University can be nerve-wracking whether you’ve stayed at home or moved away to start a new chapter in your life. And, it can be difficult to navigate the level of independent study that university degrees require.
In theory, it’s quite straightforward. Take down lecture notes, make sure to know when your deadlines are, and start work on any submissions plenty of time before they’re due. But in practice, it’s maybe not that simple. There have been numerous times when I have been so focused on one submission that I have completely forgotten to prepare for another. Sometimes I’ve put off planning essays because I had weeks to prepare, only to then realise weeks later that I haven’t even started research.
Perhaps these things are inevitable, even if, like me, you put all your submission deadlines in your calendar to remind yourself. But there are a few hacks to help you prepare for university study and make things a little less stressful for yourself along the way.
Set Up a Study Zone
This might seem obvious, and maybe even boring. You might think that you can study anywhere with very little issue. But I found it a lot easier to focus once I’d set up a designated study zone. For me, it was a desk in my room so that I could sit and write submissions in a way that felt more focused than sitting on the sofa or on my bed. It helped me distinguish between being on my laptop to write for pleasure or to browse the internet, or play games, and being on it for the purpose of university work.
For you, a study zone might be a little different. It could be somewhere or something else, such as a space where you don’t use your phone, or social media. You might choose to sit at a table rather than on a sofa to help your posture and your focus. You might listen to music, or you might instead ban yourself from having any background noise. It’s whatever helps you to concentrate, but this does help to focus your mind.
Don’t Be Afraid to Question Lecturers
This one might not be quite so obvious, but don’t be afraid to ask questions if something a lecturer says doesn’t make sense to you. In fact, lecturers would probably prefer questions as it helps clear up confusion for anyone else.
If you would rather not raise your hand in a busy lecture theatre these first few weeks, most lecturers are happy to stick around for a few minutes at the end to answer questions, or you can always email. If the question you have is one several people have, the lecturer may even decide to address it in the next lecture.
Whether it’s something big or small, you may find that treating yourself in all the motivation you need. Even if your treat is allowing yourself to order takeout for dinner as long as you’ve written 1000 words of your essay, that’s something. For bigger things like nailing a presentation or getting a great grade, you can promise yourself that new DVD, or CD, or those new shoes you were looking at. A little motivation like that may be all you need to get yourself over the finishing line.
If a Lecture Gets cancelled, Do a Bit of Work
I’m not saying that if a two-hour lecture is cancelled you should work for two whole hours. But on the off-chance a lecture is cancelled, which does happen sometimes, try and spend a little of that time doing some work for that unit. It’s very tempting to go back to bed, or to watch TV but even if it’s just a case of spending twenty minutes reading the next chapter of the textbook for the unit, or editing your essay, at least you can say with confidence that you did some work.
This hack may not sound as much fun as some of the others but you have to bear in mind that a lecture is not cancelled lightly, as it will have a knock-on effect for the rest of term. You may have to say goodbye to that Q&A session before the exam or submission date, or two lectures might be merged to get through the topics in time. The least you can do is stay on top of the workload.
Make Friends in All Your Units
For a start, making friends in your lectures offers a great opportunity in the form of study sessions, which can make studying more enjoyable as well as using the opportunity to ask peers about things you’re confused about. However, it also means that if you have to miss a lecture, you have someone you can ask in order to get lecture notes you’ve missed. It is, however, worth noting that you may find you have different people in different lectures, hence why it’s important to make friends in each of your units.