A few weeks ago I completed my first year at University. For those of you who might have been following this blog for a few years, you’ll know just how big an achievement that is for me. For somebody who spent several years living like a hermit, hiding away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life with social anxiety amongst other mental health conditions, to go out into the world and complete an entire year of a higher education course is quite something. I’m especially proud of the fact that my marks have been mostly consistent all year, generally hovering around the 65-70 mark, and I don’t have to resit any assessments. What that means in reality is several months off over the summer. But I am keeping my hand in, entering writing competitions here and there in the hope of some exposure, (as well as potentially winning a prize) and steadily working my way through a somewhat large backlog of books and video games. I’m certainly not short of things to keep me occupied until University starts up again at the end of September.
But anyway, for those of you who might be starting university yourself in the near future, I thought I would share some of my tips for academic success.
Read all of the books on your reading list before you start
Reading and understanding what it is that you’re reading is a huge part of university. You will be expected to read and be able to recall the content of many different books throughout each year, as well as numerous journal articles, book extracts and other literary works that will be pressed upon you as the weeks go by. Your university is likely to send you a list of books that you will need to read in order to successfully complete your assignments before you start. So when they do, make it your mission to get through them as quickly as possible. I also highly recommend making detailed notes in a notebook or on a Word document as you progress, as doing so will help you to recall important details at a later date. Lastly, it is nearly always cheaper to buy the Kindle version of most books, so keep that in mind if money is tight.
Learn how to reference correctly
Referencing is probably the single most important skill that you will need to know from day one at university. It is something that you must include in each and every one of your assignments and, if not done correctly, can cost you significantly in terms of overall marks. Each university has its own preferred method of referencing, so be sure to get your particular one perfected as quickly as possible.
Don’t leave your assignments until the last minute
I cannot stress this one enough. Leaving your assignments until the last minute is a fast road to failure. You are likely to miss out important information, present weaker arguments and ultimately end up barely scraping a pass. Personally I started each and every assignment almost as soon as it was given to me. Although it might seem a little pedantic, it’s actually a smarter way of working, because if you get everything done quickly, you’ll have much more spare time to yourself and you’ll spare yourself a whole heap of stress.
Use technology to your advantage
When you start university, you will quickly learn that your laptop is your best friend. Believe me, it is far, far quicker and easier to take notes using a keyboard than it is by frantically scribbling barely legible notes in a battered old notebook. Everything is in one place and easy to find the next time that you need it. While we’re on the subject of laptops, I recommend spending as much as you can afford to on one that will do everything that you need it to do with minimal effort. So a fast processor, an SSD and as much RAM as possible are absolutely key. Also, try and get one that is as lightweight as possible. I personally went for a MacBook Air, but I’m sure there are plenty of comparable Windows machines out there if you prefer the Microsoft experience.
I also highly recommend purchasing a Kindle or similar e-reader if you’re not particularly keen on lugging a stack of heavy books around with you all day, as well as a decent set of wireless earbuds for listening to any podcasts or videos that are relevant to your work (and music, obviously!).
Finally, and this is vitally important, remember to back everything up! There are plenty of cloud based backup services out there to choose from, including Microsoft Onedrive, Apple iCloud and Google Drive, so make regular use of them so that never lose anything.