’t tell yourself you’ll get up early and do it, because chances are, your alarms will go off and you’ll snooze it automatically. Then right before the dreaded fourth period you will be stressed to no end and you’ll feel the feeling. You know, the feeling. When you can genuinely feel the list of tasks and responsibilities build up on your shoulders. That stationery will do nothing to save your grades if you don’t actually use it to make your revision materials. Don’t click onto youtube as a study break and find that 3 hours and only 4 pages of reading later, the glare of the screen gets a little blurry when you look at the time and look at your to do list with your priorities highlighted. I don’t care how much self control you think you have, or how much discipline you think you’ve honed, because when you make the decision to put of work that needs to get done and you’re relying on this new found immense self discipline that future you will just suddenly obtain, you know you’ve already lost. And it’s a double loss because not only have you lost to laziness and short term ‘happiness’, future you has lost to stress and possibly even not getting the grades or the qualifications you could’ve gotten that would’ve led you to take the path you’ve wanted to take. So please, for the love of your future self, get it done now.
My morning study session when well (yay!!) with the help of yogurt and a giant cookie. I am almost done rewriting all my notes for this weeks lectures and all I have to do now is draw up a weekly summary and read Middlemarch.
back to school season has started, yay! As a ‘thank you’ to all 1000 people who followed me I made this printables bundle with everything you may need during your school year. I’m on uni so this is more of a ‘back to uni’ thingy, but I bet hs students will make a great use of it too! Anyway, thank you for following me and here goes!
Click one of the links below to download a PDF file:
How I Got Straight A’s in My First Year of University
I was so proud of myself when I received firsts (that’s A’s for those not attending uni in the UK) on all of my assessments in my first year at university. Here are some tips for y’all to try at any point in university. They may be specific at times to my experience—my degree is in the social sciences and humanities, and I’m studying in the UK—but I did try to make them more generally applicable, and hopefully they should be helpful to someone out there.
Part One: Everyday Study Routine
Before the start of the academic year, try to get in a little bit of preparation. See if there are any syllabi or reading lists posted online. You don’t have to pour over them, of course, but do attempt to do something, and have a basic grasp on what will be covered in your classes.
Go to all your lectures and seminars. Unless you absolutely have to miss class because you are ill or have an important obligation to take care of, it’s really important to attend your lectures every day. (Note: if you are struggling with mental or chronic illness or a disability, don’t beat yourself up if you keep missing class. Please take care of yourself.) You may be tempted to just look at the PowerPoint presentation online, but it’s much more effective to be there in person. Often the lecturer may include information or extra explanations which are not included in the presentation. It will also allow you to process the information aurally as well as visually, and you will have the added benefit of taking notes too. You may also be able to ask questions.
Do all the pre-reading for lectures. I know it’s tempting to put it off, but try to work it into your daily routine (because you will have reading to do every day). Inevitably, there will be times where you slip up and don’t have time to finish. If this happens, make sure you catch up on it at some point, because it’s very important to solidifying the concepts you are learning about. Also, the more you read in general, the better you will become at reading (and also writing).
Take diligent notes (for both your lectures and pre-reading), and keep them organized. I prefer to handwrite in a notebook, as it helps me synthesize information rather than just typing it out verbatim—but it is totally up to you. If you do use a notebook, make a table of contents on the first page, where you write the date, topic, class, and page numbers of each set of notes you take. I think it’s a great idea to include your own thoughts and opinions in notes, or linking concepts you are learning to concepts you already know about.
If you have the time, make sure to be reading books/essays/articles and engaging with ideas outside of your regular syllabus. This is one of the most important techniques (in my experience, at least) when it comes to writing essays and answering exam questions. Evidence of wider reading around a topic is a great way to boost the credibility of your argument. It also does wonders to solidify and broaden your conceptualization of certain ideas you may have covered in your classes.
Where possible, try to contribute (as much as you feel comfortable) in seminars. If you are very quiet and reserved, that is totally okay too. I’m with you. But it has helped me tremendously in the past year to push myself to speak up more often in seminars. Talking in seminars allows you to clarify concepts and engage more deeply with the material being discussed (and it might impress your seminar tutor too, though this is secondary to the learning in my opinion).
If you have some nerdy-ass friends, talk with them about your ideas and what you’re both learning in your courses. I can’t tell you the number of essays I’ve written which actually have blossomed out of conversations I’ve had with friends, where they’ve exposed me to topics I’d never heard of before or broadened my view of a concept. Learning from each other in a casual and fun setting is amazing!
Part Two: Assessment Time
When you are given notice about big assignments coming up, such as essays or group projects, try to start working on them ASAP. Trust me, I know how hard it is. This is coming from someone who has dealt for years with chronic procrastination issues and nearly didn’t graduate from high school because of it. But you must start planning as soon as you possibly can, because the due date will come screaming up and before you know it, it’ll be the night before the deadline and you won’t have a clue what you’re writing about. Work it into your daily schedule if you have to. One great tip is to write down the deadline as being earlier (say, a week earlier) than what it actually is. This will prompt you to start earlier than you normally would have.
Do a shitload of reading, widely, from multiple sources. Read everything you can on the topic you are doing your assignment on. For a basic literature review, this means looking through at least 20+ sources. That doesn’t mean carefully perusing each one front to back; it means looking through all the relevant literature to find a few great sources which will really give you a coherent argument and a big picture of the topic at hand.
Keep your sources organized. I use Paperpile, which is a Chrome extension that allows you to save and organize academic sources. I make a folder for each assessment I am working on, and anything I find relevant to my topic, I save it to the folder. This will be a life saver for you when you actually go to plan your paper and also do the referencing.
Content is important, but perhaps even more important is your argument and structure. This mostly applies to essays, but you can apply it to other types of assessments too. Try not to structure your argument in terms of blocks of content—e.g. Paragraph 1 is about Topic A, Paragraph 2 is about Topic B—but rather in terms of how you are laying out your argument. Make sure each part of your essay flows into the next, so that you are, for example, setting up a kind of dialogue or narrative between the different sources you’re using. Also ensure that any point you are making clearly relates back to your main thesis.
If you’re a perfectionist like me: train yourself to remember that there is no such thing as perfect. Try to imagine what the perfect essay would be like. Can you imagine it? It’s probably pretty difficult, right? That’s because there is no such thing as a perfect assignment. Remind yourself of this, constantly. Tell yourself that you will be okay with just doing your very best. If you think about it logically: handing in something that is perhaps not your best ever, but handing it in on time and doing pretty well, is infinitely better than attempting to have a “perfect”essay but handing it in late and failing the assignment.
I hope this helped some of you! Best of luck and happy studying this year—go knock ‘em out! xo
280517: my finals for this semester aren’t until the end of june but I’m starting to really condense everything by combining my lecture and textbook notes so I have a handy guide to refer to during stuvac.
I am honestly sick and tired of everyone telling freshmen not to take 8 ams no matter what. It really discourages me. So, here are some bonuses to early morning classes instead!
If you get up even before your early classes, the gym won’t be as crowded!
Probably easier to find the class you want and get in!
If you’re like me, you’re energized in the morning but dead by like 3. Taking early classes means I’m done between 12:30 and 3:30 and I don’t have to drag myself through classes in the late afternoon/evening!
By the time everyone else is waking up, you’ll already have gone to class, done homework, and accomplished things!
Add more if you’ve got them. Let’s encourage others to not fear 8am classes!